A Just-Finishing Candle
A candle is made to become entirely flame.
In that annihilating moment it has no shadow.
It is nothing but a tongue of light
describing a refuge.
Look at this
just-finishing candle stub
as someone who is finally safe
from virtue and vice,
the pride and the shame
we claim from those.
A Single Brushstroke Down
Light dawns, and any talk of proof
resembles a blind man's cane at sunrise.
Remember the passage,
We are with you wherever you are.
Come back to that.
When did we ever leave it?
No matter we're in a prison of forgetting
or enjoying the banquet of wisdom,
we are always inside presence.
Drunkenly asleep, tenderly awake,
clouded with grief, laughing like lightning,
angry at war, quiet with gratitude, we are nothing
in this many-mooded world of weather
but a single brushstroke down,
speaking of presence.
*The word Allah in Arabic begins with a strong downward mark.
Children Running Through
I used to be shy.
You made me sing.
I used to refuse things at table.
Now I shout for more wine.
In somber dignity, I used to sit
on my mat and pray.
Now children run through
and make faces at me.
The Elegance of the Ermine
Midnight, and a messenger comes from a prayer niche,
someone as quiet as moonlight,
yet with a torch that burns our sleeping.
A king knocks on the doorkeeper's door
and laughing, leads everyone out to a table.
Our lips tremble at the cup, with the same trembling
as a drop of mercury.
The gentleness of the host is the same
as that that made the elegance of the ermine.
The dry and wet of a love affair,
those tears are identical to the taking in
and giving away of a waterwheel's turning.
The keys that open all gates
are strapped to love's chest.
When a bird is completely broken and still,
it gets removed from the snare.
This list of rude likenesses
does not come near saying what happens in our lives.
Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you're bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
Sometimes I Do
In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,
but sometimes I do,
and that light becomes this art.
Don't Let Your Throat Tighten
Don't let your throat tighten
with fear. Take sips of breath
all day and night, before death
closes your mouth.
There Is Something in Us
Imagine a man selling his donkey
to be with Jesus.
Now imagine him selling Jesus
to get a ride on a donkey.
This does happen.
Jesus can transform a drunk into gold.
If the drunk is already golden,
he can be changed to pure diamond.
If already that, he can become the circling
planets, Jupiter, Venus, the moon.
Never think that you are worthless.
God has paid an enormous amount for you,
and the gifts keep arriving.
There is something in us
that has nothing to do with night and day,
grapes that never saw a vineyard.
We are all returning
says the Qur'an. Enjoy Shams,
or if you cannot do that, at least
consider what honest people tell you.
Gnats Inside the Wind
Some gnats come from the grass to speak with Solomon.
O Solomon, you are the champion of the oppressed.
You give justice to the little guys, and they don't get
any littler than us. We are tiny metaphors
for frailty. Can you defend us?
Who has mistreated you?
Our complaint is against the wind.
Well, says Solomon, you have pretty voices,
you gnats, but remember, a judge cannot listen
to just one side. I must hear both litigants.
Of course, agree the gnats.
Summon the East Wind, calls out Solomon,
and the wind arrives almost immediately.
What happened to the gnat plaintiffs? Gone.
Such is the way of every seeker who comes to complain
at the High Court. When the presence of God arrives,
where are the seekers? First there's dying,
then union, like gnats inside the wind.
A Piece of Wood
I reach for a piece of wood. It turns into a lute.
I do some meanness. It turns out helpful.
I say one must not travel during the holy month.
Then I start out, and wonderful things happen.
Muhammad went to visit a sick friend.
Such kindness brings more kindness,
and there is no knowing the proliferation from there.
The man was about to die.
Muhammad put his face close and kissed him.
His friend began to revive.
Muhammad's visit re-created him.
He began to feel grateful for an illness
that brought such light.
And also for the backpain
that wakes him in the night.
No need to snore away like a buffalo
when this wonder is walking the world.
There are values in pain that are difficult
to see without the presence of a guest.
Don't complain about autumn.
Walk with grief like a good friend.
Listen to what he says.
Sometimes the cold and dark of a cave
give the opening we most want.
The Night Ocean
We are the the night ocean filled
with glints of light. We are the space
between the fish and the moon,
while we sit here together.