Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Words on the Tongue and Action with the Hands"

This poem came out of the May 15, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart and [personal profile] curiosity. It also fills the "hero" square in my 5-1-18 Roles card for the Pro Wrestling Bingo Fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  It belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"Words on the Tongue and Action with the Hands"


When a warlord's band rolled
through Mohammed's village,
killing most of his friends and
all of his family, he thought
it was the end of the world.

It wasn't, though, so he
washed off the blood and
the mud and moved
to Mogadishu.

There Mohammed
found work in an office
that served refugees.

He loved helping people,
and he spoke languages from
the neighboring countries of
Ethiopia and Kenya as well
as his own Somali.

That became his downfall,
because pirates captured him
and demanded his aid.

Mohammed refused
to become a pirate, even
with a gun to his head and
his eyes turned toward Allah,
so instead they forced him
to become their translator.

When they would not
let him pray on his knees,
he prayed in his heart
for Allah to save him.

It was not Allah who heard him,
though (or not Allah alone) --
it was the Maldivian Navy.

Two whales rose up singing
from the deep salt sea.

They flung the ship on its side
and the pirates into the waves -- but
Mohammed and the other captives
never touched the water.

They were held gently
in cups of air just above
the heaving sea.

Peace, said a voice
in Mohammed's mind,
touched with surprise.
You have a good heart
for a lander. No harm
will come to you now.


"I am a Muslim, and
my religion is peace,"
said Mohammed.
"Who are you?"

I am Steel,
said the sperm.

I am Moderato,
said the humpback.
Welcome to the Maldives.

When the Coast Guard ships
caught up with them, the whales
lowered Mohammed quite tenderly
into the care of the sailors while
the pirates were scooped up
and put into the brig.

Starting a new life in Malé
was harder than doing so in
Mogadishu, but nowhere near
as hard as living with pirates.

Besides, Mohammed would rather
live with brothers who behaved like
decent Muslims than go back to a land
where people behaved like barbarians.

He went to work for the office that
took care of superpowered refugees.

Mohammed was not a superhero, but
he knew how much it hurt to lose everything
and he knew how it felt to be valued
only for what he could do.

They came to him shattered
and shaking, and he listened
to their fears and found them
places to stay or people who
spoke their native language or
whatever else they needed.

Mohammed spoke with
the Abd-Qadir to find out
which of them would mentor
refugees with superpowers.

He reached out to the Abd-Raheem
and they told him where to find
classes in emotional first aid or
trauma care for refugees who
wished to heal themselves
by helping other people.

When he met a Chinese girl with
beautiful eyes and a scarred face,
Mohammed said, "What would
help you feel safer here?"

Hé covered her face with
her hands and said, "You are
a hero, and that helps. But I miss
being beautiful and swimming
and so many other things."

"I think your eyes are beautiful,"
Mohammed said, which was
a bit forward but neither of them
were married. A man could hope,
after all, and it was not a sin.
"Perhaps you would feel better
wearing a veil or a burkini."

He showed her photos
of fashionable dupattas
and hijabs and niqabs.

"Oh, that's perfect," she said,
running a finger over the niqab.
"If I wore that, my scars wouldn't
show at all." The left side of her face
didn't move much, but she smiled
and her right eye crinkled with it.

"I'm glad you like it," said Mohammed.
"These are burkinis for swimming."

"That's not so different from
my old facekini," said Hé, and
showed him a picture of herself
in a swimsuit of pink flowers
that covered her whole body.

"That is so lovely and modest,"
said Mohammed. "I don't know of
a shop selling anything exactly like
that, but do check the diving shops --
they may have a face mask that
you could wear with a burkini."

"I will try that," said Hé.

"What kind of work would you
like to do here?" Mohammed asked.
"If you liked swimming, there are
many water jobs in the Maldives!"

"I used to belong to a swim team,
but I had to leave that behind when
I fled China," she said sadly. "I think
that I would enjoy working in the water,
though. Perhaps I could become
a lifeguard, or teach swimming
to refugees who don't know how."

"Many people find healing for
themselves by helping others,"
Mohammed said. "It works for me.
I'll help you find the teachers you need."

"Why are you being so kind?" Hé asked.

"It is part of my faith," Mohammed said.
"Imaan is knowledge in the heart,
words on the tongue, and
action with the hands."

"That sounds very nice,"
said Hé. "I've been Buddhist,
but it can be ... a bit detached."

"Then perhaps now is a time for you
to explore other options," Mohammed said.
"Listen for the call to prayer -- five times a day --
and visit a Friends' Room or an outdoor shrine.
There are many places to pray here, and you
can use whatever prayers you like. If you want
to learn about Islam, just ask any imam
at a masjid about outreach lessons."

