26 October, 2020

Paying Attention

I’m thinking that our lives are like a rich field of individual moments and responses; interactions with persons, things, situations. Whatever way we find to allow these moments to reverberate in our consciousness permits the weaving of them into an intricate tapestry, that gives joy through its beauty and intelligence. Processing our experiences through private journals, or communicating them in social media or in direct conversation may help us in this patient weaving. The question of whether this takes the place of something greater or more unitary may eventually be a false dilemma. Some of the world’s creative geniuses neither wrote nor expressed themselves through any art. Others started out by writing a short poem that organically grew, without prior intention, into a major epic; still others left short haiku or sutras that together assume a similar grandeur. Life, the listening to life, and the sweet or discordant music that we are sometimes able to discover there and express, are not amenable to our egoistic manipulation. Our only responsibility is to pay attention, and not to sleepwalk through this divine comedy. And to love; to love and do what we want, and to leave the rest to the universe, and whether we bloom like a rose or stink like a stinkweed is not in our hands.

Autumn Weather

It's an old dry season
Now the nights are drawing in
The olive trees are ashen
Under a grey mantle of summer dust
The lemon tree is wizened and dry
Its leaves puckered, its fruit sparse
Despite the dripper line

No ants stage commando raids
On the crumbs we leave behind
No little black beetles
Scamper under our door
To litter the stairs with their husks
No moths flutter around the lights
Left on in the entrance

Dusty hamsin winds
Are forecast
Rising up to heat the air
Making everyone feel worse
An unwanted warmth
Come to spoil the cooler days
And parch the morning dew
So needed by birds

But ah, the birds,
Yes there seem to be more of them!
More bird song,
Making every dreamy afternoon
Into a songfest
Are they down from the north,
These birds that brighten our days
In this season when windows are left open
And air conditioners remain unused
Will they pick up and leave
With the coming of the rains
Please linger on
And winter with us
It won't be long or cold.

After the Sufis

"Oh come! In whatever guise you appear, I know you!"

Oh Lord, without me you are a pauper.
You cannot find your own feet unless my lips brush them.
Oh Lord you would have no presence
If I were not here to reveal you to yourself.
What can you know without my eyes, my gentle fingers to divine your form?
I lead you Lord through the darkness of your hidden chambers and
In the dazzle of your sudden sunlight I am your guide.
O Lord, I give you your creation
In the moment that I, a man, destroy, disrupt, defile...
In the moment that I extinguish I make plain
The wonder of your works.
O Lord, without my belief in you, you would be nothing!
I'm the hound whose homeless master becomes through my worship a hero.
Be thankful for my diligence
In unmasking you O Lord!
In taking these many coloured beads and finding the thread
That makes of them a garland for your worship.
You placed baubles at my feet. I made sense of them.
You gave me worthless clay.
I fashioned it into an idol of you.
Do not be angry at my idolatry!
Only through it can you ever know your form.
I gave you yourself
I am your eyes, your fingers
Through which you can caress your creation.
Do not undervalue my gifts.

They are your own.

Everything subject to doubt

What we have been taught by parents and teachers is doubtful.
What we are told by neighbours and friends is likely to be mistaken.
Our perception, experience and understanding are not to be trusted.
Common sense is a bit of a joke.
Reason, gut-feelings, mind and heart are all fallible.
Nations are unscrupulous and untrustworthy.
Leaders and politicians all the more so.
Merchants of goods and services are out for our money.
Scientists have a limited and therefore distorted understanding of reality.
Medical professionals test out this distorted understanding of reality on our bodies.
No guru is to be trusted - many are proven charlatans, and about the others, who can say?
Scriptures are not to be trusted; they mostly cause only mischief.
We can rely on nothing, only quietly make our way through life, holding all assumptions up to scrutiny, and not trusting the conclusions we reach.
Language, based on words and verbal associations, is itself inadequate to express anything real; and when left unexpressed, our intimations or reality remain vague and foggy.

We can
Spend a lot of time in silence, just being.
Unravel and reject conditioned responses.
Break down all old connections and imposed patterns.
Reject everything we think we know, see what if anything remains.

There is nothing to be afraid of.
Nothingness itself is not scary, only what we put in it.

Umm Burj on Nakba Day

Just a car ride into oblivion
At the end of asphalt roads.

To a park whose signs demark
A history too crowded for meagre lives

They built their homes among ruins.
We walk among their graves.

The last of them are buried elsewhere
Their story almost silent now.

We briefly populate the hilltop,
With our talk and picture taking.

These thornfields once were gardens
Kept by water from the well.

The hilltop bloodied now
In sunset rust,

The only green is found in niches
Hewn deep into the earth

Where broad-leaved fig trees
Dream a shady coolness
Safe again for children's song.

Our English guest departs, leaves poems

I took Coleman, our English house guest, to Jerusalem.  He will continue his journey.  That may be the last time that we will see him on this trip, or ever.  He left a few of his poems, scribbled from memory on notepaper.  (He never publishes, but has occasionally given recitations.)  Here are three of his poems:

Inside the Trojan Horse

This day was the sky clear of sails

gleamed there no tents in the morning sun.

our scattered camp fires were the sole remains

Alert, we heard the waking horn

sounds of wonder, the singing and the dance.

Now we few, we silent few

for silence is the very work we do

by strategem, have burst through the stubborn walls

that not courage nor honesty could batter down.

Oh cunning artificer

from the living wood to hew

this subtle engine finally to gain their curious hearts

We are the last chance, the risk not covered

the midnight knock

We are the oiled key in the Trojan lock.

The Undying Swans, a legend

It seemed they lived and moved in kingly state

Beings as though upon some royal errand bent

without beginnings, and had no end.

That legend now is ended

not though, in secret chambers of the mind

but, in solid and apparent air

for rays in flight, on distant purpose

thrown from off the sun

their journey being done

now find, quite out of reach

their target long intended

for or [or on] the beach

the swan has died.

Their eyes wear scales

that lamp now fails

on which that light, had bended.


Dwelling among Antiques

Some stories are more easily told in places

where the light streams on upturned faces

Here where shadows dwell

where continuity has cast so strong a spell

where quite dismissed from human kind

in the attentive air

the traces of a plot unfold

Whose secret none may hold nor share.