Friday, April 29, 2011

Speaking of Obligations....(4)

A speck of dust dreaming the cosmos.
One leaf, singing all the forests of the earth.

A photon, carrying incandescence from
the first great shattering light.

My brain,
with all of it’s billions
of possible connections still, still

still overcome by the night.

(4th in a series on the Long Obligatory Prayer.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Speaking of Obligations: (3) Aftershocks

“The grass our fathers cut away
is growing on their graves today.”
                        Marianne Moore

Before my own small tasks began
there were mighty earthworks raised in Ohio. 
The old people danced, cooked, prayed,
haggled, traded, and ran with abandon
through an encircled plaza.

Only trees dance there now.

I clean a spot on my kitchen floor,
and see it crumble into the future,
ants carrying away my layered life,
small birds nesting in places
that will inevitably fail.

Please, I say.  Teach me Your dance.

(Third in a series on the Long Obligatory Prayer.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Speaking of Obligations....(2)


Women in burqa distress us—
touch us 
in a forgotten, airless place.

The burqas we wear
fit us so well we forget our discomfort.
Men wear them as well as women.

They look like fear.

I’m thinking of torching some of these veils,
and the only match available is this prayer.
                             Rhonda Palmer

Second in a series on the Long Obligatory Prayer

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Speaking of Obligations... (1)

Gazing to the right I see my lost selves
in an old apple tree near the river. 
When they look to their right,
as they always do,
they see into a world I might have known.

Gazing to the left shows me light.

On a hot night in Texas I lay under clouds
alive with lightening.
My children lay with me in the dry grass,
speaking of electricity—
positive and negative energy—
while our gazes were gathered
into those glittering clouds. 

Now I stand and wait for the mercy of rain.
                    (Rhonda Palmer)

(This is the beginning of a series on a prayer said by Baha'is every day.  I love coming back to this prayer on such a frequent basis, as it's really myself I come back to.)  

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Greatest Gift

“Pooh” whispered Piglet.
“Yes, Piglet?” said Pooh.
“Oh, nothing,” said Piglet.
“I just wanted to be sure of you.”

“The greatest gift
we can give another
is our undivided attention.”
M. Scott Peck

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dreaming Peace by Alice Myerson

Dreaming peace

(in a warring time and place),

a flock of silver geese
rose from the rush of the reeds,
their feathers flushed 
with the promise of a late winter breeze.

The geese brushed off the tapestry
of a thousand and one ancient trees,
and laughed,
arching their slender necks back,
knees stretched,
straight and strong,
tails spread long.

Borne on the song
of the wings of the wind,
the geese pointed their webbed toes,
lifting off the moans
of a thousand and one
weeping souls.

Sifting peace 
above a raging sea,
the geese, as though drifting 
on a seamless time and place,
dreamed free.

They were interlocked with space,
the massive silver flock,
and they rocked as one, 
culling the power 
of the iridescent sun.


Alice Myerson planted herself in the boogie down bronx way back when the world was young and has watched the seasons change there ever since. She is a mother, a lover, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a nurse, a nurse practitioner, an hiv specialist, a human rights worker who quietly writes a poem or two, and sometimes even a story on the background of our turbulent, dynamic and ever fascinating world.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Poem for Ridván by Robert Hayden

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Bahá’u’lláh in the Garden of Ridván

Agonies confirm His hour,
and swords like compass-needles turn
toward His heart,

The midnight air is forested
with presences that shelter Him
and sheltering praise

The auroral darkness which is God
and sing the word made flesh again
in Him.

Eternal exile whose return
epiphanies repeatedly

He watches in a borrowed garden,
prays. And sleepers toss upon
their armored beds,

Half-roused by golden knocking at
the doors of consciousness. Energies
like angels dance

Glorias of recognition.
Within the rock the undiscovered suns
release their light.

                                    Robert Hayden

Robert Hayden was born Asa Bundy Sheffey in Detroit, Michigan.  Because he was nearsighted and slight of stature, he was often ostracized by his peer group. Hayden read voraciously, developing both an ear and an eye for transformative qualities in literature. He attended Detroit City College (Wayne State University), and left in 1936 to work for the Federal Writers' Project, where he researched black history and folk culture.
He was raised as a Baptist, and later became a member of the Bahá'í Faith during the early 1940s after marrying a Bahá'í, Erma Inez Morris. He is one of the best-known Bahá'í poets and his religion influenced much of his work.
After leaving the Federal Writers' Project in 1938, marrying Erma Morris in 1940, and publishing his first volume, Heart-Shape in the Dust (1940), Hayden enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1941 and won a Hopwood Award there.
In pursuit of a master's degree, Hayden studied under W. H. Auden, who directed Hayden's attention to issues of poetic form, technique, and artistic discipline, and influence may be seen in the "technical pith of Hayden's verse". After finishing his degree in 1942, then teaching several years at Michigan, Hayden went to Fisk University in 1946, where he remained for twenty-three years, returning to Michigan in 1969 to complete his teaching career.  He died in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1980 at the age 66.  from Wikipedia

