Word


In the beginning
God said
'Listen!'
and never spoke
another Word.
Look around, friend.
All this arose from
the croak of a frog,

the scrape of a twig
on your widow pane,

the breath sound
of a baby in the dark.
Don't try to understand.
Just stay awake.
Behind our words
we’re all yearning
for the same silence,
that cup of gazing
that tastes blue and
empty as sky.

Stoned


"Everybody must get stoned!" ~Bob Dylan 

Green gets high on gold when sun finds a vein.
Stillness begins spinning, begets
electrons in an alder leaf.
Fir and white pine lit from roots up,
an underground fix of blood red mushrooms.
Off her axis Earth wobbles, but this dizziness
isn't her fault: Blame God,
first pusher of all that moves.
In the beginning, pastel-winged
moth angels passed out cups of this stuff
at the feast where we conceived
galaxies hanging from magnolia twigs.
Was it all in our heads? It still is.
Now we nod in a fuzz of stars,
this quantum snow.
We're drifting nuclei, connected
by dilated gazes, learning to mingle
our roots like giant fungi.
This is not about chemistry, friend,
it's more sublime, and soft
beyond all substances.
It’s about the heart’s astonishment,
this organ of joy, and our addiction
to the silence in trees and stars.
Rumi used ecstatic wine, and that’s all right.
But we mainline pure consciousness, uncut.



Alone

Anger is an energy
that attracts more anger.
Intelligence is inversely
proportional to crowd size.
A single animal behaves
more humanely
than a multitude of men.
Therefor keep faith
in the Alone,
curled up in the woods
around your own
wound,
sharing your perfect milk
with one stranger
at a time.

Mud

"Once the truth is realized, then even desire
is Brahman." ~Yoga Vashishta 37


Love your desires.
Do not be afraid of them.
They are frolicking waves
of emptiness
in a sea of contentment,
bright atoms of silence
clustered like galaxies
to make your body
whirl in the dark.
At the core of each breath
the mallet of the sun
strikes the bell of the moon
without a sound.
The burrowing larva,
the bursting camellia,
the overflowing cloud,
a white dog splashing
through puddles of mire
to chase a laughing crow:
they all know this.
Why don't you?
You are here to get
mud between your toes.

Breath of Creation

Breathing out, I fell
into the swirling darkness
called "my heart"
where galaxies are born
from the black womb
of silence.
Breathing in, I filled
my night with stars.
Owning nothing but this
vagabond breath,
I lack nothing.
Stop looking for it,
whatever it is,
and your inhalation too
will sparkle with
inexhaustible wealth.

The Sadness

The sadness of a lost moccasin.
Angry mud that needs a hug.
Barefoot darkness, seeds of light
between your toes.
The mountain is made of wind,
wind is made of river,

tears of sod.

At the tip of a twig
plum bud
made of white sky.
Winter of coyote.
Night of forgiving.
I hear your howl,
Mother.

Power

“Asánasthah sukhám hridé nimájati:
Repose in the natural happiness of your heart."
~Shiva Sutras


Right engenders Left.
Left engenders Right.
They call each other names
that pollute the air.
Don't be fooled.
This is not action, but re-action.
You won't find power
on either side
because power is here
in your chest
where breath begins,
before names are called.
Peace happens
not through resistance
but awakening.
Yours is the mystery
of an infinite circumference
whose center is wherever
you choose to flower
namelessly, in wonder.
No one can rob your pollen.
Your radiant petals protect you.
Your fragrance is joy.
Now return to the seed of light
in the mothering dark loam
of your heart.
Come home.
Create silence.


Photo: Kristy Thompson

Thanksgiving

Existence is grace.
Breath is gratitude.
When Jesus said,
'I have overcome the world,'
he meant, 'I have surrendered.'
The night is about to pour
her swirling chalice of stars
into your chest.
There is no radiance, no joy,
not bottled in your tears.
A raindrop shakes the earth
and a ray of morning sun
piercing the Winter sky
is an annunciation
to the virgin silence
of your heart.
Dear one, just being aware
is abundance.
All you need to do is
stop complaining
and say thank you.

