• Category Archives vignette
  • The Unpainter

    The Cadence of Congruity
    (Arshia Qasim, Artist)

    Live poetry.  Beauty is what is carelessly spilled over the top of a drunkards wine cup. Not in gluttony or want, but rather appreciation. A sated appreciation of those who can appreciate thirst. Beauty is the mess we leave in our excitement, it is the distraction to a colorless canvas.

    In the time of our ripening the Divine Designer saw a pail blue sky before any knew blue, and the invisible wind that tears the eye… He saw the snow before it fell, your art before its conception – Al-Bari, Al Musawwir, Al-Khaliq.

    He has made our mouths into windows, our fears into walls. He has turned our gaze into doilies, our love paisley and has lain stepping stones of amethyst polished thin by the soles of our own shuffling feet. With a mere kiss, we create windows to see, with an all seeing kiss, we are shown blinding light. And so, each work of art is a shielding of the eyes, a warm breeze through a cool shadow, a black pepper edged silhouette on a multi-hued horizon of apple, tangerine, pomegranate, saffron, and turmeric.

    His design work does not begin before nor after the brush is dragged; He is the steadiness throughout the stroke; can your hands, dear artist, feel the warm cupping of His? You are the mundane canvas painted on the Divine canvas – you are the receiver of your own compassion – there are two layers to every painting, yours in as many colors as you are prepared to discover, His in all colors that have ever existed or shall. Your frame is a frame within His.

    Yes, this is live poetry; this is the irretrievable release of a sweet perfume. Our hearts are non-forsaking canvases – they resist none of what we offer, they do not turn-away mistakes. The carpenter is remembrance, the architecture is prayer of forgiveness; not for what is done, but how it’s done.

    So many layers, so many strokes of the brush, not one made with malice or envy or lust. You have mixed clay and water and painted walls, then windows, and then stepped through and for every side of a window and wall, there is another apart from you. The “unpainter friend,” the one who uses opaque acrylics to unpaint empty walls into murals and then into these, windows. You have made hearts into portals through which all to see from either side of, or beneath the threshold. You have unpainted away hopelessness.

    Through the phosphorous window of a writer I go in, and through the door of the painter I come out… each click, a heaping spoon eased through wanting lips. A thirsting brush, a parched canvas. We nourish ourselves not on desire, but on what desire brings… this is how we know… we do not miss what we cannot have, we miss what we are given.

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  • Company on the Path

    Rumi warned to never travel alone on the path. Yet I look around and find great and silent company everywhere. Still something is missing. Jami said “if you have never trodden the path of love, go away and fall in love and then come back and see us [for guidance]…” I’ve fallen clear through love, from its eyes to the bottom of its feet. Others spoke of a pain in the heart of yearning for God… I can scarcely distinguish love from God, lover from beloved. I am flirting with the eyes to a door, imagining myself on one side, but where I belong being on both sides and in between. Perhaps I am the reflection and every door a mirror. I’m lost to my world, it’s flavorless, even the chores before me remain meaningful. While lost at home, I’m home in ways I cannot adequately describe – strangely at peace with this being lost and something tells me there is a danger in this.

    I read and words pour into my heart, which is always a size larger than what there is to be read. Each book ends like a first glass of wine – I’m not drunk or dizzy… Just warm and quiet. I speak when I need to, eat when I need to, exercise when I need to… I’m taking care of two of me. All that can be said has been said, the words are a flock of birds, shifting this way and that. Pretty patterns in murmuration formed by elation as their purpose.

    “Know that whenever something permeates another it is assumed into the other.” (Al-Arabi) If the composite is to suffer, that of which it is comprised suffers. The grass eaten by the cow, becomes as much of the cow as the cow becomes the grass.

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  • No Title

    Portrait by Arshia Qasim, 2016

    This portrait was drawn by my dear friend Arshia Qasim; artist, poet, writer, empath, neurologist and the list goes on. She has recently taken on the founding of the Alhamra Art Center of New Jersey (https://www.facebook.com/ALHAMRAARTNJ/). Here, she will be displaying her beautiful creations in her first art exhibition called “Walls and Windows – a Spiritual Travelogue.” 11 February 2017 in New Jersey not far from NYC! (https://www.facebook.com/events/1802919163259034/). Please visit these pages and ponder the beauty and grace of creation.
    It is truly something to behold one’s self in the expression of others. So this sent me off pondering.
    In addition to what we know and have yet to learn about ourselves, within our image are the hidden geometry, colors, the textures that emerge through the inspired perceptions of others; each an artist in their own way. The mystery of oneself glistens in the many “reflectors” around us.
    Perhaps we are the convergence of countless perceptions; each of our individual and unique presentations merely being a “RE-presentation” of the very-same-true-image which is itself beyond our understanding. While precious and important, “that” we are unique is of less interest to me than “why.” “WHY” is why we search and searching is creating (pathways and records – artifacts); that is, we create because we are so deeply and often desperately seeking perfect ubiquitous cognition of “why” – the artistic byproduct of this struggle is the indefatigable yet imperfectable “expression of an understanding of something we can’t understand.” This is the inward battle that makes us greater in seeking greatness; forgiving in seeking forgiveness; self-full in seeking selflessly.
    What a blessing it is for every human being to be unreplicable yet derived from the same origin. Each of us sees the One origin in the state (and visage) of another and IF we train ourselves to look FULLY and lovingly at the infinite spectrum of diversity – we achieve such a beautifully “confounded” state, that all distinction blissfully dissolves and everything is Unity.