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Becoming a beacon of light in a dark world

Photovoltaic Song of Myself
(on reading the Ridvan 2011 message from the Universal House of Justice.)

Hafiz took my hand one morning,
as I drove Route 161 from Columbus to Newark.
He took my hand in his hands and turned me toward the sun.
“Look,” he said, “Look at the sun.”

There was no sun. 
Instead a pillar of light rose from horizon to sky,
through clouds of frozen water, through frigid air. 
It shot up golden, having nothing to do with me—
having only to do with itself, glowing in a night-heavy dawn.

“Keep looking,” said Hafiz, “It’s almost time.”
I drove the curves of Ohio while this column of light
stayed fixed on my horizon. 
Moses came to mind and the Rapture. 
I thought of angels, pointing the way to deeper truth.

Hafiz sat up straight and shouted,  “NOW!!”

And the sun flew up, all of it, with no constraint.
Light bashed me in the forehead, seared my eyes, threw me against the ropes. 
Light poured into me while Hafiz chanted.
Light poured into me while I cried—
—for joy, for light, for fire subsuming my heart.
I burned as a ray of that sun and knew
that I always had burned, always would burn. 
All heat, all hope, all stock and stone, all up and down,
feather and fear, beauty and beetle were rays of that sun. 
There was nothing I had ever touched, done or said that was not a ray of that sun.

Hafiz threw back his head and laughed—

                                           The car rocked with delight.

(by Rhonda Palmer)

"Khwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī (Persianخواجه شمس‌الدین محمد حافظ شیرازی), known by his pen name Hāfez (1325/26–1389/90) was a Persian lyric poet. His collected works (Divan) are to be found in the homes of most Iranians, who learn his poems by heart and use them as proverbs and sayings to this day. His life and poems have been the subject of much analysis, commentary and interpretation, influencing post-Fourteenth Century Persian writing more than any other author.
Themes of his ghazals are the beloved, faith, and exposing hypocrisy. His influence in the lives of Iranians can be found in Hafez-readings (fāl-e hāfez, Persianفال حافظ), frequent use of his poems in Persian traditional music, visual art and Persian calligraphy. His tomb in Shiraz is a masterpiece of Iranian architecture and visited often. Adaptations, imitations and translations of Hafez' poems exist in all major languages."  from Wikipedia

"A light pillar is a visual phenomenon created by the reflection of light from ice crystals with near horizontal parallel planar surfaces. The light can come from the sun (usually at or low to the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also come from the moon or from terrestrial sources such as streetlights." from wikipedia

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Most Great Festival: We must risk delight.

Every year at Ridvan I repost this poem by Jack Gilbert.  It seems to me to be the perfect summation of  this Most Great Festival, even though it has flies in the nostrils.  We do live in a sorrowful world.  God sent His Best Beloved to us to give us Glad Tidings of Great Joy and we put Him in prison and exiled Him, because that's just what we do.  "Moreover, consider the hardships and the bitterness of the lives of those Revealers of the divine Beauty.  Reflect, how single-handed and alone they faced the world and all its peoples, and promulgated the Law of God!  No matter how severe the persecutions inflicted upon those holy, those precious, and tender Souls, they still remained, in the plentitude of their power, patient, and despite their ascendency, they suffered and endured."    Baha'u'llah DID suffer, and yet our Most Great Festival celebrates the 12 days of His life when roses were piled high on an island in the river Tigris, and nightingales sang louder than the music of the river itself.  His family and friends knew He was full to the brim with Beauty, and their eyes, their beautiful eyes, saw only that Beauty.  Those 12 days, which started and ended with a rowboat crossing the Tigris, contained enough joy and beauty to sustain Him, and us,  through many lifetimes of sorrow.  
A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

— Jack Gilbert

"Ridván" means paradise, and is named for the Garden of Ridván, outside Baghdad where Bahá'u'lláh stayed for twelve days after the Ottoman Empire exiled him from Baghdad and before commencing his journey to Constantinople.[2] It is the most holy Bahá'í festival, and is also referred to as the "Most Great Festival" and the "King of Festivals". (from Wikipedia)

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's time for Nightingales and Roses


Within this life there burns a rose 
This rose burns sweetly 
Giving flame the name of joy. 

