Tag Archives: Superman

The Selfish Giver

I’m in a poetry mood.

So, I have this friend, who has been dogged out by all the women he’s been with. When I say he’s been “dogged out”–he has been DOGGED the hell out. And each of these girls were attractive (except #3, I always thought she looked like a mud duck), and they were the kind of couple that you would think, “how the hell did he get that?”  It’s just that my boy is a good man, he is a good Dad and just as much a good step dad. He is hard-working and very unselfish with his belongings, resources and himself. The only thing is, he is not what many of you would call a really attractive brother, he’s sort of overweight, and he didn’t grow up with a real man who taught him how to take care of himself. So he does the best he can with what he’s got, and the women he gets with do their best to destroy him internally in order to control him. It’s disgusting, but I think he’s gotten the picture.

The main problem now is that his self-esteem is so beaten up, he doesn’t think he’s worth much and he doesn’t really try anymore. What can a friend do? One thing about men is that much of our power and strength does come from our women. This is why having a good wife can make a meek man become powerful, yet having a bad wife can destroy great men and kings. Having your homeboy reassure you that you’re a good catch is not the same as having a woman you treasure tell you she’s a lucky woman to have you. Much of our happiness does come from within; but as humans–with feelings and imperfections we are aware of–a good deal of it can be destroyed by the ones we love. Lopsided relationships are like cancers: the longer you keep it, the more it consumes you until there is nothing of “you” left.

For my friend RSH:

he reaches for the broken ones

the toys on the bottom shelf

the ones no one seems to want

though they all play with them

and discard them

broken

tired of sharing, he’d

rather fix springs and sand edges and ignore chips

than compete to play alone

because the last time he took one home

she hurled stones that stung and singe

one of those fancy ones

with the lights and the new bright colors

the ones that everybody likes

but they make him dislike himself

and he just wants to play alone

giving all he has

without reservations

or looking over his shoulder–

so he reaches for the bottom shelf,

the treasure so painfully gotten,

that make him

feel

new.

2011

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BIG Shoes: The Impossible-to-Follow-Father

Although this article appears in the “Message to the Black Man” category, I am not writing about a Black man at all–I’m writing about a Mexican man with Black children.

His name is “Seif” (for short), and he a member of my local Muslim community–and a very well-known member at that. He converted to Islam in the 80s, married an African American woman and has been a pillar in the community since. Seif does not drink, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him curse, and he is a true hustler. He is not a wealthy man, but he has certainly been blessed by God. Whenever you see him, he is surrounded by the children and grandchildren in his family or friends; everyone around him adores him. He has been self-employed the entire 12 years I’ve known him, and although we all have our struggles he far from being a pauper and he has held his family together very well. His family is very close-knit and everyone knows them. Now that I think of it, I recall that both his brothers are married to African American women. His brothers, by the way, share the same infallible reputation he has. I would guess that his father was the same way–to raise sons who turn out to become admirable men.

What inspired this article is not Seif, but a conversation I had where a brother briefly mention him.

I know a young man, who is in his early to mid-20s. Like Seif, he is a good man, married with a baby girl, hard working. A rare sight in the Black community these days–at least in my town. He came by my business to inquire about exercise classes, and I asked about his parents and the married life as I attended his wedding several years ago after watching him grow up as a teenager. In the course of the conversation, he was telling me how he met his wife on Myspace. They courted for six months, with chaperoned dates (her father was extremely protective and strict) and plenty of text-conversations. They met and chatted at skating rinks, even went to movies with his mother sitting between them. I’m actually sitting her laughing as I write this, as I would like my children to have this experience with their future spouses. And you know Mustafa Akamo would be right between them!

So in the course of telling me about his courtship, he mentions that before his wife, he had expressed interest in a young lady at the Annur Masjid (a mosque near my home) who was beautiful and smart and well mannered. At the time, the brother was between jobs and young; he was 19 and at the time giving his parents a hard time. He was staying out late, listening to gangsta rap music, not keep up his prayers and just being a rebellious young man. His father was encouraging him to go to college in order to find a good job and get married. He said he was torn between immature friends and his father’s advice, as well as his desire to please his father.

Well, breaking the rules of traditional Islam, the young man approached the young lady and inquired if she would like to exchange numbers and talk and she said something that completely amazes me:

“You will have to speak to my father. You’re cute but you will have to talk to him first.”

