I don’t know when it slipped into my speech
that soft word meaning, “if God wills it.”
Insha’Allah I will see you next summer.
The baby will come in spring, insha’Allah.
Insha’Allah this year we will have enough rain.
So many plans I’ve laid have unraveled
easily as braids beneath my mother’s quick fingers.
Every language must have a word for this. A word
our grandmothers uttered under their breath
as they pinned the whites, soaked in lemon,
hung them to dry in the sun, or peeled potatoes,
dropping the discarded skins into a bowl.
Our sons will return next month, insha’Allah.
Insha’Allah this war will end, soon. Insha’Allah
the rice will be enough to last through winter.
How lightly we learn to hold hope,
as if it were an animal that could turn around
and bite your hand. And still we carry it
the way a mother would, carefully,
from one day to the next.
Though ‘God’s will’ is not in my vocabulary, I have always like the sound of insha’Allah, the soft music of it as well as the meaning I make that there is something beyond me that allows babies and rain and all those things not in my control. Already, I am thinking to myself Insha’Allah I will see you next summer as I wonder about the possibility of going east to my brother’s family and to walk my favourite beach. As Lamérus says, so many plans unraveled, easily as braids beneath my mother’s quick fingers, never more so than in these past many months.
Every language must have a word for this, she tells us. This feels true to me, especially when she invokes the grandmothers hanging the whites on a line in the sun or peeling potatoes as grandmothers have done for millennium. The steady prayers for the safety of sons, for war to end, for there to be enough food for the winter, waiting without knowing.
How lightly we learn to hold hope, with a cautious care that it may turn and bite us, disappoint us. And yet we do hold it, carry it the way a mother would, and we do it from one day to the next. May you be reminded to carry your own hopes lightly, carefully, trusting in possibilities even without certainty.
(My apologies for being so late in the day. I wish I could have found a poem about losing track of the days; I thought today is Tuesday but apparently not.)