Draw Your Swords

Why is love so closely related to war?

“All is fair in love and war.”  This idiom is centuries old, and we have seen it in many literary works. 1604 Don Quixote when he wrote, “Love and war are all one . . . It is lawful to use sleights and stratagems to . . . attain the wished end.” Afterwards, Frank Fairleigh wrote, in one of his novels : “You opened the letter!” exclaimed I.
“In course I did; how was I to read it if I hadn’t? All’s fair in love and war, you know.”

So, in love and war, you can use any tools. You can use any weapons, to attain the object of desire, or the goal. But this also means that there is no logic, no reason, and perhaps barely any empathy. We kill both in love and in war. We murder. We walk away. We walk on, and the dead become the dead.

There is a song titled “Draw Your Swords” that I think captures this image. These are the lyrics, followed by the link to the song.

“Draw Your Swords”

See her come down, through the clouds, I feel like a fool

I aint got nothing left to give

Nothing to lose

So come on Love, draw your swords
Shoot me to the ground
You are mine, I am yours
Lets not fuck around

Cause you are, the only one
Cause you are, the only one

I see them snakes come through the ground
They choke me to the bone
They tie me to their wooden chair
Here are all my songs

So come on Love, draw your swords
Shoot me to the ground
You are mine, I am yours


Crowds of people swarming in front of me. They all went to pray. I found my way to you, with my blurry vision, with shaking hands, I drove to you. It felt like driving all night long. Time with you is different altogether. I can’t tell my days anymore. I don’t understand how the clock works. I have lost basic skills. But once I arrived, the ritual started. It was a different prayer. There was soul, there was heat, there was meaning in the way there was a world within you. I bowed my head, silently. I had to take a moment. To take you in. That moment wouldn’t change. It seemed time had stopped, I bowed my head and never got back up.

There was a mark on me. I found it the next morning. The taste of love is bloody and bitter. There is a heaviness in my chest that won’t leave me alone. I should have asked you to stay, but I was afraid of the answer.

I walked out. I don’t know if I will find my way back home.

On Time

There is a ticking clock that we are all aware of. Some of us are more aware of its presence than others. While we all know that we are mortals, flawed, and imperfect, there is a desire to live fully, a fear of illness and death. Allow me to quote Homer:

“I’ll tell you a secret.
Something they don’t teach you in your temple.
The Gods envy us.
They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed.
You will never be lovelier than you are now.
We will never be here again.”

Homer is absolutely correct. Immortality might take away from the beauty of life. Having it all? Not only is it unrealistic but it limits the experience of life in its grotesqueness, ugliness, and suffering. It gives you one perspective. And any singular perspective is limited and limiting.

For individuals with disabilities/chronic illnesses, I would say that the time factor presents itself in everyday life, in matters of the heart, in career decisions, choices, and in this concept of “life” and what it means to live. Because the clock ticks, there is a shadow of an ending, of inevitable loss. The loss is one’s self. The death is metaphorical, it is not life that ends, but instead, a part of you that withers away, leaves you standing in front of the mirror looking for you. You can’t explain it to others because their first reaction is “you’re a pessimist” or “be positive.” There are people who will say you are too afraid of life. I know MS is a part of my life I must make amends with, accept it, but it does not mean I should be celebrating it. There is nothing to celebrate. Perhaps we always think in terms of black and white, right or wrong, normal and abnormal, celebrating and grieving, gaining and losing. There is always a gray area. A different way of bridging the gaps. There is sadness and a distinct hope at the same time, a contradiction that is very real. When you are aware of the clock, you cannot help but embrace the moment. You want to dig your nails into the body of the beloved, you want to eat that piece of chocolate, and you want to travel today, not tomorrow. This concept of tomorrow seems too vague, too unsafe. My relationship to time is different. I think about time and space in a very concrete manner. I don’t leave it all up to “InshAllah” or “if God wills, tomorrow.” Being passive bothers me. When you feel the world around you is making decisions for you, you feel the need to start the car’s engine and drive at full-speed. Not in a reckless manner, not in a crazy manner. But just enough. Just enough for the thrill. To taste the moment. To make you feel that you have not missed out. Who wants to miss out on any bit of this journey? We’re all passengers, yes, as cliche as that sounds. I don’t want to sit in the backseat. It has to count more than that.


