Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Entering the Shell

Marc Chagall, Village by Night

Love is alive,
and someone borne along by it is more alive
than lions roaring or men in their fierce courage.

Bandits ambush others on the road.
They get wealth, but they stay in one place.

Lovers keep moving, never the same,
not for a second.

What makes others grieve, they enjoy.
When they look angry, do not believe their faces.
It is like spring lightning, a joke before the rain.

They chew thorns thoughtfully,
along with pasture grass.
Gazelle and lioness have dinner.

Love is invisible, except here, in us.
Sometimes I praise love. Sometimes love praises me.

Love, a little shell somewhere
on the ocean floor, opens its mouth.

You and I and we, those imaginary beings,
enter the shell as a single drop of water.

Monday, August 30, 2010

You Are Most Handsome

Think that you're gliding out
from the face of a cliff like an eagle.

Think that you're walking like a tiger walks
by himself in the forest.

You are most handsome when you are after food.
Spend less time with nightingales and peacocks.
One is just a voice, the other just a color.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Harsh Evidence

What sort of person says that he or she
wants to be polished and pure,
then complains about being handled roughly?

Love is a lawsuit
where harsh evidence must be brought in.
To settle the case,
the judge must hear details.

You have heard that every buried treasure
has a snake guarding it.

Kiss the snake to discover the treasure.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Death of Saladin

Gerhard Mantz, Left Hand of Darkness

You left ground and sky weeping,
mind and soul full of grief.

No one can take your place in existence,
or in absence. Both mourn, the angels, the prophets,
and this sadness I feel has taken from me
the taste of language, so that I cannot say
the flavor of my being apart.

The roof of the kingdom within has collapsed.
When I say the word you, I mean a hundred universes.

Pouring grief water or secret dripping
in the heart, eyes in the head,
or eyes of the soul, I saw yesterday
that all these flow out to find you
when you're not here.

That bright firebird Saladin
went like an arrow,
and now the bow trembles and sobs.

If you know how to weep
for human beings, weep for Saladin.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Whatever Gives Pleasure

Whatever gives pleasure
is the fragrance of the Friend.

Whatever makes us wonder
comes from that light.

What is inside the ground
begins to sprout
because you spilled wine there.

What dies in autumn comes up in spring,
because this way of saying no
becomes in spring your praise-song, yes.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Apollo and Daphne, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Longing is the core of mystery.
Longing itself brings the cure.
The only rule is, Suffer the pain.

Your desire must be disciplined,
and what you want to happen
in time, sacrificed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On the Day I Die

On the day I die,
when I am being carried toward the grave,
don't weep. Don't say, He's gone. He's gone.

Death has nothing to do with going away.
The sun sets and the moon sets,
but they're not gone.

Death is a coming together.
The tomb looks like a prison,
but it's really release into union.

The human seed goes down into the ground
like a bucket into the well where Joseph is.

It grows and comes up
full of some unimagined beauty.

Your mouth closes here
and immediately opens
with a shout of joy there.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Breeze at Dawn

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Cat and the Meat (2)

If you have a body, where is the spirit?
If you are spirit, what is the body?

This is not our problem to worry about.
Both are both. Corn is corn grain
and cornstalk. The divine butcher
cuts us a piece from the thigh
and a piece from the neck.

Invisible, visible, the world
does not work without both.

If you throw dust at someone's head,
nothing will happen.

If you throw water, nothing.
But combine them into a lump.

That marriage of water and earth
cracks open the head,
and afterward, there are other marriages.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Cat and the Meat (1)

There was once a sneering wife
who ate all her husband brought home
and lied about it.

One day it was some lamb for a guest
who was to come. He had worked two hundred days
in order to buy that meat.

When he was away, his wife cooked a kabob
and at it all, with wine.

The husband returns with his guest.
The cat has eaten the meat, she says.
Buy more, if you have any money left.

He asks a servant to bring the scales
and the cat. The cat weighs three pounds.
The meat was three pounds, one ounce.

If this is the cat, where is the meat?
If this is the meat, where is the cat?
Start looking for one or the other.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Inward Sky (2)

Prophets come and go for one reason, to say,

Human beings, you have a great value
inside your form, a seed. Be led
by the rose inside the rose.

Doubt is part of existence.
There is no proof of the soul.

So I ask in this talking with soul,
this prayer, this kindness, When the soul
leaves my body, where will these poems be?

Answer: It was like that in the beginning,
so what are you worrying about?