Wait

“Bijavadhanam: Nurture a seed." ~Shiva Sutras

Don't miss this opportunity
to cherish the bliss
of deepening darkness.
In the freeze of November nights
seeds hold their tiny stars
underground.
They await an invisible sign
of warmth, just as we do,
patiently yearning.
Yet this yearning is for
something here
in the present moment,
is it not?
To form an opinion
about the future
is far deeper ignorance
than simply not to know.
Fear is the believer.
Courage embraces
the unknown.
I see stillborn roses
hardening into fists
on their bony elbows.
But when I listen
I can already hear their
fragrant yellow and crimson songs
in the black loam.
Right now, friend,
you could be floating
in waves of possibility
on the deathless ocean
of this breath, just crying,
"thank you!"


Photo: Withered Rose by Martin Lau

Break

Surround your loss
with deeper loss.
That is the secret
of the hollow seed.
Lose everything.
Become the void.
Break into flower.


Photo by Kristy Thompson

Soft Spot

Your first breath was full
of your enemies' atoms.
You were intimate before you
became each others' nightmare.
You are never not "them."
You have the power of the unborn
because you are always just
one moment old.
From the soft spot on your crown
where your infancy never healed,
let glittering filaments umbilical
flow on waves of probability
conjoining your better angel
to the navel of a policeman,
the vein of an addict who sleeps
on a Memphis sidewalk,
the pituitary of the Chairman
of Goldman Sachs,
the Chicano broccoli picker's amygdala
from whose malathion-crusted palms
you receive your voluptuous salad.
Need I say more?
A holographic fiber of your
golden hypothalamus
connects you to the vagus nerve
of Donald Trump.
99% of you is beautiful.
Almost whole.
Why not claim the other 1
as your Self?

Ishq' (A Poem from 'Wounded Bud')

My name on your lips is the longest Sura.
I begin the Night Journey in your eyes, 
toward a wild desert fragrance.

The only revelation is my face reflected in your gaze.
Keep your window open: do not turn this emptiness to glass,
lest you profane the Prophet and make seeing an eye.

For when I do not gaze at you, my eye is an idol.
Even the thought of the Beloved turns to stone
without the Beloved's kiss.

Ignore the image engraved in your skull:  
like a lover's map, it was sketched by trembling.
Look instead to the grounded seeds, and in them 

the hollow before conception, where zero 
became two in the bright space of unknowing.
We are each others' search for what's between mirrors,

that wilderness of purity:
you, the last veil of my desire, 
and I, the veil within that:

translucent, blue, the color of a yearning sky.
Spin quickly now before the Other vanishes,
so that we may catch God at the center of whirling.

You lit me on the wick of your eye: 
there I danced as seeing.
From the golden oil in my bones, I kindled you,

a soul for my soul, gushing through 
my hollow places and my wounds...
Anoint me! Drip down this broken necklace 

of seven dangling pearls.
From throat to thigh, unite the sea and setting sun.
Of purple curtains in the King's chamber we may speak,

but never of what happens on the other side!
When dawn comes, we'll whisper 
which of us was stillness, which the dancer.
___________________________


عشق
لأنّ آهاتك قد خمّرت دمي،
لا أحتاج إلى نبيذ...
اسمي على شفتيك هو السورة الأكبر.
وفي عينيك أبدأ رحلة الليل
نحو صحراء بريّة الرحيق.
لا وحي إلا صورة وجهي
منعكسة في شخوص عينيك.
دعيهما نافذة مفتوحة،
ولا تحوّلي فراغك إلى زجاج
حتى لا تدنّسي النبوة
وتعودي بعينيك من البصيرة إلى البصر.
عندما لا أرنو إليك،
تصير عيني وثناً.
حتى فكرة ‘المحبوب’ تصبح وثناً
إذا ما لم تُقرن بقبلته.
لذا تجاهلي الصور التي تكوّنت في رأسك:
فهي، كخرائط العشاق، قد رُسمت بارتعاش.
وانظري بدلاً منها إلى البذور الراسخة،
إلى الفراغ فيها قبل اللقاح
حيث يصبح الصفر اثنين
في فضاء اللامعرفة المشرق (الساطع).
نبحث معاً عمّا بين مرآتين،
عن ذلك النقاء البريّ،
فتصيرين بحثي وأصير بحثك.
أنت، حجاب لذّتي الأخير
وأنا، حجاب الحجاب،
شفّاف، أزرق، بلون السماوات التوّاقة.
اغزلي الآن سريعاً قبل أن يزول الآخر
فقد نلتقي واللهَ في مركز الدوران.
أشعلتني على فتيل عينيك:
فرقصت هناك في النظر.
ومن الزيت الذهبيّ في عظامي، أضأتُكِ،
روحاً لروحي، تتدفق في أماكني الجوفاء،
وفي جروحي.
امسحي رأسي بالزيت الآن! قطّريه على هذا العقد المنثور
من سبع لآلئ معلّقة.
من أعلى الرأس إلى أسفل الحوض، وحّدي البحر بالشمس إذ تغيب.
يمكننا الحديث عن ستائر ليلكيّة في غرفة الملك،
لكننا لا نتحدّث أبداً عمّا يحدث في الضفّة الأخرى!
وعندما ينبلج الفجر، سوف نهمس:
مَن منّا كان السكون، ومن كان الراقص.
____________