I am so silent. It is so quiet in my head.

The world around me goes on. People speak. There must be something inherently wrong with the universe. When soulmates separate, why is it that the world goes on? I don’t see anyone mourning the loss. They say it lasts 40 days. But I was never one who believed in time.

Observation: Time takes time. But your smile is eternal.

What is forever, anyway? 

Forever feels strange. There’s always this illusion of forever, of everything being timeless, having no expiry date. But there can’t be a forever. Immortal love? Hmm. As we grow older, it seems this concept of forever changes. You realize time is more vague. People promise “forever” when they’re young. 
And then there is a forever that we re-defined. You and I, we always re-label and re-write. Admitted that there is no forever. Admitted that everything slowly changes and withers away. But we were left with multiple forevers. There’s a momentary forever. What stays is bigger. And perhaps the world is not ready for our definition. 

This is Clementine’s poem, ‘Mouthful of Forevers.’ I am reposting it here. 



A step. Two. Here it goes. It looks easy, doesn’t it? You’d think so.

But here it is, this heaviness that drags. This struggle of walking. It feels like walking through mud. Except you’re wearing heavy boots, and you can’t seem to carry yourself. The burden of you. This strange connection between the brain and the body. It is a strange state of being. Being a slave to this body. Who is in charge? They say the mind is superior to the body. We grow up conditioned to believe that your brain is sharp, that your body is just the follower, that you need to work on strengthening your mental skills, that the body is just a vessel. So how is it that the body is in control? It cannot be just a vessel. The body is what you see. Nobody sees your inner core, your self. What you see is what you get. The body is your Passport in life. When you are exiled from your body, do you get to go anywhere else?

And these are, as always, the random ramblings of a confused mind.

My New Book

My first poetry collection is now available on Amazon. Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Loss-Shahd-Alshammari/dp/1631358901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433966269&sr=8-1&keywords=on+love+and+loss+shahd

I expect that copies will soon be available in Kuwait. I don’t claim to be a poet, or a writer. This is merely an experiment, as all things in life are. Trial and error. Let’s see how it goes!

Thoughts on Salome

“The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.” Oscar Wilde, Salome. (1831).

I recently watched Salome. It was recommended by someone who knows the intricacies of my mind, my passion for words, and my love for theater. This film is an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play. Of course, I read the actual script after watching the film. It had me hooked, and definitely in love. Salome is a fiery woman, a woman who is a legend, and there are numerous adaptations, Biblical allusions, and sexual imagery. The storyline is fascinating, the dialogue is gripping, and the performance is wonderful. I only wish I could attend this play live. I believe the film doesn’t do it justice.

Filled with sexual connotations, passion, desire and death, there is a blurring of the line between love/obsession, passion and lack, madness and sanity, purity/virginity and sexual desire. There is also the idea of the body as spectacle. The play, critically speaking, is infested with the idea of the “male gaze” and surprisingly, this femme-fatale image. Salome’s double, I think, is the moon. The moon in all its seductiveness, glamor, beauty, is also dangerous. The moon mirrors Salome’s psyche and character. There is simply too much to write about and think about when analyzing Salome. I have always been fascinated with “madwomen” and women who are considered “troubled.” The Young Syrian, a character who is obsessed with Salome states: “She is like a dove that has strayed..She is like a narcissus trembling in the wind. She is like a silver flower.”  The moon here is a metaphor. The idea of “looking” and being “looked at” is also part of this story’s complexity. To be looked at is to be seen. However, it depends on who is looking. You can have the wrong person “looking” at you, and all you want is for the right person, that “right love” to look at you. You want to be seen by him/her. Salome’s passion, her tragic ending, her desire to be seen, to kiss the man she has chosen is so intense. I was left gazing at the screen, shocked, uncomfortable with the bloodiness of it all. All she wanted was his “lips” and yet it is far greater than sexual. There is a union. There is a desire to merge with the lover, with the object of affection.

I won’t ruin the entire plot, but it is highly recommended. I will be looking into Salome’s legend and hopefully dissect it even more.

Side note: it is so refreshing when someone can access your brain and soul almost as much as you can.

