Monday, May 30, 2011


Cool website about Archimedes: click here


San Francisco—Previously hidden writings of the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes are being uncovered by powerful x-ray beams nearly 800 years after a Christian Monk scrubbed off the text and wrote over it with prayers.
—Associated Press: August 5, 2006

They found my man Archimedes buried
under layers of prayer and paintings of God.

Formulae for buoyancy,
for flotation, gravity and math drifted invisibly

under the Ave, under the Pater Noster—
his life became a palimpsest and his work—

his running down the street
wet, naked, exuberant, full of glory—

was covered over, concealed, repressed.
But today he came to me dripping from the bath.

He grabbed my hands and danced me
in city streets, singing “Eureka, Eureka, Eureka,”

while around us angels with
pocket protectors exalted, and praised God,

from Whom flows all knowledge,

      r. palmer

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hey, I've got something to sell you...

In this world of trickery, 
emptiness is what your soul wants.

photo by Linda Connell

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Getting what you have...

Some luck lies in not getting 
what you thought you wanted 
but getting what you have, 
which once you have got it 
you may be smart enough to see 
is what you would have wanted 
had you known.  
Garrison Keillor.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Day of Reckoning

If you know the value of every article of merchandise
but you don’t know the value of your own soul
it will have all been pointless.

You’ve come to know the fortunate
and the inauspicious stars,
but you don’t know whether you yourself
are fortunate or unlucky.

This, this is the essence of all sciences—
that you should know who you will be
when the Day of Reckoning arrives.

Rumi—Mathnavi III 2652-54

Sunday, May 22, 2011

In honor of this holy day

The Declaration of the Báb—May 23rd, 1844 
At the start of each new day, 
light breaks on the shore of the world
engendering motion and delight. 
As night ebbs, birds receive the first subtle missive—
creating lush music of rebirth and renewal from every several tree. 
Oceans of song rush out to greet warmth washing in. 
Ants sing it,
stones sing it,
even our hearts
(while we lie on our couches in curtained rooms)
sing right along. 
The core of us listens for the mercy of re-creation. 

Why do we sleep? 

Rhonda Palmer

          “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

            Don't go back to sleep.

            You must ask for what you really want.

             Don't go back to sleep.

             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.”

Excerpt from The Essential Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, 1995.

The Shrine of the Bab at Sunrise

(click on the link to learn more about "this holy day.")

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sailing on the Heart’s Delight.

Kingfisher catching a fish by Barei (1844-1895)

Hauling in the morning words,
I caught only three that might be breakfast.

Evanescent was a silver finned beauty,
at least three pounds and lots of fight.

Transcendence kept leaping out of the net and
I finally body slammed it to the deck, where
it glowed slightly under my coat.

The last word wouldn’t stay still long enough 
for a certain I.D.  There it is in the basket,
waiting for me to work up some courage to
reach in, throw it in the fire.

Day or night, life on this ocean is fine, if a lot of work.
Hungry days, sure, but now and then—

a good catch.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sumer is Icumen In(diana)

Sweet Corn

I grew up in Indiana,
but a certain cynicism lives in my heart,
gained no doubt
from surreptitious midnight readings
of New Yorker cartoons.

This caused me to truly believe
that those quiet Indiana evenings
were the fool’s paradise
of a witty (and nattily dressed)
writer on the upper east side of Manhattan.
That shucking sweet corn on the front porch—
corn just picked and hauled to my car
by a glistening young man for $2.00 a dozen—
was a false memory.
That washing and drying dishes
while singing in harmony was only
done in mythic Minnesota towns.

I thought these dubious memories
required a highly paid therapist
until tonight, when we ate the corn,
tender as the memory of fireflies—
eating till we were awash with summer;
till we were covered with the warm juice of summer.
Now we wash and dry all the dishes in the world,
singing “Down in the Valley”
for every little babe with wide eyes,
for every tired mother on our sweet-corn planet.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A thanks for your reading

Thanks so much to all of you for patiently wading through the past fifteen entries. I wrote these poems over a three month period in response to the Bahá'í Long Obligatory Prayer.  Each of us comes to this Prayer, indeed to any thoughtful reflection about life, with our own frame of reference.  That frame may only fit one person, it may fit many but in the end it is the individual response that effects change in the world.  These poems are one of an infinite number of possible responses, understandings or ideas.  