Love, finish this ghazal, please.
You know which words will last.

Shams, say the meaning of the names,
the inward sky that you are.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Inward Sky (1)

You are the soul, the universe,
and what animates the universe.

I live and work inside you. I speak with
what was found in the ruins of a former self.

Concealed in your garden, I have become a ladder
propped against and leading up into the sky-dome.

Why cry for what is closer than voice?
I ask to hear the wisdom that uncovers the soul.

These four come with their answers.

Fire: You have a saucepan to cook what's raw.
Wear it like a saddle on your back.

Water: You have a spring inside.
Soak the earth.

Jupiter in the goodluck aspect: Show your talent,
Do something outside of time and space.

Jupiter in its bad mood: Be consumed with jealousy.
What else is there?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More Range

We are friends with the one who kills us,
who gives us to the ocean waves.

We love this death. Only ignorance says,
Put it off a while, day after tomorrow.

Do not avoid the knife.
This friend only seems fierce,
bringing your soul more range,
perching your falcon on a cliff of the wind.

Jesus on his cross, Hallaj on his.
Those absurd executions hold a secret.

Cautious cynics claim they know
what they are doing every minute, and why.

Submit to love without thinking,
as the sun rose this morning
recklessly extinguishing
our star-candle minds.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Arrow

There is a hand hidden in the pen's writing,
a rider invisible in a horse's dancing about.

We see the arrow's flight, but not the bow,
what is manifest, not the source.

But don't discard the arrow.
Notice the royal markings.

We are the confused polo ball
that does not see the bat's arc coming down.

A tailor tears out seams and sews again.
A blacksmith blows on the fire.

In one moment a saint forgets.
In another, a degenerate begins a forty-day fast.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Mystery of Presence

The mystery of presence
will not arrive through the mind,
but do some physical work, and it comes clear.

An intellectual gets bound and wrapped
in complicated nets of connectedness.
Whereas the Friend rides the intelligence
that is creating genius at the center.

The mind is husk, and the appetites love coverings.
They look for them everywhere.
That which loves the kernel and the oil
inside the nut has no interest in shells.

Mind carries reams of reasons into court,
but universal awareness does not move a step
without some definite intuition.
One covers volumes of pages.
The other fills the horizon with light and color.

The value of scrip resides in gold
stored somewhere else. The value of a body
stems from the soul. The value of soul
derives from presence. Soul cannot live
without a connection there.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gnostic Donkeys (2)

You have a wonderful view,
but no way into the prospect.

I have no wings, you mutter, depressed,
but this looking outside the senses
is a fire that kindles the body.

Small sticks and dry grasses catch
to a burning light, and here
is an odd bit: Even if not on fire
and shining, the sticks are still light.

To those who will come after, I say,
Life is not for waiting.

Do not postpone.
Love is bringing everyone by the ear
to a place where reason cannot go,
where Muhammed's eyes close in sleep,
and the night grows quiet.

Truth does not sleep. Sunlight does not go away.
The stars are suns. Shams is everywhere.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gnostic Donkeys (1)

I am a cup in the Friend's hand.
Look in my eyes. The one who holds me
is none of this, but this that is so filled
with images belongs to that one who is without form,

who knows what is best for a sandgrain
or a drop of water, who opens
and closes our ability to love.

We are being taught like a donkey.
A donkey thinks whoever brings hay is God.

In the same way, we are gnostics,
each with a unique experience
of what binds and what releases us.

We hear the voice of that and our ears
twitch like the donkey who hears his trainer.

Oats may be coming, and water!
What have you been given that is like that?

Confinement, you complain. Stick your head out.
That is all that will fit through
the five-sense opening.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Polisher

As everything changes overnight,
I praise the breaking of promises.

Whatever love wants, it gets,
not next year, now.

I swear by the one who never says tomorrow,
as the circle of the moon never agrees
to sell installments of light.
It gives all it has.

How do stories end?
Who shall explain them?

Every story is us. That is who we are,
from the beginning to no-matter-how-it-come-out.

Those who know the taste of a meal
are those who sit at a table and eat.

Lover and friend are one being,
and separate beings too,
as the polisher melts in the mirror's face.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Circle

Nothing is better than selling figs
to the fig seller. That's how this is.

Making a profit is not why we're here,
nor pleasure, nor even joy.

When someone is a goldsmith,
wherever he goes he asks for the goldsmith.

Wheat stays wheat right through the threshing.

How would the soul feel
in the beloved's river?

Like fish washed free and clear of fear.

