Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Don't listen to anything I say.
I must enter the center of the fire.

Fire is my child, but I must be consumed
and become fire.

Why is there crackling and smoke?
Because the firewood and the flames
are talking to each other.

You are too dense. Go away.

You are too wavering.
I have solid form.

In the darkness those friends keep arguing.
Like a wanderer with no face.

Like the most powerful bird in existence
sitting on its perch, refusing to move.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mary's Hiding

Before these possessions you love
slip away, say what Mary said
when she was surprised by Gabriel.

I'll hide inside God.

Naked in her room
she saw a form of beauty
that could give her new life.

Like the sun coming up,
or a rose as it opens,
she leaped, as her habit was,
out of herself into the presence.

There was fire in the channel of her breath.
Light and majesty came.

I am smoke from that fire
and proof of its existence,
more than any external form.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Only Breath (2)

Friends, when I taste love's wine,
the two worlds combine,

and I have no purpose
but this play of presences.

If I spend one moment outside you,
I repent, and when I have

a moment of closer rapport,
I dance to rubble the ruins

of both. Shams Tabriz,
this friendship is all I say.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Only Breath (1)

Ah, true believers, what can I say?
I no longer know who I am.

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim.
Not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi, or Zen.
I am not from the East or the West,
not out of ocean or up from the ground.
Not natural or ethereal, not composed
of elements at all. I do not exist.

I am not from China or India, not
from the town of Bulghar on the Volga
nor remote Arabian Saqsin. Not 
from either Iraq, between the rivers,
or in western Persia. Not an entity
in this world or the next. I did not
descend from Adam and Eve or any origin
story. My place is the placeless,
a trace of the traceless, neither
body or soul, I belong to the beloved,
have seen the two worlds as one
and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only
that breath breathing human being.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Margate Harbour, Joseph Mallord William Turner

When you are with everyone but me,
you are with no one.

When you are with no one but me,
you are with everyone.

Instead of being so bound up with everyone,
be everyone.

When you become that many,
you are nothing. Empty.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

When You Feel Your Lips

When you feel your lips becoming infinite
and sweet, like the moon in a sky,
when you feel that spaciousness inside,
Shams of Tabriz will be there too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bonfire at Midnight

A shout comes out of my room
where I've been cooped up.
After all my lust and dead living
I can still live with you.
You want me to.
You fix and bring me food.
You forget the way I've been.

The ocean moves and surges in the heat
of the middle of the day,
in the heat of this thought I'm having.
Why aren't all human resistances
burning up with this thought?

It is a drum and arms waving.
It is a bonfire at midnight on the top edge of a hill,
this meeting again with you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Music

For sixty years I have been forgetful,
every minute, but not for a second
has this flowing toward me stopped or slowed.
I deserve nothing. Today I recognize
that I am the guest the mystics talk about.
I play this living music for my host.
Everything today is for the host.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for what comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This Recklessness

War Path, by Alfred Jacob Miller

I have no vocation but this,
and no need to touch every rose and thornpoint.

You are seeing through my eyes
and tasting with my tongue.

Why sell bitterness? Why do anything?
When you breakfast at the king's table,
there is no appetite for lunch.

I do not complain or brag about ascetic practices.
I would explain, but words will not help,
how there is nothing to grieve.

If you have no trace of this recklessness,
tell me your state.

I have forgotten how to say how I am.
The sun has already shone today.

Why should I describe the moon
coming up over sleeping quarters?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grainy Taste

Without a net, I catch a falcon
and release it to the sky,
hunting God.

This wine I drink today
was never held in a clay jar.

I love this world,
even as I hear the great wind
of leaving it rising,

for there is a grainy taste I prefer
to every idea of heaven:
human friendship.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I See My Beauty in You

I see my beauty in you,
I become a mirror
that cannot close its eyes to your longing.

My eyes wet with yours in the early light.
My mind every moment giving birth,
always conceiving, always in the ninth month,
always the come-point.

How do I stand this?
We become these words we say,
a wailing sound moving out into the air.

These thousands of worlds that rise from nowhere,
how does your face contain them?

I am a fly in your honey, then closer,
a moth caught in the flame's allure,
then empty sky stretched out in homage.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An Elephant in the Dark

Some Hindus have an elephant to show.
No one here has ever seen an elephant.
They bring it at night to a dark room.

One by one, we go in the dark and come out
saying how we experience the animal.
One of us happens to touch the trunk.
A water-pipe kind of creature.

Another, the ear. A very strong, always moving
back and forth, fan-animal. Another, the leg.
I find it still, like a column on a temple.

Another touches the curved back.
A leathery throne. Another the cleverest,
feels the tusk. A rounded sword made of porcelain.
He is proud of his description.

Each of us touches one place
and understands the whole that way.
The palm and the fingers feeling in the dark
are how the senses explore the reality of the elephant.

If each of us held a candle there,
and if we went in together, we could see it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Minds Most Want to Be

You are the living marrow. The rest is hay.
Dead grass does not nourish a human being.
When you are not here, this desire we feel
has no traveling companion.

When the sun is gone, the soul's clarity fades.
There is nothing but idiocy and mistakes.
We are half-dead, inanimate, exhausted.

The way minds most want to be
is an ocean with a soul swimming in it.
No one can describe that.

My soul, you are a master, a Moses, a Jesus.
Why do I stay blind in your presence?
You are Joseph at the bottom of his well.
Constantly working, but you do not get paid,
because what you do seems trivial, like play.

Now silence. Unless these words fill
with nourishment from the unseen, they will stay empty.

Why would I serve my friends bowls
with no food in them?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Whatever Circles

Walk to the well.
Turn as the earth and the moon turn,
circling what they love.

Whatever circles come from the center.

