Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Do not hesitate to eat my flaming heart, fear consuming
Its golden ember fire. Nothing will alter its true substance,
Nor defile the whole of which it is far greater than a part.

The world is a grave, this we always knew. Is there is something
Else here, wholly impossible to describe, a thingless thing  
Sweet and strong like the breath of a panther, ancient and new?

I see you wing through the crystal window, coming or going
I cannot tell. Still, there is the river of the whole vision
Flowing, the neither-here-nor-there total unstoppable swell.

That is why my eyes are swollen, why I strangle myself on
The breath of your name. Because all are far freer than they think,
Because I needs to lack the whole, deny-affirm the selfsame.

Please make poetry stop, kill it in its sleep. I do not know
How much more of this I can take, how many more tears
Blindness, blind to everything other than itself, can weep.

If only a way to spontaneous and omnipresent
Surrender. If only the whole would simply give itself up,
Stop cutting itself off from the glory of its own splendor.

Don’t worry, for this is less even than an antithesis
Of consolation. In a weird way that escapes me I am
Wholly free, in bliss, the indifferent source of all temptation.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2 from Ocean Seeping Eyes

[not ghazals, not not ghazals either]


Only the unendurable stillness falling from those orbs
Makes this lone world breathable. It undoes again my still life
Into an alien silence no black death will ever quell. 

The moon is so jealous of such light. All day she hides reading
How people think her into their obscurest sighs, simply not
To forget that everything in the end may still be alright.

When the world ends, which it now suddenly has, there will still be
Not enough time to meet. Here children play always newer games
With their own bones, sing like birds above the dusty golden streets.

My hope is not for you or me. Tis for the weird tidal wave
That will liquefy time and drown space in a spiral abyss
Of endless . . . a perfectly still, truly perfect tsunami.

Survival is a curse we have long abandoned to the born.
This still birth happens without us, in this X, a crosswise space
Of blackest unseen glancing—our immense secret forsworn.

That which is swallowing today never dies. A real serpent
It flies darker than anything, piercing every place, swerving
Atoms beyond the still, specular curve of the cosmic sky.

Listen to me because I am not to listen to. Hear me
Still as I cannot speak the truth, only words meaning nothing,
Nothing more than a knowledge of anything no one ever knew.   


Hang me by the heels until your pail is too full of my tears.
Not from me does this liquid come, the limpid crystal water
More self than mine, a deepest ocean seeping through two small spheres.

Once in a dream I drenched this whole body in weeping. The drops
Cascaded down in constant flowing from the crown of my head,
Washed universe into oblivions deeper than sleeping.

Give me a lachrymatory for my birthday. I will fill
And empty it diurnally in terminal futile attempt
To cool the deep hot coals cracking open my heart of clay.

Or preserve all the saltwater in a deep secret cellar.
As miracles happen it may spontaneously become
Wine enough for everyone to laugh their heads off forever.

Not that there is reason to worry over how things turn out.
Tear itself alone is the deep truth and everything else
Beginning with these words is abysmally open to doubt.

Tears prove truth the only way possible – disproving all things
Including themselves, distilling the real and illusory  
Into the oneness of an evaporating syllable.

I see the bucket has hardly started to fill. Please return
As infrequently as you wish, for I am happy to hang
Here plunged upside down in most deep sorrow; it is my will. 

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.


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


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.