Manhattan in the Morning

Manhattan—millions wandering, running through its concert corridors. Grand Central like a mechanical heart, feeds oxygen into the New York’s most distant veins. Most Fridays, I make it into Manhattan early—avoiding rush hour traffic and find a seat at Think or Stump Town Coffee. Spend a few hours reading and catching up on e-mails, before meetings and Jumu’ah prayer at the Islamic Center of New York University.

The city and modern technology fundamentally change human interactions. Being hyper connected does not safeguard us form isolation or loneliness. Being in a the a city of nine million allows individuals to hide in plane sight. Manhattan magnifies our personalities—our good and bad characteristics—the essences of who we are became more pronounced. It becomes easier for a sinner to sin; for a person of good character to carry out an egalitarian act. Volunteering in a soup kitchen, or going to an event that compromises our Islamic principals are options present to each individual.

I stopped by a local book shop before Jumu’ah prayers. The collections of poetry at the all the major book stores in Manhattan are disappointing. The same poets—again and again. I now go strait for anthologies—hoping to find a new gem. I picked up The Best Poems of the English Language complied and edited by Harold Bloom. The first poem I opened up to was “The Rose is Obsolete” by William Carlos Williams (1923).

Poetry is found on the edges of things—and the City, any city, magnifies these edges. We become unaware of our own complexities due to technologies effacing effects, or are unable to see our true selfs, grasping only fragments of our own reality—like looking at magnified painting by Seurat; only seeing the multicolored dots, unable to see the whole image in all its magnificence.

The rose is obsolete
but each petal ends in
an edge, the double facet
cementing the grooved
columns of air–The edge
cuts without cutting
meets–nothing–renews
itself in metal or porcelain–

whither? It ends–

But if it ends
the start is begun
so that to engage roses
becomes a geometry–

Sharper, neater, more cutting
figured in majolica–
the broken plate
glazed with a rose

Somewhere the sense
makes copper roses
steel roses–

The rose carried weight of love
but love is at an end–of roses

It is at the edge of the
petal that love waits

Crisp, worked to defeat
laboredness–fragile
plucked, moist, half-raised
cold, precise, touching

What

The place between the petal’s
edge and the

From the petal’s edge a line starts
that being of steel
infinitely fine, infinitely
rigid penetrates
the Milky Way
without contact–lifting
from it–neither hanging
nor pushing–

The fragility of the flower
unbruised
penetrates space

The Jumu’ah khutab was given by Khalid Latif (the executive director of the Islamic Center of New York University). A member of community had recently passed away—he had converted to Islam later in life, because of his conversion he had become isolated from his friends and family. At the same time he was unable to fully transition into the Muslim community and only a few members of the community attended his funeral. The khutab emphasized forgiveness, especially when it comes to our own families. That if there are any barriers present in our hearts that keep our relatives or our families out, we should actively try to remove them—to forgive, rebuild and reestablish the relationships that are suppose to give our lives meaning.

Sitting on the NJ-Transit bus back to New Jersey.  I thought of another poem, poetry now is ashamed to mention anything even resembling a flower. But this pome by Tupac Shakur and The Rose is Obsolete might be the two modern exceptions.

The Rose that Grew From Concrete

Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it’s dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.

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