Memories of Home

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I’m carefully studying this place that is my beloved.
I’m walking carefully around my home.
I’m stepping in places that burst open a memory box deeper than any ocean.
I’m tiptoeing through comfort and growing up.
I’m pushing through painful times
I’m skipping through the joyous ones.
I’m reliving arguments and triumphs. Everything means something to me. That carpet we bought with mom and went out for coffee after. Those new couches my parents saved for. The wooden floors that I helped restore with my own two hands. The spot for the Christmas tree. My dads favorite spot to sit. The area of the coffee table I steam burned with a pizza box. The area that in my heart means thanksgiving. My brothers man cave that I watch project runway in. When I move out I hope all these memories are engrained in my heart. When I am on my own, I hope I remember the soup and the football and the Polish that made me who I am. I hope that this dream house keeps me grounded. I hope one day I found a house to fill with new memories that are half as good as those that are filled to the brim in this house.

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Suddenly sick

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What began with a little coughing 

And choking on my morning coffee on Saturday 

Evolved into a plague-like shock

One minute I’m at a car show, I’m doing my assignments and laundry 

It was a great day, a balance of work and play

Suddenly these overwhelming chills

Grasp my being and I think nothing of it at first. Take a blanket and all is well.

Then I’m putting on pajamas and I’m shaking so much and I’m so, so cold…

The temperature is rising in my body to an immense heat and in my mind 

Worries of missing school on Monday aren’t far behind

It grasps me with a sudden, cruel sickening

Like a plague it has no mercy, only agony and punishment

But I go forward, praying for an overnight miracle. 

Now we wait.

I wake.

It’s 2:18 am

I’m so cold I cannot bear it, but my body’s so hot I’m afraid

My muscles ache, better not to move at all, but I have to take action 

Tylenol is taken and I wait for any relief 

Sleep comes hard to me

Sleep will come eventually, won’t it?

A Conversation with Eternity

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Time you’re really doing it all wrong!

You must be mistaken or confused

Scratching your infinite rusting gears.

You’re failing me time; you’re breaking my heart

– A stinging cut I bleed profusely from.

Time you have it, the answers to life’s questions.

When I need you to speed past, only smelling your dusty trail

You slow to a crawl.

When I need calm, rhythmic beats

You dash away like a wild stallion.

 

My time as a person, as a senior in college is

On the brink of change

Leaving many things yet to be completed

Running so fast, time becomes a smudge of colors and circumstances.

How can I expand it like the air in a balloon,

Taste the rubbery elastic

And make time last?

 

Time so far 27 years I’ve lived

I hear only my pencil jotting down

Learning, failure, discovery, success, and change

I am closing in on 28

I can almost feel the embraces

Of congratulations.

 

Now, I’ve finally opened the door

Time, I need you to let love in.

Don’t short change me time!

Give me a happiness that fills an ocean,

That’s what I wish for on my cake, time.

Give me an 28th birthday

Like nothing else- unique

Extraordinary, exquisite

Something I will file away in my memory bank,

And keep for eternity.

 

I know this is a lot to examine and mend in a short time,

But I’ve just spilled my soul to an inanimate object!

So don’t disappoint me time, make my heart soar today.

Exploring the World within The Iliad

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Reading this for the third time, I am struck by all the things I missed by reading in haste and without enthusiasm. Talking about it with our class furthered my curiosity and showed the value of the text in a way I had not considered. Our discussion explored the roles of Agamemnon and Achilles, the oaths made between various characters, the crucial role that woman do play, and the way in which the Greek gods interact with each other and mortals. In only three chapters there is so much to cover. I would like to focus on women’s roles, Agamemnon as a ruler, and the role anger of the gods has in affecting change. Power dynamics between certain characters is also something I want to explore.

