Watch Raya Tuffaha Perform "Obstacles to Friendship With God"

We're especially proud to be publishing To All the Yellow Flowers by Raya Tuffaha, our youngest-ever poet.

Watch Tuffaha perform one of her collection's most powerful poems as part of the Brave Young Voices competition here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mvxS99ryw8

 

Obstacles to Friendship with God

 

Dear God, she was beautiful:

Fifteen-year-old me sitting in the very back row

of a sweaty New York theater

watching Cynthia Erivo sing just for me,

her voice taking mine for a waltz,

She was beautiful,

she was powerful,

and I should have known.

 

 

Dear God, she was beautiful:

Sixteen-year-old me sitting in the front row

of the classroom,

with my friend whose blue eyes were

brighter than her smile,

She was beautiful,

she was powerful,

and I should have known.

 

I should've known:

the lump in my throat when I had to leave the theater,

when the distance between my friend

and I went from a weekend to 2,472 miles,

it meant I was losing more than I thought I was,

she wouldn't be there to answer

the question I didn't know I had:

who am I?

 

Dear God, you remember that day like I do:

the humid July morning in Washington DC,

the over-salted hotel French toast,

the parent reprimanding her child at the next table.

You remember my ribs clutching at each other in fear,

throat filled with ash, palms baptized in sweat,

and you remember the day

I came out to my mom.

 

You remember how I burst into tears

just as the waitress arrived with orange juice,

and how my lipstick stained the napkin

You remember that day like I do

and I will never forget that day because

she asked me with the most innocent

poison dripping from her lips:

"So, do you still consider yourself a Muslim?"

And God, for all my appall I couldn't

answer the question.

I could smell the smoke but you took

the color red from my sight,

so I walked on ice with shattered breath:

dear God,

Was our friendship ever in question?

Were you ever my friend?

If you created me in your image,

why can't I recognize myself?

 

Dear God, queer youth are thirteen

times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder.

Is that one time for every year I thought there was

something wrong with me?

 Dear God, queer youth are thirteen

times more likely to develop depression.

Is that one time for every year I thought

I'd fragmented my culture?

Dear God, what kind of a friend shatters my breath?

And should I even consider myself Muslim anymore

when this drowning is anything but

peaceful?

It's not that I know I am wrong, it's that you will never

tell me I'm right

Dear God, sometimes I wonder if this world

and I were meant for each other.

 

God, you have ninety-nine names

and the first one is Al-Rahman: compassionate

The second is Al-Raheem: merciful 

What number is protector?

What number is provider?

What number is explainer or teacher or refuge?

Dear God, can I not go to you

for existing in some kind of sin?

Can you forgive yourself for forgiving me?

Did you not create what I hope you won’t

despise?

 

God, are you there?

Don't you remember me, the girl with the last

name "apple?"

You gave me the strength of that damn apple in Eden

You let my mother name me Raya

without letting her realize

my name means "pride."

You trapped me in this vicious joke

locked the key in my kiss.

On this humid July morning in Washington DC,

fighting my own revolution in sight of the Capitol building,

I think I might be your only mistake.

Dear God, I don't think I was meant for this world;

why won't you let me leave?

 

Dear God, I know I am shattered like my breath,

but there are people there to pick up the pieces:

Faith, Zaina, Liz, Bitaniya, Lynn, Azura, Halle, Becca, Zivia, Izzy, Abby, Rachel, Helen—

they’re my better thirteen reasons why not.

They collect my fragments, hold them to your light,

and read my story from the shadows.

They are beautiful,

they are powerful,

and I should have known:

 

You gave me the people who know I am greater than the sum of my shattered parts.

 

They are the answer to my questions.

 

Dear God, their friendship,

our friendship, is an anomaly,

built to endure life and death,

inside and out.

 

For more information about  To All the Yellow Flowers, see https://www.amazon.com/All-Yellow-Flowers-Raya-Tuffaha/dp/1936135906 .