Translated into Arabic by Dana Chamseddine.
This poem appears in 'Wounded Bud: Poems for Meditation'

Illustration from 'Rubaiyat' of Omar Kaiyyam, 'Hour of Grace,' by Edmund Dulac

Tonglen



Love is the vision
of the heart’s eye
seeing all
that separates
as mirage.
Fall in love
with love itself.
Fall into the sky
beneath your ribs.
Open the single eye
that sees only one
where the blind see
night and day,
worm and butterfly.
Feel your way
into moonlight,
awakening the bud,
the fragrance, the bee,
the honey, the wound
covered in honey,
the blade that gashed it,
the terror, the wine
that spills from pain,
the healing darkness
that welcomes home
the fire,
breathing in them all
and breathing out peace.

Rim

This moment is the rim
of nonexistence.
We live here
tipped and poised
for pouring out.
Why speak of safety?
Only the past is safe.
Revelation of the Word
happened yesterday.
Berries, moths, the skin
on hot milk wrinkle
and perish; their light
returns to the cooling stars.
Darkness nurtures us now.
Plunging into the shadow
is grace
because we have no idea
what we will find there.
Be a chrysalis after the worm
dissolves into unknowing.
Perhaps a glistening
rainbow will unfurl.
Perhaps not.
Taste uncertainty
here in your sternum
like a blade.
Feel falling itself:
there is no ground.
Ripen your surrender
into sweet bruised fruit
at the seedling hub
of the turning seasons.
Repose a little while
in the nameless.
Then offer your prayer
for this fragile trembling
thing that emerges, the earth.

Another Word

I am searching for another word
to describe what happens in the chest,
another word for the peony

and the motionless explosion
of its blossoming.
I require another word for musk

and for the gutted breath, for what love is,
whether you are stroking a woman's
peach fuzz or the wild curve of

the planet at sunset, another word
for the stain the sun leaves on emptiness,
an edible vibration on the tongue, a

sound not unlike pollen-glutted bees,
how eyes become lips for the soul.
I seek another word for the womb

and the luscious darkness of 3 A.M.
I seek a syllable denoting 'just this,'
the refulgence of now, and how I am

a multitude when I am alone. I seek
another name for melting, no louder
than a sudden inhalation, a coyote growl,

the midnight effluvium of frozen swamps,
a syllable for the sweet decay in a late
September garden, fetor of crisp consent

in wounded apples releasing their juice,
a spell for what happens in frosted gourds,
sobriquet for a gaze at the moment

of death, susurration for the way
light sheathes in darkness, yet no more
mysterious than 'cocoon,' or 'amaranth,'

a kernel of silence wrapped in thinnest chaff,
sibilance of She-tongue cultivated
like a grain for eight thousand years,

then brewed into the title of my ancestor.
I seek a homophone for 'hearth.' I want
a garden in my throat. Let this tongue

be a green stem groping the thunder
of the harvest moon, or a mushroom
risen from infernal loam. I want a word

that means both 'keening' and 'silence.'
It must contain the echo of breaking.
When it strikes against the embryonic

hollow of an ear, that unborn conch of
listening inside listening, nothing more
need be spoken; for such a word is the nectar

of fermented loss, perfected by yearning,
the last sound of this poem, at which I,
my dear, am distilled into your teardrop.