Using the information we have so far, we saw how important women are in this text despite constantly being referred in a demeaning way and as “prizes”. There are obvious things that can be pointed out. Helen caused an entire war by being captured, and when she finally does speak she blames herself. This is an odd statement as it was not her fault. She wishes she had died, but as was pointed out in class her voice besides that one passage (and the one with Aphrodite) is largely missing. We get accounts from the author about her terrible beauty, but seeing the world through her eyes is difficult, and it feels passed over. It was suggested that a text from Helen’s point of view would show the other side, but we have other important women figures presented to us. Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera all have roles they care out that influence the story in varying degrees.  For example, despite Zeus being the leader of the gods he fears Hera which is funny considering how he speaks to her. Moving away from women’s role in the text, Agamemnon is presented as the lord of men. Is his leadership truly great and well planned or is he merely an arrogant jerk?

We discussed Agamemnon’s bizarre strategies, the way he treats his warriors, and his deep arrogance. He has strange tactics that seem counterintuitive to a successful outcome, such as asking everyone to flee, that we pointed out don’t sound like sound strategies. His strength as a great warrior is certainly true, but it is the great men among him such as Odysseus that make him successful. He gets good advice to have everyone in his army to fight by clan but I feel if he was a great leader he would have already known that himself. Agamemnon’s character flaw is his deep arrogance and inability to listen to reason. By taking the daughter of a priest he angers Apollo who unleashes a plague upon his army. He walks around wondering, why are these bad things happening, which is laughable since he caused them. When it is strongly suggested he return her in exchange for three to four times to the gift, he refuses. Is Agamemnon doomed (I mean he is cursed) to be simply a huge jerk or as the story develops will we see him develop as a character? I feel he will stay a jerk (to put it nicely) but although he is angry, his anger and that of other mortals is small compared to that of the gods.

On the very first page, the rage of Achilles is brought up. The anger of mortals, but also gods or God is crucial to the development of plots in The Iliad as well as the Bible. As a class we considered God’s motivation in the Old Testament, the Sumerian gods in Inanna, and the Greek gods we become familiar with in The Iliad. I see anger or rage playing a huge role for both the mortals and the gods within the Iliad. Anger is an important emotion that the various gods have because it creates action. When God is content, the Old Testament isn’t very dynamic. But when God is angry or in a scheming mood, many things happen and evolve in the mortal world. In the world of the Greek gods, because there are many of them they can anger each other. Their relationship with different mortals complicates things further. For example, when things are working out for some of the gods, another god, Aphrodite rescues Paris. This disrupts things for mortals, while demonstrating that the Greek gods take sides. It’s also notable that everyone hates Paris, even his own brother. Thus, having one God disrupting things is difficult for the people of the Old Testament. But having many gods with scheming, self-serving agendas and relationships with mortals is an entirely different situation. Anger turns the plot in The Iliad in remarkable directions, while contentment amongst the gods brings a stop to action. Contentment brings boredom to the Greek gods. Then the cycle of scheming and doing something to cause rage stirs the pot further potentially starting or making current wars worse in the mortal world.  The concept of violence and war is prevalent in The Iliad. It is a warlike atmosphere and it is seen as glorious to fight, judging by the language Homer uses. It is discussed in The Iliad to kill Agamemnon very early on but then it is decided to not do that. Is it about glory and honor that war is seen in a positive light? Or is the anger of mortals and gods an excuse for wars and much bloodshed?

Another man of war, Achilles who is doomed to have the shortest life span is also examined. We discussed how Achilles’ father was almost Zeus, so his “rage” and behavior may correspond with the fact of missed potential. There is not a question that Achilles is a great warrior and as a result he and Agamemnon have a huge verbal fight where Achilles says he isn’t going to take orders from Agamemnon anymore. There is a power struggle because Achilles must give up his prize, a woman, to Agamemnon. It’s interesting that within the same side (in terms of the war) such differences appear. I see Achilles as blinded by rage, but then weeping after giving up his prize. Why doesn’t Achilles just keep the prize? This seems to show that although he said he is not obeying Agamemnon, he must still listen to him. This power struggle is fascinating, and it is interesting to compare that to the power struggle between Helen and Aphrodite.