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  • My Teacher is Now

    I asked her to tea. She said, “my teacher advises me not to.” I told her my teacher said it’s okay. She asked me who is my teacher, I said, “the tea is my teacher.”

    I asked to kiss her. She said her teachers do not approve. I said that my teacher does. She asked me who my teacher is, I said that “the kiss is my teacher.” She asked, “why not the tea?” I replied, “but what does tea know about a kiss?”

    I asked her if she would go with me now for a walk. She said, “so your teacher is now the walk?” I said no, “my teacher is now.”

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  • Asleep with Dragonfly

    This habit of lying on the ground outside
    placing my ear to the earth.
    So one warm fall day
    I found myself in the arboretum,
    my face nuzzled into the breath
    of the forest floor;
    I became intoxicated by
    the sweet attar of velvet moss.

    The crispness of the quivering leaves
    left on the branches, whispered
    a lullaby and I, pressed to the world
    in its slow wobbling orbit.
    was swooned, my eyes closed.

    When I dreamed I woke,
    there on a burgundy leaf,
    a most placid dragonfly settled,
    it had come to take company with me.
    But I wondered who was in whose dream
    – or were we both on the same side of the veil.
    Every day, everything changes –
    and the more closely I listen,
    the nearer the answer of silence.

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  • Give Away What You Love: The Feather and the Mirror

    I read a friends accounting of her meeting with an artisan named Calisto, a traditional Hawai’ian woodworker.  He drove up to her house one day to buy a wheelbarrow from her. Both she and Calisto immediately knew that their coming together was for more than a financial transaction and they spoke of things well beyond words and mundane “accountings.” Their friendship burgeoned. Recently, he surprised her with a beautiful gift lovingly made from some tamarind wood she’d found and given him the day before. So moved, she gave him some bundled sage and a most auspicious feather she’d kept with her for years. As she watched him drive off in his truck, a beautiful owl came to roost on a fence post nearby. Intended for him, he returned the tamarind wood, sculpted and inlaid with a mirror. He gave her something formed from his own heart in which to reflect. And he took with him something quite dear to her heart.

    I am moved by the story. I am moved by the gentle intersections of human paths. The transience and the eternity. What we remember is the flare of the flame as the flint of one strikes the frizzen of the other. Even after this, even if the flame returns to the sun, we are left living in the present with the persistence of its warmth and light. We become the effects of our engagements if we nourish ourselves in the graceful orbit of encountering objects.

    Everything is a love affair and we often attach this to notions of the transient and carnal. And this habit of attachment causes us to miss the real Truth of love because we become caught in the gravity of falsity and we reason around illusion. One cannot wash away mud with mud. Whenever I meet a beloved, I am somehow breaking the binds of illusion. Love is water for the earth, sun for the leaf, air for flight.

    She gave him a feather that she kept as if her own for so long. The falling feather has been a reoccurring omen and talisman in my life. And while I hold no idols for God, I do believe He manifests messages in all things that fall to earth. So I see everyone and everything as the word of One ultimate true Being…even idols.

    So we give away what is loved the most. We return a golden fish to the river, a bird to the sky. The ocean is in the pearl we find in each oyster, we can remove the pearl from the shell, but never posses its greater essence. Each plume belongs in the wing of love… it is not ours to keep and does little unless part of that which allows us to fly. I’m grateful to meet people who let things go… truths given for greater truths.

    So when I see an owl fly, a fish swim, or a beloved drift on, I am reminded of my indissoluble presence with the universe. She and Calisto are each feathers in the wing, and the wing is within each of them. Even me now.

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  • Never Ending Spells of Bliss

    meminiJust beneath the expressive notes of the consoling ney (reed flute) I hear the current of His breath carrying the burden of the neyzen’s lamenting song. Such intimacy between the lips of man and the kiss of his Creator reveals a musical beauty that does not discriminate between sadness and joy.

    Many of us feel the spells of bliss amidst the austerity of living in this world.  Within these moments are radiating spires of clarity streaming through the breaks of shifting clouds.  It is the undercurrents of our present awareness dispersing the fog of pain and confusion.

    We often react to our pleasure so blindly and thus quickly go from both creator and created to simply spectator.  And so we whip out our cameras, open our notebooks and sketchpads, or raise our hands and voices toward the magnificence. No sooner do we set the snare for our experience, than the elusive moment shimmers one last time and blinks out for good.

    While walking with my young son along the Shenandoah mountain trails yesterday, he said, “…it’s weird how we rush down the path just to get to the next location, and then we get to that location and all we do is think about all the things we saw on our way to that location…” Was he simply impatient with our stops along the way, or was the effort of waiting revealing something so deeply profound to us both?