With Your Own Heart

"Commune with your own heart and be still." ~Psalm 4

Commune with your own heart and be still.
Do not make a mystery of this.

The source that draws you home is who you are.
How could it be otherwise?

Let the one who remembers awaken
the Sun itself with a whisper, "So'ham..."

All living creatures hear that music
just a little, a rippling of the stillness

in your chest,
a warmth
where breath begins...

Politics 101

The revolution is to breathe.
The radical act is to be present.
If you want to practice deep faith,
don't even try to be kind:
Kindness is your nature.
Everything arises
from mysterious wholeness
beyond thought.
Ideology dissolves
into a smile.
One thing nourishes the world:
your secret joy.

Songs to the Master

There's a sky-blue rose
with petals softer than the air it blossoms in
springing neither from earth nor heaven
but from the darkness inside
where real gardens grow.
It winds about the trellis of this body,
I am tangled in its fragrance.
If you're thirsty as a honey bee,
you can taste love’s nectar here.
There's enough for everyone.
And if you'd like this flower to grow in you,
speak to me in silence:
I know where the seeds are.

*
Beyond the marketplace, the streets
of past and future, hope and regret,
under wild stars where all paths
finally tangle in green darkness,
there’s a garden where No One
waits for you.
He will do to your soul
what a fountain does to sunbeams.
Let me take you walking there
in the cool of the evening.
We'll feast on purple berries and sing
all night, then wake at dawn to discover
we have somehow wandered
into the heart.

*
I only understand the silence
between your words.
I sleep in the night of your eyes.
Your breath brushes my brow:
I’m ocean-tossed, drowning.
You graze me with a glance:
I'm shocked by a new Creation
where only dancing is allowed.
How close can my head come to your toes
before it shatters into spirals of gold?
Lift me up, I'll turn into a fountain.
Step on me, I'll be the sky.

Sabbath

What are you to the Left of?
What are you to the Right of?
Why do you need a point
of view?
Love is pointless.
Just for this morning,
just for this breath,
why not let your politics
dissolve into the sky,
the sky of Presence
above and within you,
the sky in the hollow
of your bones,
the trembling blues
between your atoms,
with no boundary
no center, no opinion,
the One who
gazes back
from the eye of the storm?

Poppies

Love has ruined my heart.
Poppies grow in rubble
where a warrior once stood
defending the One.
Thirst is my strength now.
Tears are mighty shields of prayer
arming my eyes against the night.
My only meditation is to wait
for a rendezvous
with the breath of the Other.
Her name is the morning star.

 

زهرة الخشخاش
لقد أتلف الحب قلبي.
ينمو الخشخاش تحت الأنقاض
حيث وقف محارب يوماً
يدافع عن الواحد الأحد.
يصبح العطش قوّتي.
ودموعي دروع من الصلاة
تتسلّح بها عيناي ضد الليل.
وتأملي الوحيد يمسي
انتظار موعد مع زفرة الحبيب،
مع كوكب الصباح.

Arabic translation by Dana Chamseddine.
Painting by Carol Nelson

Offering

"And if you offer even a leaf, a flower, a piece of fruit, or a little water, this I accept as the deepest devotion, because it is given with a yearning heart." ~Bhagavad Gita, 9:26

I bow down to your feet.
Now I bow down to a speck of dust
that falls from your toe.
Now I find you in a withered leaf,
a silvery slug trail,
an abandoned cocoon,
the mess of love making,
goo in the eye,
a dog's gaze, that stillness
at the rose's heart
centering a storm of bees,
and my own unclenching hand
so lightly holding
this night full of stars.
I bow to you
not only in the creature
but in the edgeless fractal
where the creature's name expires
in the breath of the Uncreated.
And the You that I find there
is I, Beloved, crying
thank you, thank you!
I bow to you for perfect freedom.
I bow to conquer the world
with my surrender.