So Hé started learning how to become
a lifeguard and a swimming teacher,
and she took an introductory course on
Islam for friends of the faith -- although
she asked as many questions of Mohammed
as she did of the imam teaching the class.

He even introduced her to Steel and
Moderato when they visited the beach,
and then the whales brought in Styrofoam,
a white dolphin (who turned pink in the sun)
also working as a lifeguard in Malé.

Soon Mohammed and Hé had
lots of new friends to spend time with.

One thing led to another, and before long,
they were sharing lunch on the beach with
Hé's giggling classmates for chaperones.

In a few months, she graduated and
found a job as a lifeguard on a busy beach.
She also volunteered as a swim teacher
through the refugee program. "Zakat,"
she said, waving away offers of payment.

Mohammed and Hé got married when
he had been in the Maldives for
two years and she for one.

Even though neither of them
had blood relatives in the crowd,
dozens of their friends attended.

An older couple whom Mohammed
knew from work stood in for his parents,
and two of Hé's teachers for hers.

One day Mohammed found Hé
sewing a set of dolls, some with
dark skin and some with light,
some with head coverings
and others without.

She had fallen in love
with the faceless figures
typical of Muslim art.

Both of them hoped to start
a large family with many children.
Hé confided that it might not be easy,
as her mother had difficulty conceiving.

"Do not worry," Mohammed said.
"Insh'Allah, we will have a dozen!
But if not, there are many orphans
in need of a loving family."

"Perhaps," Hé said, stroking
the scars where her mother had
flung boiling rice in her face after
hearing of her daughter's Empathy,
"we could do a bit of both. There must
be many children with superpowers
who could use a good home."

"That would make me
the happiest man on Earth,"
Mohammed said, hugging her.

* * *

Notes:

Mohammed Dualeh -- He has burnt sienna skin and dark brown eyes. His nappy black hair is buzzed short on top but with a full mustache and beard below. He speaks Arabic, Benaadir (Coastal Somali), Bravanese, English, Italian, Oromo, Somali Sign Language, and Swahili. He is learning Dhivehi and Mandarin Chinese. Mohammed is the last survivor of his birth family, the others killed by the widespread violence in Somalia. He dealt with his losses by moving first to Mogadishu, then the Maldives, to work with refugees. Now married, he devoutly hopes their union will be blessed with many children. But it still hurts when he thinks of his lost relatives.
Origin: Originally, Mohammed worked at a refugee office in Mogadishu, Somalia. He was kidnapped by pirates and forced to work as a translator, but he refused to do anything wicked for them, no matter how much they tortured him, and they didn't want to kill such a valuable asset. When the pirate ship was captured by the Maldivian Navy, Mohammed became a citizen there and went to work as a liaison for superpowered refugees.
Uniform: Muslim men's wear.
Qualities: Master (+6) Imaan, Master (+6) Interpersonal Intelligence, Expert (+4) Office Worker, Expert (+4) Muslim, Expert (+4) Tough, Expert (+4) Unsullied Hero, Good (+2) Drummer, Good (+2) Languages, Good (+2) Water Sports
Poor (-2) Last of His Family
Powers: none
Motivation: "And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, 'Indeed, I am of the Muslims'."

The languages of Somalia include Arabic, Benaadir, Bravanese, English, Italian, and Somali Sign Language. Ethiopia includes Oromo and Kenya includes Swahili.

"Rasulullah saw (said): 'Imaan is knowledge in the heart, words on the tongue and action with the physical faculties'."
-- Ibn Majah
The concept of imaan is central to Islam, encompassing not just abstract faith but practical action. There are ways to increase it.

"And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, 'Indeed, I am of the Muslims'."
-- Quran 41:33


Hé Dualeh -- She has honey skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long straight black hair. The left side of her face is heavily scarred, and some of the scars go down her neck, chest, and left arm. In places they are thick enough to hinder movement. So Hé prefers to cover the scars. Currently she works as a lifeguard and a swim teacher, to help refugees adapt to life in an island nation. She speaks English, Mandarin Chinese, and Yue Chinese. She is studying Arabic and Dhivehi. Hé is married to Mohammed and shares his desire for many children. She has converted from Buddhism to Islam.
Origin: Her empathy grew in during college. Hé suspects that the herbal supplements handed out to the swim team may have contributed to that. When she mentioned what was happening, her mother flung boiling rice in her face and threw her out of the house. Hé left college, fled the country, and moved to the Maldives.
Uniform: Women's fashions in a mix of Chinese and Muslim styles, covering her face. Mohammed introduced her to Muslim fashions, including the various veils. When Hé wears the niqab, she feels beautiful again. She used to wear a Chinese-style facekini for swimming, and now prefers a burkini with a facekini hood in amber skintone.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adaptable, Good (+2) Crafts, Good (+2) Interpersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Swimmer, Good (+2) Wife
Poor (-2) Facial Scars
Powers: Good (+2) Empath
Motivation: To help people stay afloat.

