In prayer there is dance

In prayer there is dance, and in love there is prayer.

by Lily Jamaludin

My life is a love story. Caesarean-ed out of my mother’s holy belly, crying as if already lost; first breath the hot humid air of the 90s, father singing a prayer into my baby earlobe, and I am born, woven in love and already loved.

But life as it can, unravels us. Your father’s fears won’t skip a generation, they are passed down to hold you. A new language can leave you exiled. A disease can hurt you in more ways that one. And sometimes a mouthful of tongue comes with a handful of gunpowder

So when I learned not to give a love unguarded, I gave it to language. I wrote poetry into the joints of my limbs, and the cracks of my skin, I dreamed in verse and handed it over, I gave a boy under a lamp post a Sufi poem that says break your heart until it opens.

Standing here, now, I am handing over to you

This heart. Still learning to open. This prayer. No matter how small.

That you never fear being human. That you stay soft, no matter how hard things may be.

That when you have to choose between fear and love, you choose love. And when your islands crumble you choose to rebuild. And when you can: laugh. Laugh harder, it sounds like sleigh bells in snow. Dance. Lose yourself. Like this: like In the music, and the lights, and the night time. Like this: Like Once, in mouth of the Iowa prairie, I held hands and spun in a circle moving at the speed of 80 proof everclear and the joy of a soon coming summer, somewhere in between the choke of a sob and a cry we learned we were something close to beautiful, or damn near infinite because we were





When it comes to love, it’s been said that
my rose-colored lenses are 7 to the power of 9
Too blinded by the earnestness of my own trust
Enough to be guided by hands that lead to dead-end paths
It’s been said, that
disabling every red flag alarm is my form of self-harm
And all I could think about, was how urgent it was
that my fragile heart could keep cracking and still serve love perfectly warm

Now that’s just the fairy tale philosophy talking
The hopeless infatuation of Top 40 hits teachings
Sacrificing without knowing how to fight
Worshiping without knowing how to doubt
Under the covers of a love disguise,
recklessness strips me bare over and over,
my naked chest leaves comfort for others and me utterly careless

Naked, is what you shouldn’t be when you go around offering people a shirt
Trust me, I’d been putting 10-digit price tags on the smiles of my lovers
While I’d never even once own an ‘I am worthy’ sweater
Until I dialed my self-emergency number, and it said,
“Sorry, you are no friend to your soul. Press 1 to continue the war, or Press 2 to withdraw and begin to patch up the hole.”
I’d already lost the sword
But my finger was too heavy to pick up the thread-and-needle work

Someone came to me and said,
“What would you do if you were someone you loved?”

So I led myself out and stood in the desert,
held my hand under the sun until it didn’t burn anymore
Under a shelter I crafted together from impossible mercy and more impossible hope,
I mapped out all the places I have gambled with my heart
I traced my losses back to an ignorance of value
I broke into my safe to find it mostly empty, insecure

Someone came to me and said,
“What would you see if you were someone you loved?”

So I led myself out and stood over the river,
faced the image on my mirror until I didn’t want to break it anymore
In front of a reflection I framed with kindness that had to be possible,
I stitched together a sweater with the cotton thread of my sanity
and the wools of my madness
I weaved soft pastel hues of my tenderness
with the steel gray shades of my fierceness
On my sleeves, I wear patches of my broken heart pieces
And puzzles of dreams I have yet to assemble,
Of prayers and poems and anecdotes and quotes like,
“Sometimes I feel like giving up, then I realize I have a lot of motherfuckers to prove wrong.”

It still wears itself thin in the cold,
but moving my fingers to stitch it stronger is the only way to keep myself whole

Yes, loving yourself is an art
And I wish there was a Prize
for owning the parts of yourself you’re still learning to like
I wish there was a gallery of post-it notes
of how more than pretty you are
That there was a museum of figures, sculpted with the strength of their mind,
to show exactly how it’s done

Then maybe, we’ll rewrite fairytales of soul courtships with no excuses
We’ll rewrite songs and sing,
“Darling, don’t forget to fall in love with yourself first.”


“And if I asked you to name all the things that you love, how long would it take for you to name yourself?”

As performed at Betelnut for the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2015 Poetry Slam on October 30, 2015. Bali, Indonesia.

cotton candy

in greed i choked on a sugary bead
clouded in your stale cotton candy
the same succulent pink saccharine
rushed heavenly sirens into my brain
pumped sweet venom into my veins
into a charred blossom between our hands

a crooked offering
to the god of meant-to-be

in mercy
i pluck its petals from their dry nectarine
half-questioning, half-praying
– in old chanting;

exhaust this fire,
run out this spark,
unchill my spines,
unthaw my heart,
love me,
love me not,
love me,
love me not



(image source: Behance)

There’d be no ‘Us’, otherwise

Between you and I, there used to be an Us

There used to be a small room for air between our singlet fabrics as you led me on a waltz to Sinatra