Vocation

Become empty and self-luminous.
Fill every cell of your flesh
with a flame of beauty.
Don't forget to meditate,
dance and sing.
Don't forget that every breath
is the most sacred gift
you have ever received.
This too is your work, the play
of opening, releasing your pollen,
dropping your petals and falling
back to the root.
Whether the day is rainy
or golden with glory,
become empty and self-luminous.
Fill every cell of your flesh
with the blue sky
of astonishment.

I Voted (Election 2016)

I voted.
I voted for the rainbow.

I voted for the cry of a loon.

I voted for my grandfather's bones
that feed beetles now.

I voted for a singing brook that sparkles 
under a North Dakota bean field.

I voted for salty air through which the whimbrel flies
South along the shores of two continents.

I voted for melting snow that returns to the wellspring
of darkness, where the sky is born from the earth.

I voted for daemonic mushrooms in the loam,
and the old democracy of worms.

I voted for the wordless treaty that cannot be broken
by white men or brown, because it is made of star semen,
thistle sap, hieroglyphs of the weevil in prairie oak.

I voted for the local, the small, the brim
that does not spill over, the abolition of waste,
the luxury of enough.

I voted for the commonwealth of the ancient forest,
a larva for every beak, a wing-tinted flower
for every moth's disguise, a well-fed mammal's corpse
for every colony of maggots.

I voted for open borders between death and birth.

I voted on the ballot of a fallen leaf of sycamore
that cannot be erased, for it becomes the dust and rain,
and then a tree again.

I voted for more fallow time to cultivate wild flowers,
more recess in schools to cultivate play,
more leisure, tax free, more space between our days.

I voted to increase the profit of evening silence
and the price of a thrush song.

I voted for ten million stars in your next inhalation. 


LINK to hear a reading of this poem on SoundCloud
Photo: Valley of the Palouse, Washington State

Don't Keep It

If you find happiness,
don't keep it.
Dropping your happiness
is bliss.
Holding on to it is suffering.
The gardener who lets the seed
fall into the ground
gets the greens.
Now what is this ground?
Not-Knowing.

Friction

Here's a secret:
friction of breath on flesh
ignites the grace of the Beloved in your body.
You chose this birth. 

A Goddess of inconceivable beauty
yearns to nurse you with streams of moon blood.
There has never been a more perfect time
to breathe.

When grace overflows your soul it takes
the form of gristle and bone.
Why not savor gravity's red wine,
pressed from stones?

There is a reason why pain shapes you
in the form of an earthen chalice;
why you have such hollow roots
and abandoned places inside you;

Why a green syllable spirals up your stem,
forming a cry of two petals;
and mother coyote sighs, birthing her pups
among the frosted ferns, a chant of fire
bursting from her lungs.

Now fall into the howl pollen
between outgoing and incoming prayers.
Repose in the silent kiss of breath
on breath, the touch of 'So’ham'
against your ancestors' bones.

Ashtavakra says, Layam vraja:
'dissolve now!'
When the inner sky outshines
this dream of clouds, your skin will contain
both heaven and earth.

Sheathe a warrior’s blade in your
softest inhalation,
a blue flame of dispassion inside
this golden flame of yearning.
God is the aura within the aura:
this wickless blaze.

Feel the nerve of lightning
in your spine's hollow
where the earth dangles from the sun.
Exhale and slay ten thousand fears.

Your surrender heals oceans and forests.
With the death of a star in your gaze
turn every stranger's eye into a cave
of wounded diamonds.
Photo by Aile Shebar

The Way Up


Precious the dung.
Holy the manure flower.
The baby burp of your mistakes,
the coffee stains in your blood,
the wine in your tears,
the Reese's wrappers
hidden in your bra,
this swollen bud
of your impeccable soul,
filtered through loam and loathing.
Compost your sins,
don't try to cast them out.
That just postpones
the fester of sweetness.
Here is what happens in tombs
and bridal chambers,
among mushrooms and lovers:
wounds ripen into juice.
Be the fertilizer.
Fracture your seed.

This is the only way up
to the rose.

Evening Meditation

You have no choice.
When you breath in,
wings soar through your spine,
turning your path into a spiral
of melting stars.
Where were you going? Why?
A rare migrant flies through the open
door of this empty cathedral,
trapped for a while and
fluttering ecstatically against the rose
window in your chest.
No choice, no choice!
When you breathe out,
some gray veiled pearl of a lady's face
pulls on the ocean
in every cell of your body.
You can't tell whether you are still
or dancing.