What father wouldn’t want a daughter who shuts down boys like that? Wow.

So, the young man proceeds to tell me he discovered that the young lady’s father was Seif, and what he told me next was just as amazing:

“And you know, any brother who wants to approach a daughter of Seif had better have his stuff together! I knew this sister was gonna need a dude who was like her Dad, and I was messing up AND not working. Man I didn’t bother wasting my time. If I had been listening to my father I would have been in a good spot to step, but I realized to them I was a loser.”

Seif set the standard. His sons are intelligent, hard-working family men. His daughters are intelligent, pious women. What more could a father ask for? This young man, who was far from being a loser, felt like he was unworthy of approaching Seif’s daughter because he knew he was not utilizing his potential. He was also under a strong father, but for whatever reason he backslid for a short period of time. Fortunately, he grew up, went to school, got a good job and found a wife he loves and started a family. We spent most of the time talking about himself and his desire to get physically fit. Yet in the back of my mind, I was impressed with a man who was so young and mature enough to self-criticize and rebuild himself–ending up with a good job and a family when many his age still live with parents and are irresponsible. It was a combination of his return to his own upbringing under his strong father and being intimidated by the presence of another strong father AND finding another woman who had a strong father (his wife) that taught him how to be a good man.

When a man wears big shoes, his children perform at a higher level as well as demand more from themselves and their mates. Men, we set the standard of what our boys turn out to be and what kind of men our girls want. Never forget that. If you are a strong, admirable figure, your kids don’t want to disappoint you. You are the yardstick they measure themselves and their mates by. When you have flaws and shortcomings, it is easy for them to accept less-than-acceptable standards. Never forget that.

As for my friend Seif, whom I have long admired, he reminds me of what my father has been teaching me all my life. And I hope that when my children are grown, I have given them the same impossible-to-follow-father that he has given his children. Amen.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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Superman Looking Out the Window

I’m going to do something very rare. There’s this poem that’s floating around in my head, and I have to get it out. I rarely have time to write these days, so I’m just going to get it out.

This is my first draft–hence, the “very rare” thing. I never let anyone see anything but the final copy, but I’m going to let you read the draft, and then later when the piece is done, you will see what the poem becomes. I do this all the time and my final copy rarely looks anything like the first copy, and this is one of them. The background…. Only a few people close to me know this, but I have been sick for a while, and a week ago I was diagnosed with Bell Palsy. In the three days following, I fell apart mentally very quickly, and now I am experiencing a disfiguring partial paralysis and I am seeing a side of life from an angle I’ve never even dreamed about. So it got me to thinking of others who are much “worse” off than I am, and I ended up seeing a man in a store being wheeled around by his kids… he is in a place I imagined I could be myself, if I don’t take care of my health. Basically, nothing on the man worked, but his brain and his eyes. After reflecting on his situation (actually I felt sorry for myself until I saw him), I began to imagine what life was like for him. I thought about people who longed for euthanasia and why they wanted it. How the most basic instinct we have is to fight to live, and where some people would swear they’d rather die “if”, while others live with that “if” every day and have fulfilling lives despite of it. And how some people who would have chosen death fought for their lives until they finally wanted death, but are now incapable of making it happen. And this piece is the beginning of what I was thinking about.

Remember, it is a first draft.

 

he peeks out of windows

dreaming of the superman he once was

feeling the strength of steel in those hands

when  he ruled the Earth

bulletproof.

.

tall, like orders to create life

from nothingness

equipped with little more

than his will

and the notion that

it can be done.

.

there was a time

when windows were doorways

and these legs worked

and these hands could grasp

hold of the belief

that I could do

anything

.

when I was still him

and my kids thought I was

Him

when brainwaves could travel like rumors

further than light

when this mind could leap tall buildings

in a single bound

before the sounds of failure

could utter its first syllable

.

eyes that once saw

ears that once listened

a tongue that could

tie

twist

and latch

onto dreams

towing fantasies out to the land of

things coming true

.

I felt like I could do

anything

but somewhere trapped inside me

lives the man i really am

the superman i used to be

instead of the Daddy they see

now sentenced to looking out of windows

at the world I once ruled

where this dead prison

holds my world within its walls

.

i am longing to be set free

and fly.

.

.

“Superman Looking Out the Window”

2011

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