Three thoughts on the nature of prayer:

“Know thou that in every word and movement of the obligatory prayer there are allusions, mysteries and a wisdom that man is unable to comprehend, and letters and scrolls cannot contain.”
(‘Abdu'l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations, Volume II, p. 233)

“Bahá'u'lláh has so much stressed the importance of worship. It is not sufficient for a believer to merely accept and observe the teachings. He should, in addition, cultivate the sense of spirituality, which he can acquire chiefly by the means of prayer. The Bahá'í Faith, like all other Divine religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man that has first to be fed. And this spiritual nourishment prayer can best provide. Laws and institutions, as viewed by Bahá'u'lláh, can become really effective only when our inner spiritual life has been perfected and transformed. Otherwise religion will degenerate into a mere organization, and become a dead thing.”
(From a letter dated 8 December 1935 written of behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer. The Compilation of Compilations, Volume II, p. 238)

"No form of literature in the whole world is less objective than prayers. They are things of motion, not of repose. They are speeches addressed to a Hearer; they are medicine applied to a wound; they stir the worshipper and set something in his heart at work. That is their whole purpose."
(Ruhiyyih Khanum, “The Prayers of Bahá’u’lláh,” The Bahá’í World, Vol. IX, 1940-1944, p. 795)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Speaking of the Pulsar

Wheel of stars (clicking on this link will take you to an amazing website.)

The Pulsar
Upon supernova, stars sometimes crush their cores into neutron stars carrying enormous magnetic fields and angular momenta. These fields exceed the earth's by a factor of around 1012, and they rotate about once per second despite having masses exceeding that of the sun!  Such powerful electrodynamics create beams of radio waves sweeping across earth's observatories once per pulsar rotation. This produces a fascinating periodic signal which we observe and study--a pulsar.

The pulsar turns, dervish-like,
calling into the dust of the sky. 

Once it was a star with planets,
but there was an event.

A great blow-out.  The greatest.

The star concentrated,
focused, spinning,
pulsing, emitting at 30 Megahertz
or upward and in the optical, x-ray
and gamma ray spectrum
spinning on its axis every
1.56 milliseconds. 

Sending three holy words.

Here am I.

My own star is nearer than that
and dearer to me.
It does not speak except in heat and day.
Moon-like, I raise my silent face
to the sun and all I know.

But there is a node in my heart receiving
impulses at 30 Megahertz
or upward.  Through clouds of
dark matter, past
newborn stars and planets,
I turn round to receive,

and reply.

                                                          This is the sound of a pulsar

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Speaking of Obligations....(15)

So Maybe Rapunzel Felt Nervous about Leaving the Tower. . .

On any given day a multitude of sins
arise to maneuver me into their home.
There I sit in hoyden splendor,
with jeweled shackles binding my heart
to their well-planned ways.

Where is the One who will free me
from the Prison of Self and win back my Heart?
And if my Heart were free,
how then would I find my way
through the dark world,  alone,
without my sins?

15th and almost the last in a series on the Long Obligatory Prayer

Friday, May 13, 2011

Speaking of Obligations.....(14)

St. Columcille of Ireland
Getting old is a mystery.
Sore back, sore feet, high blood pressure
and parts that shouldn’t be mentioned
just aren’t what they used to be. 

Sometimes I lay in bed at night
weeping over what hasn’t happened.
Sleepless as I wonder why.

Does everyone feel like this? 
And don’t we all hope
to simply get up in the morning
and do the right thing?
                     (Rhonda Palmer]

to read more about St. Columcille of Ireland (who managed to save civilization in his later years) go here:

(Almost (but not quite) the end of a series of poems inspired by the Long Obligatory Prayer)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Speaking of Obligations.....(13)

Hey Buddy—
Thanks for the call this morning,
the one that got me up and ready for the day.

You’ve always been good like that
and I appreciate it.  I do.
I gotta say, You’re the best.  Really.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Speaking of Obligations.....(12) footsteps in this wilderness

This lonely place frightens me.
The desert is so dry and my tears are making
a great salt flat. 

The only map was lost, I forgot the way,
now it’s forty years of wandering
without manna,
without even a golden calf for company.

You were here before me—I see traces
of your footprints now and again. 
Sometimes I lay in the dirt
just to be close to a thought of You.

You, surviving this place for me.