When I Stopped Grasping

I would ride a ray of gold back to the sun,
thinking, this is who I am.
Then I would follow a breathful of stars
back into the night, feeling,
this could be real...
But when I stopped grasping for fire
and fleeing from shadows,
when I gave up the path of healing
and came home to my wound,
when my song vanished in the quiet
like a wisp from a blown out wick,
plums ripened in the dead of Winter,
corpses seeped honey from fragrant graves,
millions of chimes rang from the hollow
in a thistle seed.
How do you know that this is not
the dream of a mouse
squatting in your old socks?
Or that it's not the sexual longing
of an earthworm?
How do you know that a grain of sand
isn't a palace of carousing angels
who laugh like crystal at the size of your mind?
In the previous age, the senses
were windows and doors
through which color, music and frankincense
entered your stillborn emptiness.
Now your eyes, ears, nostrils and tongue
are fountains pouring a rainbow
out of the packed black silence
between heartbeats, the fragile vacuum
where lilacs and lilies die back,
to drink from a terrible sweetness
that is neither light nor dark.

Solution

It is solved
by sinking deeper,
by seeing the problem
from within,
where it is not a problem
but a tremor
on the surface of our
oceanic wholeness...
This is how God calls
waves of Herself
back home.



Photo by Kristy Thompson

Hymn to Silence

I will never stop drinking, but I vow to sip only the blood-red wine of the Master's Silence.

Let Silence pour out of my hidden wound to heal the forest, Eros of the infinite, beyond desire.

The erudite say that Silence cannot be action; yet the world is merely the image of chaos on the still mirror of their mind.

With each inhalation I polish the empty inner grail, and watch the vineyard outside grow heavy with bittersweet grapes, ageless, already fermented.

I am a vine growing upside down, roots in the sky, clusters dangling to the ground; yet every globe of my nectar contains the whole blue firmament.

Seeds that truly bear fruit are hollow; they resonate with a Word unspoken.

O Master, let your Silence ring like an unstruck bell in my chest; let my Silence be a mighty river sweeping all creatures into the sea of your Presence.

Without a cry, your brightness flows from my darkest laceration; at every beat one chamber of my heart pours sweetness into the other.

This is the rhythm of birth and death beyond hearing; it is meditation, it is the root of the dance.

Earth, water, wind and fire are merely the score of the music inside, notes written in sap of budless sticks.

As a dying rose gives fragrance to the whole garden, let my soundless breathing turn the wheel, awakening the earth to its innermost light.

I will never stop drinking, but I vow to sip only the blood red wine
of the Master's Silence. Selah.

Painting: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 'The Holy Grail'

Perfect

Let a breath of Thou
sweep the I from my heart,
O sparkling emptiness!

If I do not heal
my own awareness,
how can I heal anything
of which I am aware?


The moth folds her wings
on a petal of blue lupine
perfectly,
the raven complains
from the misty pine
perfectly,
this tear kisses
my cheek for no reason
perfectly!

Earth is not purified
by politics
but astonishment,
dissolving desire
like a cloud in the sky
that was never not
already blue.

Return to the crystal
of no-thought.
Bathe the world
in wonder.
Not working more
but needing less
cleanses our water,
soil and wind.

Let a breath of Thou
sweep the I from my heart,
O sparkling emptiness!



Photo by Wang Wusheng, 1984

Borders



There are no right angles
in these hills, no parallel lines
in the mossy limbs
of the ancient forest.
Why do we draw borders
to pierce and divide
this sacred tribal soil?
As if rivers are not enough,
as if mountains and valleys,
the blush of fractal change 
from prairie to high sage,

the golden explosion
of alluvial marsh lilies,
are not boundary enough
for a real country…
Yet for all our nations,
we inhale the same air,
drink one water,
coalesce the breathless
dust in one body
with eight billion colors.
At night we touch
the same stars, at rest
in one silence,
drift back gently,
laden with the same dreams
into one ocean
of blood.
Collage of my words by Rashani Réa.
Chalk mandala by Caryn Babaian, Academy
of Natural Sciences,
Drexel University.