Against a darkened sky 
This rose burns sweetly. 
This heart is gold without alloy.

This heart conceals a burning rose. 
How sweetly does this golden heart 
Impart its burning joy.   (rp)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thoreau, the burnt chicken, and my mother

Thoreau in his journal 1851 
Now I yearn for one of those old, meandering, dry uninhabited roads, which lead away from towns, which lead us away from temptation, which conduct to the outside of Earth, over its uppermost crust; where you may forget in what country you are traveling; where no farmer can complain that you are treading down his grass, no gentleman who has recently constructed a seat in the country that you are trespassing; on which you can go off at half-cock and wave adieu to the village; along which you may travel like a pilgrim, going nowhither; where travelers are not too often to be met; where my spirit is free; where the walls and fences are not cared for; where your head is more in heaven than your feet are on Earth; which have long reaches where you can see the approaching traveler half a mile off and be prepared for him; not so luxuriant a soil as to attract me; some root and stump fences which do not need attention; where travelers have no occasion to stop, but pass along and leave you to your thoughts; where it makes no odds which way you face, whether you are going or coming, whether it is morning or evening, mid-noon or midnight; where Earth is cheap enough by being public; where you can pace when your breast is full, and cherish your moodiness; where you are not in false relations with men, are not dining nor conversing with them; by which you may go to the uttermost parts of the Earth. It is wide enough, wide as the thoughts it allows to visit you. Sometimes it is some particular half-dozen rods which I wish to find myself pacing over, as where certain airs blow; then my life will come to me, methinks; like a hunter I walk in wait for it.

Yesterday I escaped my apartment and the endless laundry, and Facebook.  I left my cell phone in a drawer, turned off.  My computer was asleep.  I found a nearby nature preserve and began a short hike: only an hour, but more of nature than I have seen for months.  It’s almost spring in Michigan with little green shoots appearing in ragged patches.  Trees are still leafless.  The path I took was well-worn by so many other refugees from civilization, and yet I was the only living creature to be seen (other than the occasional golfer I heard on the other side of the brake.)  No deer, no squirrel, not even a bird flew over.  My path took me on a pre-determined path around the golf-course, past apartments and back to the start.  I could not forget my country, nor my city, nor my dwelling place.

I could, however, enjoy a few intimate moments with spring.  Trees and I enjoyed the same air molecules and I carried home some dirt, fresh from the path.  My head was truly more in heaven than my feet were on the Earth.  In some little way, my life came back to me again. 

(editor’s note:  Wasn't that poetic?  And I really meant it.  Yet while writing this, I completely forgot the chicken on the stove, which has now burnt to a crisp.  I wonder if Thoreau ever had moments like this….) (my mother would say, "get your head out of ......... and pay attention!)  (My mother was also a great philosopher.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sometimes I just have to get sentimental

My grandson placed his hand on mine today.

While laughing at a joke he reached out with
unconscious affection and placed
his seven year old hand over mine.

Time races, and a million hands
reach, touch, hold on, lift up, let go
but there is this memory of laughter—
this chorded miracle of my grandson’s hand.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Outer Space: I've Got Faith of the Heart

Yesterday was the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's trip into space--the first person to go up there (even though it was barely a trip away from the earth at all.) My Dad taught me to dream about going into space and I always have. This theme song really captures the longing of our mighty people to look beyond themselves, to risk it all so that we might uncover great mysteries, solve great problems, see beyond our little horizons. I thank all the visionaries, the engineers, the quality control experts, the men and women with pocket protectors and stars in their eyes. You are my heroes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Alzheimer's: on a more positive note

your neurons at work: beauty in the brain

First let's all say it the right way.  All-Zime-ers.  Not All-time-ers.  Not Old timers.  

The Alzheimer’s unit isn’t as depressing as it used to be.  At one time I was acutely aware of the empty spaces in faces hit hard by dementia.  Now I “see slant,” and am amazed at the determination of our species to survive, to nurture, to find pleasure.  Today a woman nearby sat in her wheelchair: catheter draining urine, loose skin hanging from a bony frame.  She held a doll up to her face and gazed lovingly at …surely not a doll but a real child who was smiling back, making little noises and flirting with her as babes do with their mothers.  She was with that baby and kissed it and spoke to it in the few words she had left in Broca’s region of the brain.  Love poured out like a furnace and I was warmed even across the room.  Soon someone took the doll and wheeled the woman to her room for a nap.  She didn’t cry.  She had already lost her children to time but loss wasn’t going to be her recurring theme.  Only love.   

