Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ghazal of the Startled Silence

It is the crevice a shadow crawls inside,
The cage of ribs the heart stalls inside.

It is the depths of an abyss
A stone endlessly falls inside.

An absence evolved from dimensionless Time,
The lost spaces all sound dissolves inside.

It is the maze of secret rooms
Masons built moving walls inside.

The emptiness of a pitch-black tunnel
The prisoner crawls inside.

It is the immense absence in an abandoned city,
Bombed houses the rain falls inside.

The dusty journal in an attic,
Notes the captive ghost scrawls inside.

It is the sibyl's abode, the fluttering
Dark of wind-rippled shawls inside.


First published in Lynx (2007)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It did not hurt at all when they chopped off my head

It did not hurt at all when they chopped off my head,
Just a sharp reminder I never had a head.

Your concept of existence stinks. You will see,
Theorein, after I write a book: On Your Head.

Let me rest here awhile, free from being fastest,
Yet still closest to the summit, way up ahead.

Love will suck marrow from marrowlessness itself.
Let it, or die the freezing death of being head.

Startled dove says: stop acting out of fear you fool,
Observe how easily Ozzy bites off my head.

The one secret is secrecy of saying so,
Not the top of ultimate totem, supreme head.

There was a Nicola once, a long time ago.
Now there is only what remains, this speaking head.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Silence and speak your heart, become my long lost friend

Silence and speak your heart, become my long lost friend.
Now while all is here, even the meaning of friend.

Everything is near, above all the outside,
Where even being’s butchery is a close friend.

Don’t disappoint God with indifference or worship.
At once hard and easy is the long way of friend.

Everything becomes golden and my life is dead
When suddenly there passes a shadow like friend.

This body walks west to meet a soul walking east,
Antipodally proving circumference friend.

Stellar immolation: an ancient lonesomeness
Burning itself into life-forms. Is there a friend?

Aristotle is not among those who know me,
A deep sound, a lost breath calling Nicola friend.

Ghazal

Rumi became a sage for us.
Ghalib's ghazals revealed an age to us.

It was a poem written with moonlight,
Deftly inscribed on a pond's page for us.

We were heirs to a kingdom of dust.
You foretold wars the world would wage for us.

Banished to the desert without water,
The storms you summoned would rage for us.

In a dream we were birds perched on a branch.
Shadows built in the trees a cage for us.

You are composed now completely of light.
O the world was your theatre, a stage for us.



First published in Texas Poetry Journal (2006)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Memory

I conceive you now as one born of memory.
You're somewhere alive though I mourn your memory.

Their shrines destroyed, villages cling to fire.
Kashmir must bear the thorn of memory.

A dream of your mother filled with colors--
A blur of saris worn in memory!

"Color at the edge of blood / coal of dead fires..."
Lines by Faiz held in a breath, sworn to memory.

A day's countless details are mostly lost.
Images are exiled, torn from memory.

The garden cafe where you'd recite Ghalib--
Roses, red & white, adorn the memory.

The fire of the phoenix kindles the light.
Will Night, Empress of the Dark, scorn the memory?

You read ghazals to me over the phone.
Couplets left your lips to inform my memory.


First published in Blue Unicorn (2006)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Whom We Call Ishmael

after a poem by Agha Shahid Ali


Here there are ghosts none can repel tonight.
Rumors of the world's end none can dispel tonight.

In prisons the executions are beginning.
One hears prayers spoken from each cell tonight.

The enemy now approaches our city.
What outcome did the Oracle foretell tonight?

They are now among us, those demons
Who departed for Earth from Hell tonight.

In the temple only shadows bow in worship--
Without a priest to toll its knell tonight.

Tornadoes curve in descent, pulling down
A sky from which archangels fell tonight.

A moonlit terrace above deafened streets
Awaits the silhouette of Jezebel tonight.

You were comforted by the evening star, shining
Like a brilliant coin in the well tonight.

We search for him whose words have guided us--
The Beloved--whom we call Ishmael tonight.


First published in HazMat Review (2010)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

See, your beauty is being recorded for all

See, your beauty is being recorded for all
Eternity through these eyes, to be seen by all.

Give up the search for by finding now every goal,
Circumambulate the pointless true pole of all.

A real word springs new from perfect disagreement,
Maintains silence over the muted sounds of all.

The divine comedy is still being written
On the parchment of time-space stretched over all.

Our insanity reaches with ease to the stars,
Grazes on galaxies laughing the jest of all.

Forget consolation, forget terror. Arrive
As giraffe to supreme fruit of the tree of all.

