Look away for a prayer’s breath
Yes, there is art that sits on canvas or the page but there is also art that sits on bodies. We know this because we feel. We feel because we want to live. And though it may seem at times an impossible task, it is one completely worthy of you. From here, we create.
We create where “the air is light and delicious / You who don’t understand poetry, of course you do! / Write what you want to read.” (Brenda Hillman) And what of this body if not light at all? How—“if the body I have brought back, if it is a body, if it becomes the same body” (최 Lindsay)—how once more is it the same body taken home can still be picked out? This country will kill you “if you are not looking, and even if you are.” (Raine J. León) If the body is a girl and “a girl is a house before she knows it” (Jennifer S. Cheng) it will be shot in bed as it could have standing. Fred Hampton. Breonna Taylor. Or if the body is “sacred water, which we know is all water” (Kim Shuck), a leaky pipeline will do the trick just fine. After all, “what can it possibly mean to remain intact” (Ari Banias) when we have gone through death with death being common. What was meant to be a cautionary tale did not hold. America will always be the best argument against itself because “blood congeals [its] palms” (Thea Matthews) and oils the dry patches hourly. Ask Iraq and Yemen about Miss All-Amerikan Bombardier. Enter a U.S. prison and ask them too. What about their defense? Ask Cuba and Iran what sanctions are. The policy was always murder. This sounds harsh but so is dying. So, is dying what becomes of the body? Creating must affirm otherwise.
Create comes from the Latin creāre and the sister of crēscere meaning to arise. Or to emerge. It is where we find the word crescent, as in the waxing or waning moon that feeds water. And as known, all water is sacred. I want to read the ocean body—what do you think it could be saying while burning? I want to read the marked body, the martyred body. Cast a spell for everyone they have ever loved: in form, in song, in poetry. I hear the dead’s resurrection in the Flash Readings—readings plentiful, generous, and ready to love a people first trying to live. I hear mercy. I hear incantation that bears witness to the will and the ascendant. I hear how everything has its measure. What is certain of the moon is evident of us, that we too return full and whole again and dare it possible however many times necessary. We create the chances against all odds.
Create when you feel. Start where you arrive. Tell me if you see a new beginning. I pray you do.
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Menat Allah El Attma is an Egyptian Muslim woman, educator, writer, and visual artist. Menat graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in English literature and is pursuing her teaching credential. She is a logophile and linguaphile, working to affect a similar love for words/languages in her students through the practice and art of storytelling. She believes art is in the telling of the story as much as the story itself.