“If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch netsTweet
into the air and harvest the fog.”
– Kazim Ali – ‘Ramadan’
This month marks the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which is a time for some of prayer, reflection, restraint, charity and fasting. Kazim Ali’s poem touches on the mysterious spiritual dimension of these practices and reflects on what is known and what can never be known, and so where it is that faith resides. Referring specifically to the night of Laylat al-Qadr, the night when the Prophet Mohammad received the first verses of the Qur’an from the Angel Gabriel, Ali weaves recitation and silence into a web of unknowing mystery liked the paused spider in his poem.
You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,
and have to choose between the starving month’s
nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.
The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?
If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets
into the air and harvest the fog.
Hunger opens you to illiteracy,
thirst makes clear the starving pattern,
the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses
the angel stops whispering for a moment —
The secret night could already be over,
you will have to listen very carefully —
You are never going to know which night’s mouth is sacredly reciting
and which night’s recitation is secretly mere wind —
From: The Fortieth Day