Deep inside Nicola’s skull is nothing, nothing
Remotely like a simple answer to why all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ghazal of the Beloved

"How often had he walked
Beneath summer and the sky
To receive her shadow in his mind..."

---Wallace Stevens


With what blessing does God grace the Beloved?
By what star's course may we trace the Beloved?

What site--divine sepulchre or holy tomb--
May we honor, call the place of the Beloved?

Voice preserved in the ear, image in the mind...
From memory will Time erase the Beloved?

Who sought her exile from the world,
Banished from mirrors the face of the Beloved?

Her silhouette is seen in the twilight clouds,
Though night arrives to displace the Beloved.

A field of ashes where embers were dying,
Light by which we strove to retrace the Beloved.

Her presence now constitutes the hush
Between stanzas, the sacred space of the Beloved.

The defunct monastery still covets silence,
Where priests saw an Angel embrace the Beloved.


First published in Tiferet (2008)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ghazal of Restoration

The bitterness you harbor wanes tonight.
No strife within you remains tonight.

No dervish will trouble the dust.
No tornado ravages the plains tonight.

No bright flak, no disputed barricades.
The wars have ended their campaigns tonight.

All sleep. None long for departure.
Stations have only idle trains tonight.

You lived in a prison of your own making.
The captive heart dissolves its chains tonight.

From deserts a paradise will be born.
Parched lands are blessed with rains tonight.

You dream of Eden, when the animals appear--
& listen as Adam recites their names tonight.

A hush. Silence is now the world's prayer.
From God's hand stars fall like grains tonight.

In memory of Norma Horstmann (1914--2006)

First published in The Neovictorian (2005)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ghazal of Diminishment

Waves on the shore will recede & wane.
The wind's song through the reed will wane.

Rapid air rushes through its dark mane--
But the endurance of the steed will wane.

Pressed deeply in a web of roots,
The striving of the seed will wane.

Mist quavers on a blade of grass--
& dew, its delicate bead, will wane.

It dissolves in a galaxy's hub--
Mortal comet whose speed will wane.

Orpheus can sing only of despair,
For love's searing need won't wane.

Cooing in cages before a pageant--
Now, in the distance, the freed doves wane.

This body (vessel forsaking the world)
Will let the breath concede & wane.



First published in Pebble Lake Review (2006)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Here, there is nothing to which one does not belong

Here, there is nothing to which one does not belong,
Above all the nothing where everything belongs.

I am lost, and way more so for being with you,
More I, more am, more lost along a way too long.

Unfathomable colors of a comet’s tail
Neither trail nor lead this dreaming coma along.

Our infinitesimal camera will photograph
Infinity. The shot does not take very long.

Than time’s own slowness nothing is more sudden,
A blast from the past imprinting memory for long.

Habit gives all experience, from gas to this,
An evolving engine that life itself prolongs.

For now, and wins the battle of one and many.
Worlds strive to fill the space where Nicola still longs.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I will face the weight of an infinite elsewhere

I will face the weight of an infinite elsewhere,
Lift the veil of all knowing that was never there.

Not seeing anyone is so hard. Is this it?
Signs pointing to answers are posted everywhere.

When memory gathers into a storm of love
What the birds symbolize is scattered here and there.

Too deep is this sleeping, aeonic and glacial.
At this rate one may wake up almost anywhere.

There is, near the absolute bottom of your heart,
A kind of second abyss that is always there.

Something about the eyes, how they open without
Ever giving away, and not, the treasure’s where.

Nicola does not prepare to leave, but to stay
In a place so silent that everything is there.

Monads are meeting, only in bewilderment

Monads are meeting, only in bewilderment,
Conversing in long spirals of bewilderment.

Life, ambivalently overrated deathtrap,
Is stupendously nothing sans bewilderment.

Hold to my standard just those whose standard I hold,
Or lose my sole consolation: bewilderment.

Eking out existence is our actual state.
Slow breath abysmally down to bewilderment.

Time, time, time is forever arriving at this:
Never repetition, newer bewilderment.

Like a green desert, like orthodox heresy,
Like finding home being lost is bewilderment.

The real riddler is whoever Nicola is,
A creature from black lagoons of bewilderment.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Maybe the light of your mind is a dying star

Maybe the light of your mind is a dying star,
Longly feeling its no longer being a star.

Entities, old slimes breathing songs of unknowing,
Intersect all, a formic infection of stars.

Home is among the rubble, near grinding to dust,
A material altering things into stars.

My friends are eternally stronger than they think,
With hearts like the dark secret engines of hot stars.

All this plurality is hopelessly shameful.
What the hell were you scheming in becoming star?