There was a hardback Pinocchio book as you taught me how to pronounce the English ‘r’

Countless drops of rain when Mom had said that it was okay to play outside

And the back of my bicycle seat before you let go of your grip and release me pedaling forward slightly out of balance

But much to your reluctance, I had to grow up

I had to dance my own battle through reality’s weather with no one to say ‘I got your back’

And I had to start choreographing my own belief system since I found that the sky can shine and rain at the exact same time

So you had to regain your grip,

At first because you feared my losing control, but then because you couldn’t deal with my not asking permission to claim my own soul,

With realizing that I was never yours

And thus, began the loss of Us,

The crossing of the starting line of your unchallenged authority versus my conditioned suppressive apathy,

Of your screaming rage outside my door versus my remembering old jokes trying not to open a gateway of tears,

Of your timeless reasoning fallacy versus my premature rebuttal when ‘I can’t take this’ has built up like grey clouds, and ‘I’ve had enough’ bursts out like thunders with lightning,

Because you know what the problem is?

You never let anybody tell you otherwise.

You never let anybody tell you, “You know what, just let her go.

‘Cause if history ever tells us anything at all, it’s that force and control never result in love.

When you don’t want otherwise.

You want to be the one, who gives her away on her wedding day

To be the one, who gets to face the groom and say,

‘You know these arms have held her from within the first hour that she was born,
and the same way they felt her first breaths they will hold you at your last gasps within the first hour you ever hurt her to the bones.’

Followed by an I’m-just-joking-(but-not-really) bittersweet laugh.

But then you wouldn’t be at peace otherwise.”

The way peace has been erased from my teenage heart since the day I found that your approval stamp is only valid for wanting the things you want,

That your acceptance letter is only sent in the event of having convictions which you’ve certified ‘halal‘.

And you don’t want that.

You want a lifetime worth of father-daughter conversations that don’t sum up in your trial questioning and my failed legal defending;

That don’t end in your stating verdicts, laying down laws, and my running away like a fugitive.

I don’t want this fight.

And I don’t want my walking back with my ears constantly standing up to detect your ‘I disagree’,

My heels on stand-by mode to turn the other way around just so I could find the next stop where chains don’t bound me just to be.

And mostly, I don’t want my slaving my heart to try to embrace you freely because it shouldn’t be that hard.

To say, ‘I love you Dad’.

Because you’re the first person next to Mom who embraced me into life and whispered my welcome notes through the words of God,
Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.”

And God, I’ve loved that life.

Maybe ever since then I’ve listened to too much and invested faith in too many other Gods.

And I know that you despise my justification of needing to take off my blind so I can capture the whole image of our existence, unified.

And I know that it’s easier to put me in a box and label it ‘astray, and therefore reroute’;

Tightly slip my worn-out innocent childhood wool cap down my 20-something ‘been there-seen that’ scalp.

So you can remind yourself that there was a point in time where you felt that I was owned.

Because I slept under your roof, and edged away with my spoon – your spoon – the broccolis I was supposed to chew down from the plates which you bought from the same bank account you drained to put me through school.

I swear, I understand the amount of what I may not be able to repay.

But it doesn’t mean that I owe you the pledge of where I choose to pray,

The lease for where I choose to rest my head,

The liberty to be my own Man.

But maybe, what I do owe, is the choice of which side I play for,

What I exhaust my lifeline on,

And what I'd die for the sake of.

And if it matters, to all that, the answer is Kindness.

The answer is Love.

The answer is Life.

At least, I try.

So cherish me.

Not because we spell out the same letters for a last name,

But because no spell can be cast upon the same kind of persistence we both act on behalf of our ideals.

Treasure me.

Not because we're identifiable by the same DNA make-up,

But because our carbon dioxide are made up by the same heart that would take a child into our homes and raise them as our own.

And don't condemn me. For believing in Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Buddha all at the same time.

Ring a bell in me, when I forget,

Light the fire in me, when I start to slow down,

In the leading with compassion, with tolerance, and shared wisdom.

But most of all, see me, the way I walk me,

Hear me, the way I speak me – not the way you want to make me, or the way I can never be – because, there's no other me otherwise.

And there'd be none of Us left, otherwise.



And so another one’s driving off into the sunset… =)


One of the greatest gifts that Life can give

Is a journey shared between two souls of matching spirit

Two souls in learning with no intent of stopping, in walking with no intent of giving in

Each one plotting the road to its own mind, while learning the map to the other’s heart

Each one following its mission, while leading one another to a common direction

Each one carrying its own weight, while lending a hand to lift the other’s load

Each one paving a way to light, while weathering the same storm

With Faith as the start, Love as the ground, the Lord as the guide

For in such a journey are barricades crossed, are dead-ends broken away from

For in such a journey does Hope grow, for in such a journey do two souls find a Home


As written for Okta & Andy for their upcoming wedding.