People in China have been wearing facekinis for years and nobody cared. The burkini was originally invented to give women more freedom, not take it away, and it works. Women should be free to wear whatever they choose; when you try to tear their clothes off, that is not empowering to women. There are other reasons to wear burkini or facekini than religion. Hé prefers to cover her scars for both aesthetic and safety reasons, as with her old facekini.

This comparison of Muslim veils includes the niqab, which covers the face but not the eyes. In any Muslim country, there tends to be a range of clothing styles. The Maldives is probably closest to Lebanon, where the less-covered versions are common. Bear in mind that if you live in a hot, sunny, dusty place then covering your head may be a survival necessity and covering your face is prudent. (People forget that in some desert cultures, EVERYONE covers up for those reasons.) Even if you move elsewhere, you might feel naked without that covering.

* * *

Among the bottom-ten countries for treatment of soups, Somalia is the worst of all as well as the worst of the disorganized oppressors. Trouble markers include fatality (soups are often killed), abridged rights (some anti-soup laws have been passed, child soldiers are pressed into service with keen interest in offensive superpowers, and journalists are forbidden to write about superpowers), and pogroms (mobs attack soups and destroy their property). It is frankly a hellhole for ordinary people, soups, and everything else in its territory. The government is more a figment of imagination than a force of order. Gangs of thugs effectively rule territories, committing whatever crimes they please. In 2011, 16% of Somalia's population was internally displaced, the highest rate worldwide. The total population was 9,331,000 in 2010, 44.9% children below the age of 15. So the soup population is around 9,400 and over half would be children, owing to the rise of manifestation rate and fall of manifestation age. Soups in Somalia tend to flee for Kenya if they can, which is one of the top-ten most welcoming countries for people with superpowers. It's a shitty place to live but they'll let you in. African Union and Kenyan troops have tried to stabilize Somalia, with occasional local successes but little overall improvement.
In July 2007, raiders hit a small village near Mogadishu, provoking a young soup into releasing a devastating drought that wracked East Africa for two years, unfortunately heterodyning with a similar event in South Sudan which together spilled into Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya. Well over 300,000 people died and another 10 million required emergency aid.
Ethiopian troops have committed atrocities including mass murder, gang rape, and gouging out people's eyes. The latter fell out of fashion as of December 31, 2011, after it removed the controlling organs of a little boy with Nuclear Energy Beams in Beledweyne. The resulting emission killed most of Beledweyne's population of around 67,200 inhabitants, and required the evacuation of the broader Beledweyne District population of 144,350 residents.

Somali pirates have expanded their territory, causing trouble over an increasing area. This is the Somali pirate ship.

This is a typical pirate-hunting ship from the Maldivian Coast Guard. If you look closely, you can see that she's flying the Maldivian flag on the stern but has a French shield painted on the side and is lettered in English.

Malé is the capital city of the Maldives.

Abd-Qadir is a common Islamic term for someone with superpowers. It means Servant of the All-Powerful. The implication is that, as humans are reflections of Allah and His virtues, some are reflecting individual and differing aspects of His universal power. Some use the term only for Muslims, while others use it for everyone, largely depending on whether they see God only in other Muslims or in the whole of humanity. It comes from القادر Al-Qadir (The All-Powerful, He Who is able to do Everything).

Abd-Raheem are citizens in the Republic of the Maldives who have volunteered to assist in case of emergency. The name means something like Servant of the Most Compassionate, a reference to Al-Raheem as a title of God ... which Muslims are not actually supposed to use by themselves without tempering it, but a quick search online shows it plastered all over the place. When moving through a disaster scene they shout, "B-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīmi!" (بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ) "In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful!" Arabic is widely understood throughout most of the Muslim world, but at home in the Maldives, they also use Dhivehi. It's like how people in Terramagne-America holler "Emergency Services!" or the name of their department to let victims know who's coming.

Zakat is the third pillar of Islam, giving to the needy. Eight kinds of people may receive zakat. T-Maldives is especially considerate of refugees who have fled there due to superpowers. In return, the refugees are extremely attached to their new home.

Caring for refugees requires such skills as emotional first aid, emotional trauma care, and trauma-informed support.

Some Muslims prefer faceless dolls. So do some other people. Hé is making dolls like these. Such dolls are very popular in T-Maldives, including as souvenirs for tourists.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, romance, spirituality, weblit, writing
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