The high sound of castrasti-thought fills the courtyard,
Aimed, minus the pull to even wish on a star.

Near the end of the day Nicola dreams treason,
New hidden ways of supernova-ing (t)his star.

Friday, July 2, 2010

My planet does not hang suspended in your fear

My planet does not hang suspended in your fear.
It spins in spontaneous orbit, always here.

Two pigeons sitting too stilly against the sky.
Words: nothing measuring something terribly near.

The uselessness of ever asking what you mean
Is trumped by my always being hopelessly clear.

I was wholly there, standing now in the song’s midst.
How passed not the notes through one, out the other, ear?

Soon life itself will be something else that happened,
And not. So hard to think anything more, less queer.

Feel how very false are feelings about feelings.
Only the matter, the wax itself is sincere.

Falling for perfection is Nicola’s real plight,
An endless fatal sense that I am right now there.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bâkî: Ah my Dear (From Ottoman Turkish)

Ah My Dear
By Bâkî
Translated, from Ottoman Turkish, by A.Z. Foreman

Since time began, I have bowed down to passion's Shah, my dear.
Love's legendary sultanate obeys our law, my dear.
 

The grief-scorched heart lies red and black: a poppy in the wasteland.
Rain like a bounteous cloud and slake the parched heart's shaw, my dear.

Fate saw the jewel in me, and pawed the heart apart to have it,
Leaving a bleeding body mined of love and raw, my dear.

Do not let turbid sadness taint the waters of your fountain.
All faces gleam for us, the Ottoman world's awe, my dear.

Bâkî's turned verse goes round the world: a wine-bowl among friends.

Time turns to us to fill its cup. What wines we draw, my dear!

The Original:


ازلدن شاه عشقك بنۀ فرمانيوز جانا
محبت ملكنك سلطان عليشانيوز جانا

سحاب لطفك آبن تشن دللردن دريغ اتمه
بو دشتك بغرى يانمش لالۀ نعمانيوز جانا

زمان بزده گوهر سزدگچون دل خراش ايلر
انكچون بغمرز خوندر معارف كانيوز جانا

مكدّر قلمسون گرد كدورت چشمۀ جاني
بلورسن آب روى ملكت عثمانيوز جانا

جهاني جام نظمم شعر باقى كبى دور ايلر
بو بزمك شمدو بز ده جامئ دورانيوز جانا

Modern Transliteration:

Ezelden şâh-ı aşkın bende-i fermânıyüz cânâ
Mahabbet mülkünün sultânı âlî-şânıyüz cânâ

Sehâb-ı lutfun âbın teşne-dillerden dirîğ itme
Bu deştin bağrı yanmış lâle-i Nu'mânıyüz cânâ

Zemâne bizde cevher sezdiğiyçün dil-hırâş eyler
Anınçün bağrımız hûndur ma'ârif kânıyüz câna

Mükedder kılmasun gerd-i küdûret çeşme-i canı
Bilürsün âb-ı rûy-i mülket-i Osmâniyüz cânâ

Cihanı câm-ı nazmım şi'r-i Bakî gibi devr eyler
Bu bezmin şimdi biz de Câmi-i devrânıyüz cânâ

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sheyhī: Springrise

Springrise
By Sheyhī
Translated, from Ottoman Turkish, by A.Z. Foreman

Spring is afoot, so let us be the dawn wind's heart-sworn friends.
Let us befriend the rose and let us walk where it talks scents.

Tulips in season! Let us take the cup up with hearts pure
As a narcissus. Let us drink ourselves beyond pretense.

Like the rosebud, conceal the secrets of what you must be.
But like the rose, unseal your heart to fields that pleasure tends.

Jamshīd once held a cup and called it key to all his city.
We are but adepts of that cup wherein our world lies pent.

Let us implore God's mercy for our sins must be forgiven
If we expect the least reward for being obedient.

Sheyhi! Wise men say prayer in this season is insane.
Today's for spring and pleasuring. Tomorrow we repent.


The Original:


بهار موسم در همدم صبا اوللم
گليلة دوست قحوسين آشنا اوللم

چو دور لالدر اخلاصل قدح دتلم
نت ک نرگيس اولر مست بيريا اوللم

زمانى سرنى قو غنجه بيگى سربسته
چمن صفاسنه گل بيگى دلگشَ اوللم

جهان فتوحن جم جام در دمش مفتاح
گلن ملازم جام جهان نما اوللم

عملدن اجرت امنجه غرور طاعتله
گنهده منتظر رحمت خدا اوللم

بهار توبيه شيخى جنون دمش عاقل
بگن موافقت ات ارته پارسا اوللم