The theme of ephemerality came across quite strongly for me - particularly a sense of time/relationships slipping through our fingers which feels pertinent to the collective covid experience. The words of this poem seem to offer a remedy to this though - offering something concrete in a time of uncertainty, an anchor in a chaotic world (“A rope to latch to the nock”). Was this intentional?
The poem uses a lot of imagery surrounding prayer and connection, some of it ancient and others contemporary, to talk about how time and distance impacts our relationships. In a real sense, I found myself halfway across the world from all of my loved ones, in a city I was still a stranger to, without a real end date to when I’d be able to return. There are so many others in my situation, with family, partners and friends in different cities or countries they suddenly find themselves disconnected to. In my life, those tiny moments of connection through zooms, phone calls and messages (my brother has been sending me videos of my beautiful nephews to keep me sane) have helped me navigate through it all, and are my anchor in the low moments. So have prayer and reflection, my Islamic practices that for me are another form of connection, inseparable from the way I see my world and the people in it.
Can you talk about your various references to people in this piece and how they fit into the wider themes?
There are a number of other fantastic tales of connection and separation that I refer to in this poem, from the storyteller Shahrzad/Scheherazade entrancing the Sultan with magical tales to distract him from his own worst instincts in 1001 Nights, the heartbreaking poetry of Mahmoud Darwish dreaming in exile of his home in Palestine, and of course, Ahmed Zaoui’s own stunning writings from solitary confinement here in New Zealand, where he was separated from the world and from his family for years, where he speaks of almost forgetting what the moon looked like.