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Greatest Talent, by Thatcher Ross

This gas-dust cloud, NGC 7129, lies 3300 l.y. from Earth. The rose tint comes from heated dust, the green from carbon monoxide. The colors involved in the image are from these wave bands: 3.6 µm = blue; 4.5 µm = green; 5.8 µm = orange; 8.0 µm = red.

(Thatcher Ross was my yoga instructor in Worthington.  He and the lovely Bashka continue to inspire, amuse, feed, and delight their many friends.  This is from his blog Pranarama.

The greatest talent one can aspire to, is to sooth, teach, inspire and empower simply through one's very presence.

To be at peace with one's self, the current course of worldly affairs and whatever condition, or state of development, others are in. To hold the largest point of view in mind while feeling compassion for the smallest of things. To maintain the curiosity of a child and the patience of a scholar. To embrace the habits of listening with full attention, reflecting others in their best light (especially when that's not how they feel), and speaking and acting for the benefit of a greater good. To have the capacity to empathize deeply while not becoming infected by unwanted emotional energies. To be eagerly engaged in a constantly fluid state of personal growth and evolution. To joyfully embody the spirit of the infinite through individual expression. To actually be present.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Twenty Fables in Search of a Moral: 16-20

The Mice Galaxies

Fable Sixteen: Birth 

The castle was getting crowded.  After Derek had come, there had been appropriately small celebration, as only the two of them lived in the vast and spacious rooms.  Mouse taught Derek how to fetch the water, how to carry the cup, how to walk so as not to spill even a drop.  Derek kept drinking the water, however, and this concerned the mouse greatly.  On one amazing day, hundreds of old people showed up in the banquet hall, surrounded by leaping, happy mice.  The mice kept saying, “We saved them!  We saved them!”  Derek herded each old person to the cup.  He would proffer the cup, and when the old person would drink (for they were all so thirsty) they would become young, sleek mice, leaping into the air for the joy of living.  Those who could not walk were given the water anyway, and there was joy all around.  Except for one quiet mouse, who watched her world change.

Fable Seventeen:  Change

Rabbit and Tortoise lived together playing cribbage by the lake for many years.  After Rabbit’s timely and well-appointed death, Tortoise gave up cribbage and began frequenting the bowling alley instead, joining a winning league named the Sunspots. He dazzled the onlookers with his slow and steady approach to the lane.  No one was surprised when he was featured on “Bowling with the Stars.”  When asked why he had the name “Rabbit” embroidered on the back of his bowling shirt, he said, “I carry my love with me wherever I go.”

Fable Eighteen:  Death

She squeezed her eyes shut and held her breath.  One, one thousand, two, one thousand—eventually she did breathe and open her eyes to see them sitting around her.  “I’m not dead yet,” she said, irritably. 

“It’s ok, Grandma, we’re here with you.  We love you.  You’re free to go whenever the time is right.” 

Why couldn’t she just close her eyes and be done with it?  She had done everything the right way for 84 years.  Her way.  Now it wasn’t working, and they were all LOOKING at her.  “I wish you would just leave.  Leave me alone!” 

They stood and wiped their eyes.  She was right.  It was time to leave her now.  One by one they faded into the background, and she was left alone, on a quiet bed, in a quiet room, in a very private part of heaven.

artwork by SK Dapoz
Fable Nineteen:  Going Home

Dolphins, who are in constant communications with every other dolphin on the planet, all came to understand that Janet was one of their friends.  As she grew older, she often dreamt underwater dreams, and she loved her shower more and more.  She took a degree in marine biology and finally found herself on a boat in the Caribbean surrounded by a pod of dolphins.  After swimming with them day after day she decided she could no longer live among humans and, much to the consternation of her co-workers, she dove off the side of the boat and was never seen again.

artwork by SK Dapoz

Fable Twenty: Going home

Everywhere she went she saw beauty.  It was in front of her and behind her.  It was above her head and below her feet.  It ran around her like small mice at play, and it swam in every drop of water like many dolphins.  The tree ahead of her was beautiful and sang of remembrance.  “Oh yes,” she said.  “It’s all coming back to me now.”  Holding the cup up to the sky she sang a song of praise, and then drank deeply of the clear water that was always there, always to the very rim.