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Edge of Foam

A dervish lover was told to turn
toward his own face,
and he did, saying, Lord, lord, for years
with no answer, no message back,
yet he was always there turning in silence,

with no music supporting him,
no tambourine rhythm.

A pigeon knows which roof to haunt.
Even if you drive it off,
it will circle and stay near.

This is the critical moment
when a swell of ocean turns
its edge to foam.

Every dervish has two mouths,
a crafted reed opening
and the lips of the flute player.

Lord, don't speak from there.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Held Like This

Mother and Child, by Henry Moore

Held like this, to draw in milk,
no will, tasting clouds of milk,
never so content.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Inside the Rose (2)

But there are those in bodies
who are pure soul. It can happen.

These messengers invite us to walk with them.
They say, You may feel happy enough where you are,
but we cannot do without you any longer. Please.

So we walk along inside the rose,
being pulled like the creeks and rivers are,
out from the town onto the plain.

My guide, my soul, your only sadness
is when I am not walking with you.

In deep silence, and with some exertion
to stay in your company,
I could save you a lot of trouble.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Inside the Rose (1)

That camel there with its calf running behind it,
Sutur and Koshek, we are like them,
mothered and nursed
by where and whom we are from,
following our fates where they lead,

until we hear a drum begin,
grace entering our lives, a prayer of gratitude.

We feel the call of presence,
and the journey changes.

A dry field of stones turns soft and moist
as cheese. The mountain feels level under us.

Love becomes agile and quick,
and suddenly we are there.

This traveling is not done with the body.
God's secret takes form in our loving.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Taste of Morning

Time's knife slides from the sheath,
as a fish from where it swims.

Being closer and closer is the desire
of the body. Don't wish for union.

There is a closeness beyond that.
Why would God want a second God?

Fall in love in such a way
that it frees you from any connecting.

Love is the soul's light, the taste of morning,
no me, no we, no claim of being.

These words are the smoke the fire gives off
as it absolves its defects,
as eyes in silence, tears, face.

Love cannot be said.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This Piece of Food

This piece of food cannot be eaten,
nor this bit of wisdom found by looking.

There is a secret core in everyone
not even Gabriel can know by trying to know.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Raw, Well-Cooked, and Burnt

You ask, Why do you cry
with such sweetness all around?

I weep as I make the honey,
wearing the shirt of the bee,
and I refuse to share this suffering.

I play the sky's harp.
I curl around my treasure like a snake.

You say, What is this I business?
Friend, I've been a long time away from that.

What you see here is your own reflection.
I am still raw, and at the same time
well-cooked, and burnt to a crisp.

No one can tell if I'm laughing
or weeping. I wonder myself.
How can I be separated and yet in union?

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Door

I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I've been knocking from the inside.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Love Dogs

Turquoise Jar, by Farhad Moshiri 

One night a man was crying Allah. Allah.
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said, So. I have heard you calling out,
but have you ever gotten any response?

The man had no answer for that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep
where he dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick green foliage.

Why did you stop praising? Because
I've never heard anything back.

This longing you express
is the return message.
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness that wants help
is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs no one knows the names of.
Give your life to be one of them.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Unmarked Boxes

Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round
in another form. The child weaned from mother's milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.

God's joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,
from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed.
As roses, up from ground. Now it looks like
a plate of rice and fish, now a cliff
covered with vines, now a horse being saddled.
It hides within these, till one day it cracks them open.

Part of the self leaves the body when we sleep
and changes shape. You might say, Last night
I was a cypress tree, a small bed of tulips,
a field of grapevines. Then the phantasm goes away.
You are back in the room.
I don't want to make anyone fearful.
Hear what's behind what I say.

Tatatumtum tatum tatadum. There is the light gold of wheat
in the sun and the gold of bread made from that wheat.
I have neither. I am only talking about them,
as a town in the desert looks up
at stars on a clear night.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Lantern

You are so subtle you can slip into my soul,
how would it be if you, for a time,
were living visibly here?

So hidden that you are hidden from hidden things,
you enter me, and my hiddenness
shines like a lantern.

You Solomon, who understands bird-language
and speaks it, what will you say now
through my mouth?

King whose bow no one can draw,
use me for an arrow.

Shams is the way I know God.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Move Within

Keep walking, though there's no place to get to.
Don't try to see through the distances.
That's not for human beings. Move within,
but don't move the way fear makes you move.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ashes, Wanderers

The Wife of Plutus, by George Frederic Watts

In this battle we do not hold
a shield in front of us.

When we turn in sama,
we do not hear the flute or the tambourine.

Underneath these feet we become
nazar, the guide's glance,
ashes, wanderers,

as the moon diminishes,
until it is gone for a few days,
to come back changed.

Send for the planet Venus to play here.
Flute, drum, and strings are not enough.

No. Who but these musicians
could stand the beat that melts the sun?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Have Such a Teacher

Last night my teacher taught me the lesson of poverty,
having nothing and wanting nothing.

I am a naked man standing inside a mine of rubies,
clothed in red silk.

I absorb the shining and now I see the ocean,
billions of simultaneous motions moving in me.

A circle of lovely, quiet people
becomes the ring on my finger.

Then wind, and the thunder of rain on the way.
I have such a teacher.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Birds Nesting Near the Coast

Soul, if you want to learn secrets,
your heart must forget about shame
and dignity.

You are God's lover,
yet you worry what people are saying.

The rope belt the early Christians wore
to show who they were, throw it away.

Inside you are sweet beyond telling,
and the cathedral there,
so deeply tall.

Evening now, more your desire
than a woman's hair.

And not knowledge,
walk with those innocent of that,

faces inside fire, birds nesting
near the coast, earning their beauty,

servants to the ocean. There is a sun
within every person, the you
we call companion.