Here are some beautiful excerpts:

“Ah, Iokanaan, Iokanaan, thou wert the man that I loved alone among men! All other men were hateful to me. But thou wert beautiful! Thy body was a column of ivory set upon feet of silver. It was a garden full of doves and lilies of silver. It was a tower of silver decked with shields of ivory. There was nothing in the world so white as thy body. There was nothing in the world so black as thy hair. In the whole world there was nothing so red as thy mouth. Thy voice was a censer that scattered strange perfumes, and when I looked on thee I heard a strange music. Ah! wherefore didst thou not look at me, Iokanaan?”
Oscar Wilde, Salome
“I am athirst for thy beauty; I am hungry for thy body; and neither wine nor apples can appease my desire. What shall I do now, Iokanaan? Neither the floods nor the great waters can quench my passion. I was a princess, and thou didst scorn me. I was a virgin, and thou didst take my virginity from me. I was chaste, and thou didst fill my veins with fire . . .”

And the link:

The Forty Rules of Love

Definitely an all-time favorite of mine. Written by Elif Shafak, this novel is also available in Arabic. I have read both versions, and each is equally wonderful. It deals with Suffism, love, pain, and hope. Faith. Faith that is sometimes romanticized, but if you overlook that, this book deals with the subject of love as unexpected, not understood. Of course, Rumi and Shams are soulmates, it seems, and their union both terrifies and enlightens them. These are some passages, some in English and others in Arabic. 
Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be so shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.

 Nothing should stand between yourself and God. Not imams, priests, rabbis, or any other custodians of moral or religious leadership. Not spiritual masters, not even your faith. Believe in you values and your rules, but never lord them over others. If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good.

“إن الطريقة التي نرى الله فيها ما هي إلا إنعكاس للطريقة التي نرى فيها أنفسنا. فإذا لم يكن الله يجلب إلى عقولنا سوى الخوف والملامة، فهذا يعني أن قدرًا كبيرًا من الخوف والملامة يتدفق من نفوسنا. أما إذا رأينا أن الله مفعمًا بالمحبة والرحمة، فإنا نكون كذلك 

في البداية تلتقي بشخص؛ شخص يختلف اختلافًا تامًا عن جميع من حولك من الأشخاص. شخص يرى كل شيء بمنظار مختلف، ويجعلك تُغيّر منظورك، وتلاحظ كل شيء من جديد، من الداخل ومن الخارج؛ ويُخيّل إليك أن بإمكانك الإبقاء على مسافة آمنة بينك وبينه؛ ويُخيّل إليك أنك تستطيع أن تُبحر وتشق طريقك في خضم هذه العاصفة الجميلة، حتى تدرك بغتةً أنه ألقى بك إلى العراء ولا يمكنك أن تتحكم بذلك

حياتك حافلة، مليئة، كاملة، أو هكذا يخيّل إليك، حتى يظهر فيها شخصًا يجعلك تدرك ما كنت تفتقده طوال هذا الوقت. مثل مرآة تعكس الغائب لا الحاضر، تريك الفراغ في روحك، الفراغ الذي كنت تقاوم رؤيته. قد يكون ذلك الشخص حبيبًا أو صديقًا أو معلمًا روحيًا. وقد يكون طفلًا يجب إحاطته بالحب والرعاية. المهم هو أن تعثر على الروح التي تُكمّل روحك

The Art of Losing

The Art of losing. Is loss an art? Is it possible to learn how to lose? As we grow older, our hearts harden. Call it wisdom, call it cruelty, call it age, whatever you call it, it feels inevitable that as we become accustomed to loss, we learn to navigate the world under the premise that all is eventually lost. Perhaps I am a pessimist. Perhaps I was born an optimist, and learned to master pessimism. I am not sure. All I know is that this human condition still confuses me.

Last night, I watched a film called ‘Reaching for the Moon.’ It tells the story of the poet Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop has always been a bit vague in terms of her sexuality, her love affairs, etc. But this film was very well-written, beautifully performed, and the portrayal of Bishop’s complex love affair is presented as having colored her writing. I was extremely touched by the performance, especially the recital of her poem ‘One Art.’  I won’t summarize the plot of the film, but I will insist that it is intense. Below is the poem, but it must be read out loud or listened to, to do it justice:

One Art: by Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.
—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.