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Kazim Ali

I woke up this morning before dawn to eat something. It’s the last week of Ramadan. The practice is daily—each dawn you wake and eat and then fast all day and then eat again at night. The rhythm offers time a shape, which I was losing a little bit of sense of before. Yet at the same time I am ready for it—the fast—to be over so I can go back to life, some semblance of “normal” which at the moment is anything but. Or is this the new normal?

I’ve been reading a lot and one of those things was Zizek’s book Pandemic—Zizek somehow found time to write a (short) book about COVID-19. He has a notion of this crisis as one we couldn’t wrap our heads around because our imaginations have been at work (for years now) trying to conceive of what we thought was going to be the next actual crisis, the coming (inevitable) climate crisis. And for dealing with that he expressed simultaneous optimism (we do it, we have sheltered in place, radical change to our routine is possible) and pessimism (leaders do not believe in science, experts are not listened to, the response was fumbled and then doubled down upon).

Mosty I have been reading and writing. Finishing a book that is coming out next year called Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water. It is about the impact of hydroelectric development on the Pimicikamak First Nation in northern Manitoba. It’s my story too because my family was one of those who worked on the dam and I grew up there, as young boy, in a Manitoba company town on unceded Pimicikamak land.

I don’t know. I go into my body every day. Besides fasting I practice yoga to stretch and breathe. Every night before I can eat again I go and run a 3 mile loop around the neighborhood. We’re in a bluff over the valley. The valley was the center of Kumeyaay life in this region before the Europeans came. The bluff is on the mesa where most of the city of San Diego sits.

Fixed in place (in this house, in this body) my mind nonetheless travels through time, both here but also to locations far to the north. Is this why my language cracks? I start writing—in that period before dawn, the dark day—small poems that find themselves in the form of the sonnet—against chaos I need a frame. The poems are barely English—I use Scottish, French, Latin. I dig down, I range wide. I unbuckle from time-space. Making sounds means privileging the vowels, that is the space breath makes in the body.

I am listening to Rebecca Clarke. I am listening to Amjad Sabri. While fasting I have been corresponding with my friend Tanwi, who is also fasting. She sends me a link to a concert by Arooj Aftab. I listen to Arooj Aftab.

I’m on a loop. Each day feels like a whole new life. Time is rushing onward or it is suspended and standing completely still. I can’t tell which.

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