After Aphrodite snatches Paris from death, she goes to find Helen and wants her to surrender herself to Paris. Helen does not want this, because being captured was enough and she refuses to have sex with Paris ever again. Aphrodite threatens her with intense words and she submits herself. In this scene, Helen loses the agency she had and it will be interesting as the story unfolds to see how Helen behaves in the future.  The power struggle here is different because Aphrodite is a goddess, but Helen has such terrible beauty that a war started over her. Perhaps Aphrodite wishes to knock Helen down since Helen is receiving so much attention. Through all the power struggles in the text, it will be interesting to see how the progression of the characters continues, and how the gods interfering cause the course of events to shift even more.

The “Jewels” of Judgment: Reading Lolita in Tehran

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In the midst of daily talks about terror threats in our everyday lives, comes a story about an Iranian woman, Dr. Azar Nafisi, who is the heart of the story Reading Lolita in Tehran. Through an informal, sarcastic tone maintained throughout this book, a series of accounts from her troubled life in the Islamic republic frequently boil to the surface. Although politics is something that Dr. Azar Nafisi herself acknowledged as corrupt, she never seemed prepared for the utter and immediate toll it took upon her friends and people she knew such as her father, who was persecuted under the vindictive regime. Despite refusing to wear the veil that caused her to lose her job, she came in greater contact with her emotions. Using these new unexpected passions Dr. Azar Nafisi formed a secret group of students who were bound together through their vigorous studies of fiction.

In the exuberance of the novel, two types of characters emerge. The characters are those within the book and those fictional characters within the novels. The personalities are as diverse as the four seasons. Nima, Nassrin, Manna, Mahsid, Yassi, Azin, Mitra, and Sanaz are to me like the members of a secret “breakfast club”. They do not meet for breakfast per say but their explosive personalities and comments and well as their beliefs about the regime forever change their teacher (Dr. Azar Nafisi) and themselves. Sanaz has a need for approval. Nima, the sole male, wanting very much to get into the club displays a new way of male behavior. Yassi confesses that an uncle molested her, however Nima seems to be of a different generation; one which respects women. Mahsid does not make it to the end. Each girl had something to bring to their meetings. An experience, a comment, a vision that the others used to get through these hard times.

However it is not their individual personalities but common struggles that unite them as one. Some were jailed for bogus charges like make-up on, running, and some talked of being reprimanded for “eating their apples too seductively”. This novel is another demonstration of the way in which women are oppressed through out history even in the 1980’s and 90’s. Using Lolita, The Great Gatsby, and Jane Austen novels Nafisi teaches the students of Western heroines and how their oppression relates to that of Islamic women. For example the antagonist Humbert brainwashes, kidnaps, and manipulates Lolita to satiate his sick fantasies. This is something that makes the book particularly amazing; that she makes these meetings with her students and the degree that she can relate literature of the Western world to her own world. Gatsby is someone in love with a girl he will always love, but one he can never have. Myrtle the adulterous one is a character questioned in the book. In Pride and Prejudice discussions, it would seem some girls dream to fall in love. For exposing these truths Nafisi should be praised. She is an amazing, eclectic individual who should be celebrated for her stubborn resolve to not allow the government who she is.

Nafisi also has the awful facts that surround her daily life. Daily reminders like bombs in the night. She recalls things, like her mother always being disappointed with her behavior, for Azin recognizes that she never lived up to her mother’s plans. Also, her father was the mayor and he was assassinated. Through her frightening experiences relating to the law (the bombings and constant raids in her daily life), she shares not only a knowledge of facts from being an honored professor, but a solid character of what fiction can be identified with.  Her strong beliefs she instilled within her and her comrades evoked this idea of neglecting the grave side of society and focusing on the magnificent parts of life: “… life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction” (Nafisi 3). People in Iran were taught to resent Western culture yet she did not. Nafisi is actually like many of her heroines, courageous beyond belief. Gatsby and Lolita are two quite different perspectives which Nafisi presents in a light of hope. Although in fiction both Gatsby and Lolita suffer unimaginable sorrow, in reality Azar evolves a candle of hope that does not vanish because of obstacles; in fact she becomes more resolute.