Monday, May 9, 2011

the Language of the Heart (speaking of obligations/translation into Lakota)

Language, like life itself, is a strange and misunderstood activity.  We think we are making sense, we think are connecting with others, when even within one language there are nuances and easy ways to confuse and to be confused.  How much more do we misunderstand the silent language of a world, a universe, that tries with every breath to tell us secrets?   The poem I posted yesterday about listening to that inner whispering has been translated into the Lakota language by Kevin Locke (Tȟokéya Inážiŋ, meaning "The First to Arise"), whose mother was a tireless champion of not only her beautiful language, but also of the language of oneness.  

Diana Malouf was a new friend.  Author of Unveiling the Hidden Words (a study of the translation of the Arabic verses of the Hidden Words by Baha'u'llah) she was herself a translator.  She died yesterday in her home, and I would like to dedicate this poem to her as well as to Kevin's mother, Patricia Locke (Tawacin WasteWin, she of good consciousness ‚ a compassionate woman) who is inspirational in many ways.

Sitting here with my friends,
okȟólawičhawaye ob iblótake

Mitakuye oyasin.
All my relatives.
mitákuye oyas’iŋ

All created things.
wamákȟognake oyas’iŋ

All those who have gone on.
tóna t’ápi oyás’iŋ

The saints.  The Holy Ones.
Wakȟáŋ Oyáte kiŋ hená.

We sit here with the best friend—
Kȟolá iyótaŋ wašté kči uŋhíyotakapi

that Great Voice speaking in my heart—
Ho Wakȟáŋ kiŋ mičháŋte ogná wóglake

Sitting here we have a little coffee, a little tobacco.
wakȟályapi etáŋ, čhaŋlí etaŋ yuhá uŋkíyotakapi.

We sit quietly and listen to the Great Voice, remembering what we know.
waslólaye kíksuye Ho Wakȟáŋ kiŋ iníla uŋk’úŋpi.

Remembering what is true.  What is true.
Táku wówičhakȟe kiŋ uŋkíksuyapi.  Táku wówičhakȟe kiŋ.

Patricia Locke (Tawacin WasteWin, she of good consciousness ‚ a compassionate woman)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Speaking of Obligations.....(11) Mitakuye Oyasin

Baha'i Devotional Gathering in Zambia

Sitting here with my friends,
Mitakuye oyasin.
All my relatives,
All created things.

All those who have gone on.

The saints.  The Holy Ones.

We sit here with the best friend—
that Great Voice that speaks in my heart—

Sitting here we have a little coffee, a little tobacco.
We sit quietly and listen to the Great Voice,
remembering what we know (not much).
Remembering what is true.  What is true.

(eleventh in a series on The Long Obligatory Prayer.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Speaking of Obligations....(10) too high...

birds drawn by Leonardo da Vinci
There are birds circling above, high, so high--
they are only the faintest palimpsest of flight.
I stand on this earth and look, look for them
'til my eyes burn with empty sky—

and still there is light.

(10th in a series on the Long Obligatory Prayer.)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Speaking of Obligations....(9) supplication

Three times my hands move up to mark

Three times ten fingers makes thirty
parts of me reminding each other
that life is short. 

Two eyes close before the certainty
of forever.

One mouth whispers into two ears
and all of eternity that
there is always more.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Speaking of Obligations......(8) Knocking at the Door

Locked door.  Closed gate. 
Brick-filled entrance.
Lowered portcullis. 

Standing. Holding still.
Endless patience.  Swollen feet.
Hunger.  Waiting. 
          Forever, if need be.

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Speaking of Obligations....(7) the sunflowers

I love the sunflower dance.

In films that squeeze a day’s light
into my attention span
I see their heads move from east to west
in a pas de deux with the Sun.

My own limbs long for this sweet motion,
matching step for step the light around.

Perhaps with the right camera I might find
that even my hair has some inner rhythm,
has a way to keep up with sunflowers
dancing through an endless summer.

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

Monday, May 2, 2011

Speaking of Obligations....(6)

We survived a plague of strangers that year.

Wild-eyed and throwing words into the wind
they hastened across deserts and lonely streets.

Each stranger carried a small key and a tattered heart.
They didn’t speak to us and no one asked their names,
but mothers held children between trembling arms—
fathers loaded old shotguns and stood ready.

(Sixth in a series on The Long Obligatory Prayer)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Speaking of Obligations....(5)

They say we start each day on the dry side.
After dreaming all night of water
we lose our longing for the truth.

We ask for the bitterness of coffee,
the dark brown taste of tea. 
The sick sweetness of soda.

We swim in a murderous salt sea
and have forgotten our thirst.