You drive us away,
but we return like pigeons.

Shahabuddin Osmond joins the circle.
We will say this poem again
so he can play.

There is no end to anything round.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Light Building in the Pupil

Birdcatcher, the birds you want are thirsty,
so you open the wine vat and let the fragrance draw us.
This is the wine the magi brought as a gift,
and the wine musk that led them.

There are certain night-wanderers
that you especially want. Not the drunkards,
and not the ones who just carry cups to others.

This is how it is to come near you.
A wave of light builds in the black pupil
of the eye. The old become young.

The opening lines of the Qur'an open still more.
Inside every human chest is a hand, but it has nothing
to write with. Love moves further in where
language turns to fresh cream on the tongue.

Every accident, and the essence of every being,
is a bud, a blanket
tucked into a cradle, a closed mouth.

All these buds will blossom.
In that moment you will know what your grief was,
and how the seed you planted has been miraculously growing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Our Caravan Bell

Do you hear what the violin says
about longing? The same as the stick.
I was once a green branch in the wind.

We are all far from home.
Language is our caravan bell.

Do not stop anywhere.
The moment you are attracted to a place,
you grow bored with it.

Think of the big moves you have already made,
from a single cell to a human being.
Stay light-footed and keep moving.
Turkish, Arabic, Greek, any tongue
is a wind that was formerly water.

As a breeze carries the ocean inside it,
so within every sentence is,
Return to the source.

A moth does not avoid flame.
The king lives in the city.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Out of Stillness

I was happy enough to stay still
inside the pearl inside the shell,

but the hurricane of experience
lashed me out of hiding
and made me a wave moving into shore,

saying loudly the ocean's secret
as I went, and then, spent there,

I slept like fog against the cliff,
another stillness.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Way of Passing Away

There is a way of passing away
from the personal, a dying
that makes one plural, no longer single.

A gnat lights in the buttermilk
to become nourishment for many.

Your soul is like that, Husam. 
Hundreds of thousands of impressions
from the invisible world are eagerly wanting
to come through you. I get dizzy with the abundance.

When life is this dear, it means the source
is pulling us. Freshness comes from there.

We are given the gift of continuously dying 
and being resurrected, ocean within ocean.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lion of the Heart

You that come to birth and bring the mysteries,
your voice-thunder makes us very happy.

Float, lion of the heart,
and tear me open.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Sacred Liquid

 Pierre Puvis de Chavanne, Young Girls by the Seaside
(Jeunes filles au bord de la mer)

Are you jealous of the ocean's generosity?
Why would you refuse to give
this gift to anyone?

Fish don't hold the sacred liquid in cups.
They swim the huge fluid freedom.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Great Untying

We search this world for the great untying
of what was wed to us at birth
and gets undone at dying.

We sleep beside a stream, thirsty.
Cursed and unlucky his whole life,
an old man finishes up in a niche
of a ruin, inches from the treasure.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Which is worth more, a crowd of thousands,
or your own genuine solitude?
Freedom, or power over an entire nation?

A little while alone in your room
will prove more valuable than anything else
that could ever be given you.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This Overflow

I could not have known what love is
if I had never felt this longing.

Anything done to excess
becomes boring except this overflow
that moves toward you.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sour, Doughy, Raw, and Numb

If we are not together in the heart,
what's the point?

When body and soul are not dancing,
there is no pleasure in colorful clothing.

Why have cooking pans
if there is no food in the house?

In this world full of fresh bread,
amber, and musk, what are they
to someone with no sense of smell?

If you stay away from fire,
you will remain sour,
doughy, raw, and numb.

You may have lovely just-baked loaves
around you, but those friends cannot help.
You have to feel the oven fire yourself.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Inside a lover's heart
there is another world,
and yet another.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Like Light over This Plain

A moth flying into the flame
says with its wingfire, Try this.

The wick with its knotted neck broken
tells you the same. A candle as it diminishes explains,
Gathering more and more is not the way.
Burn, become light and heat and help. Melt.

The ocean sits in the sand letting its lap
fill with pearls and shells, then empty.
A bittersalt taste hums, This.
 The rose purifies its face, drops the soft petals,
shows its thorn, and points.

Wine abandons thousands of famous names,
the vintage years and delightful bouquets,
to run wild and anonymous through your brain.

The flute closes its eyes and gives its lips
to Hamza's emptiness.

Everything begs with the silent rocks
for you to be flung out like light
over this plain, the presence of Shams.