Minha Khan
Cannon Editor

 

Look at love
How it tangles
With the one fallen in love

Look at spirit 
How it fuses with earth
Giving it new life

-Rumi 

 

This delicate verse by Rumi is dear to the two main characters of a book I recently read, The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali, but I’ll explain the significance of this poem later on. 

The Book
Roya and Bahman are two seventeen year-olds who first meet in a stationery shop in the cool summer of 1953 of Tehran, Iran. As they keep meeting over the summer in that same stationery shop, surrounded by the books and poetry they both love, they fall into a blossoming romance, finding hope and love in each other even as the political conflict in their country worsens, and even when everything falls apart. 

This book had a significant impact on me; I don’t know exactly why or how but somehow the characters and their stories permeated my inner state and settled within me in a way where I think I won’t ever forget about them, this book or any of it. When I began reading The Stationery Shop, I was choosing to enter into the lives of Roya and Bahman, but instead, they quietly and rigidly became a part of mine. After I finished the book, I was distraught. The morning following the ending of the book, I couldn’t wake up, even though I had class. I didn’t want to endure the inevitable reflection of the book’s end if I was awake.

This sounds dramatic because, well, it was but it was as if I started with my heart whole and, as I passed through the ending of the book, it began to disintegrate piece by piece; the more I read, the more the grief encapsulated within the last chapters of the book became clear. By the end, with all the tiny shards of my heart having been carried away, none was left for me. It had all drifted away, perhaps into the pages of the book itself. But, in a sense, I was immensely grateful that a piece of me was forever embedded within Roya and Bahman’s story.  

Some Backstory
I’ve always been a quiet advocate of solitude and, similarly, I’ve always been burrowed in books. But as I grew up over the second decade of the 21st century, technology continued to settle deeper into our lives and, with added schoolwork accompanying my peers and I as we rose through elementary and highschool, solitude and books became more of a distant wish, a whisper of past-self, than a part of reality. At the start of high-school, the books in my room were still neglected, but I began to write poetry. Using music to tune into my emotions, I felt free to string together strands of thoughts and sensations into transparent yet clouded poems. Time passed, and life changed, and at the end of first year university, after I decided to stop listening to music all-together due to religious reasons, I found myself unable to write poetry. 

Reading, Again
The Stationery Shop was one of the few books I had recently picked up since the end of first year, coincidentally when I became resolute on detangling myself from technology that seemed inescapable. Before I left Instagram, I had seen a mutual recommend this book, and so, at the start of second year, I began it. My fight against technology had escalated; as I turned the books’ pages, I was in a period of time where I had decided to undergo a digital declutter, a 30-day reset from technology use and a dip in the waters of digital minimalism (I highly recommend Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism). This trial of digital minimalism meant I was left in total solitude with my emotions and contemplations as I read the last few chapters of The Stationery Shop. 

September 28th- The End
I knew I was going to finish the last sweep of the book within the night, and with each turn of events and utterances of verse from Roya or Bahman, the book became more and more meaningful. I felt grief, sadness, and pure emotion well up inside me, and the full moon outside called me to read under the knowing gaze of the open sky, so I went out to it. Sitting in the balcony at night, the moon saw me as broken with tears on my face, but I felt whole for the first time in a long time. I had finished this book, discovered Roya and Bahman, their love for each other and poetry, and vaulted open my heart to them, to it all. When I turned the last page, I almost leapt out of my chair to retrieve my small, black notebook. I had read Rumi’s verse in the book over and over again, but I finally found the words for my own. I had broken through. 

September 28, 2020 1:56 A.M.

if I knew not of the moon and the stars, 
I would find them still

if I knew not of hope and love,
my heart would yet of them fill 

and if the sky was black and molten, bereft and broken
I would peel back the layers one by one

my heart is empty as it is full 
full because it is left empty 
it is not mine nor yours nor anyone’s
it is its own

whether it stings at memory of people forgotten
people I don’t know and those I never will
it sits within me painfully so 
and I stay with it because it is my truth, my grave, 
my poem. 

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