Some Poems

Some poetry of my own composition, for a change. I can’t pretend that these are brilliant verses or anything, but I liked them, even after re-reading them. I hope you do too.

*

I nestle into her back, and close
Ourselves in, this woven little world of ours,
And of others’, of God: so not so small, yet closer
Than our softly throbbing veins.
This place we have made, we have had made
For us, this little land we cultivate,
Is cultivated in us, slowly grows.
We took up crowns,
Not as rulers one of the other,
But as martyrs of the heart and hearth, toiling
At a small new world, taking care
Lest we let the soil go sterile
Or the land be sold and be turned to death
Out from under our tired feet.
But. So long as we warm one another,
And hold close to each other,
In the dark thicket
And in the wide bright plains, in snow
And in fire, wind and wreck, all:
Dying to each other, and resurrecting,
In each sharp moment, and those tender,
We will weather it all, and better,
When we rise together, old, and new.

*

All of a sudden, then—
Sparrows burst
Upon our rose bush

*

Dill seedlings—unbidden,
Sprung up here. Still—
Winter is coming

*

In a flash, the beauty
And the majesty are here
Under this overpass—
A sparrow takes flight

*

But Your light is this place
And all places, no place, the living
Sap within the tree, the all,
And no thing.
Out of the corner of my eye
I see the edge of a glimpse,
And it shivers my blood to my core,
And past.
What would unveiling be?

*

The sunflowers and prairie grasses
Were growing on borrowed time, after all this, all
Our times are borrowed here, waged, time-
Tabled, clocked in and out. The mechanical
Hearts and schedules, the grey men, and the black
Suited men, from worlds that dull and buzz.
They sent the reapers, if anyone can be said
To have sent, all those voices passive.
The slow steady system
Works itself out, an endless tide. Washing
Over everything, scrubbed sterile. Yet
How I relished those patches of sunflowers, changing
With each week, and day, with the sun and clouds
Overhead, also changing  (and they cannot not yet
Scrub those, the further heavens). The strange weave
Of dock and bluestem and aster
With cement interchanges, the hurtling
Engines of our individual deaths,
Whirling, spinning by this patch
Of earth’s own deep flow and interchange.
Still I trust their seeds survive the neatly mown
Fields there. Things must die back, anyway.
And I trust that sunflowers, and prairie dock
Will outlive state, capital, highway, the bitter self
Commanding to evil, and the banal.
When all those things are forgotten ruins
Crumbling into the new prairie, the old
Glacier of those forces long melted,
The face of the earth, again, blooms.

Al-Ghazali on Funerals

As I was reading today the last section of al-Ghazali’s Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din (The Revivification of the Religious Sciences)- Book XL, Kitab Dhikr al-Mawt wa-ma Ba’dahu (The Remembrance of Death and What is After It), I was struck by how apropros the following two passages seemed in light of the past couple weeks’ spate of well-publicized deaths and funerals:

1. ‘Know that funerals are a lesson to the man possessed of insight, and a reminder and a counsel to all save the people of heedlessness. For these latter are increased only in hardness of heart by witnessing them, as they imagine that for all time they will be watching the funerals of others, and never reckon that they themselves must needs be carried in a funeral cortege. Even if they do so reckon, they do not deem this to be something near at hand. They do not consider that those who are carried now in funeral processions thought likewise. Vain, then, are their imaginings, and soon their allotted lifespans will be done.

‘Therefore let no bondsman watch a funeral without considering that he himself is the one being borne aloft, for so he will be before long: on the morrow, or on the day that follows: it is as if the event had already occurred.’

2. ‘The properties of attending funerals include meditation, heedfulness, preparedness, and walking before the pall in humility… One of these proprieties is to have a good opinion of the deceased even if one he had been corrupt, and to have a poor opinion of oneself even if one may outwardly be pious. This is because the last moment is a perilous thing the true nature of which is unknown.

‘It is told of ‘Umar ibn Dharr that one of his neighbours once died. He had been extravagant with himself, and for this reason many people refused to attend his funeral. However, Ibn Dharr attended it and took part in the prayers. When he [the neighbour] had been lowered into the grave he [Ibn Dharr] stood beside it and said, “May God show you mercy, O father of So-and-so! For throughout your life you kept with you the testimony to Divine Unity, and begrimed your face with prostration. Although they called you a sinner and a transgressor, which one of us is not a sinner and has no transgressions to his account?”‘

Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali, in The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife (Islamic Texts Society, 1989), 97, 98.