If not hope, then an understanding of suffering and unspoken empathy is what Nafisi attempts to project out into the world. Although her “magician” hid in the world, she did not. Sure, she hid in her apartment flat with her students but they were open with one another and shared deep reflections about the troubles they, as women felt and addressed to the professor which bound them closer. By having this almost secret society she grasps the true meanings of fiction. Occasionally, Nafisi diverts many of the problems surrounding the regime into a question of identity; she preached at first unintentionally the more profound ideas that would not soon be forgotten by any of her fellow students. Soon, they all found that they shared the same thoughts about woman’s declining role in society and it sickened them. Setting the stage for many of them would be an event much later in the memoir that left a lasting impression – the author’s moving to America.

Nafisi talks of the enormous changes, of all the things she left in Iran: the danger, the men pursuing her and mostly importantly the veil, which once represented devotion, but now a represented entrapment. She was like the Rosa Lee Parks of Iran saying, No I will not wear the veil. It is what got her fired, but also into that secret class and discovering a life that she had to smuggle. She had to smuggle happiness and her move to the states was a decision that made it seem as though she were abandoning her students.

Betrayal and dismay are two key feelings that many of her students voiced, but mentally Nafisi could not force herself to stay in this unstable lifestyle. Her thorough studies of fiction have led her to discover how beautiful life can be if you only give it a chance. This “chance” simply could not be accomplished if she stayed in a place that did not free her spiritually. As someone who cherished and loved fiction as much as she does, the coming to America was a closure that she recognized would not erase the painful memories she had to bear. The fact that she would no longer allow herself to become immersed in them was something incredible to undertake, something many people today can take with them. Learning of her story can inspire a hope in even the most desperate situations to climb out of your hole of apprehension into exuberance!

This book is truly a gem that sparkles in the night. The brilliant combination of fiction overlapping reality and the compelling stories of the oppression of women really make one think. Our author, a brilliant wonderful teacher annexed from the University of Tehran for not agreeing to wear the veil was a landmark event. It withstands the sands of time and is truly a testimonial to someone who looks fear in the eyes and said, no I am not allowing myself to be the government’s puppet. So to sum it all up, Nafisi never quite lived up to her mother’s expectations; she towered over them. It is fantastic to say that she was brilliant. However it is the girls she taught in secret whose resilience left the reader in shock. For the Middle East and Iran are worlds foreign to us. We, the spoiled, they the suffering, something this book outlines quite well. This book encompasses detail and memories and draws them into a one of a kind story.

 

Truth, Essence, and Being

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There’s words I can’t say and phrases I cannot utter.
So my brain clogs and fills with clutter…
I jumble thoughts and phrases into sentences.
I think therefore I am?
No I think therefore I write.
I write therefore I am.
Furiously, passionately, maddeningly
I forge the words onto the page.
I forge clarity.
Those once jumbled, now clear words become my truth.
My truth because my essence.
My essence becomes my reality,
And it’s my reality that erupts into my being.

Lockdown

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Everyone is throwing advice around
To tell or not to tell him
Everyone has strong opinions of whether to stay away or come forward with my feelings
I think, what if I get hurt again?
Will it hurt more than last time, the same? Suddenly fear!
The mere thought of the pain
Sends painful sensations of fear piercing
Deep into my brain
My eyes strain to stare forward on my train home
It’s then that I decide I want the walls back up
The ones I spent eons taking down
Only love could hurt like this…
But if I put my heart on lockdown
Will I be saved?
Or is locking up my heart a bigger crime?
How can I be open but protected?
Until I figure that out
It’s fair to say in my dismay
There will be love lockdown