    We covet the beauty as if the sky-clearing-breath is solely our own; an occasional and accidental gust of wind.  Do we choose to be the occasional neyzen or are we each music’s timeless messenger? Beyond the limits of our easily distractible consciousness is a state of pure presence that is forever an open channel to the true breath.  The potential to shift the opacity and translucency of the heavens is not acquired from the crypts and treasure troves around us, but rather is recognized within ourselves through meditation and prayer.  We may withdraw our reach, but beauty is always within reach inside of us.

    Everything in the world is breath, persistent and unified. We are both the ney and its hollowness; the polished surface is the harmony to the melody within us.  The rising music is our honored wayfaring guest, a gracious essence – nourished by our presence and hospitality.

    Be all things by resisting possession of anything in particular.  And should you come across the wealth spring of being, give it away to the world’s chorus that stirs you.



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  • Darkness Longs for Its Shadow

    I spoke of poems I’d never write
    Of ghosts that haunt in broad daylight
    Like the time I kissed you silently
    When you forgot you said you’d remember me.

    Words that spill from a poet’s pen
    Form iron links that lock you in
    A heart whose walls are paper thin,
    From which you leap, you’re gone again.

    I find myself in darkness now…and it’s here I wish to linger. Darkness, an old friend who listens to my enlightening stories with a sardonic grin and small dagger that he slowly but deftly twirls in his fingers. He knows when to show up…when I hang the light of a beloved in the heavens, he comes and grins…and lets me continue to sing the praises. “Oh this love I’ve found…if you only knew.”

    This love we emanate pales in comparison to its source within. Yet we wield the light as if we hold the eye of God. We rip open our chest and beat rays of light on everything around us. “I never felt love, until I loved her…I never knew the beauty of the moon, until my heart shown upon it… ’tis my own illumination, whose reflection I seek.”

    I’m a tenant of my own heart…darkness is my neighbor on one side, light on the other. But the dark companion patronizes me…and taunts me to expend myself, “write poet, write! Cast that heavenly light on everything.” It is darkness that drives me to love myself blind – and it’s there the poet fumbles for his quill, spilling the ink reservoir all over the parchment. Darkness spreads whispers of light into the ears, but we hear with our hearts. Outside our hearts, darkness moans to enter, begs for deep and undulating penetration – to seduce its way into our hearts; but nay, not to snuff the flame within, but rather to reveal itself to itself in light. For how lonely it must be, to be darkness and never see your own reflection. How lonely to love, without another heart to at least cast back a glimpse of our own image.

    We are dervishes – wanderers and aloof mystics; seeking to seduce our way into the depths of the divine. But it is the divine that seduces us. You are the wandering gypsy and vagabond, learning to love in the absence of another’s presence. I see the emerald worn in that necklace, glimmering in the dark shadows to where she sometimes retreats. It takes but a pinpoint of light to find the heavenly source.

    “I want no more of this,” I once conceded…and threw up my fortresses. My hands cracking with dryness, my fingernails were laden with dirt from digging the mote around my heart, that no one would enter – and I spilled my own blood into its trenches. I took my fertility talisman up to the mouth of the volcano and threw it in with disgust. I leaned over to watch it descend into the sacrificial pyre – flames shot up, and the nuée ardente seared my eyelashes. I wanted no more of this idolatry…I’d been loving the symbol, wooing her for too long.

    I’d loved everything lit by the Sun, while I lusted for a brighter star. If love is a tiger, then lust is my pacing the cage. I loved my possessions, my family, many a vagabond and gypsy – I loved myself and my God.

    I loved my poetry – my beautiful poetry. Some writers court their readers – seeking not their understanding, but rather a watering eye. I wrote to be worthy of love… but not just any. Yet, I have whored myself to the masses, but being poet, a seam from my heart tore through and caught the eye of its reader, or rather, caught a glimpse of itself in the divine opening of another. God came through the emptiness – and without describable content filled my container.

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  • Endless Unwrapping

    I received such a peculiar combination of gifts.
    What is not peculiar
    about the diversity of unanticipated gifts
    is that “everything” is peculiar. The giving, the receiving –
    Oh, nothing can ever be so fully revealed
    with all this endless wrapping and unwrapping;
    and that continual revelation
    is the true gift.

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  • Weaving Friends

    I felt the pounding below my feet lighten with my steps… running through suburbia on an unusually warm late fall day. As I moved along, I noticed next to me a single spiders web stretching a great distance between two nearly leafless trees. I marveled in this, as I’m inclined to tinker with the mundane. And I thought of friends who’ve yet to meet each other, and those whose relationships depend on the connective gist of a gossamer thread.

    Hand over hand, each of us silently pulls along our lifeline back to the source. But what of the connections we foster between beloved friends? We universal town criers; we meditative match makers; seekers of gathering birds-of-a-feather; running out the rhythm of our melodious contemplations, gathering the accompaniment of stunning harmonizers. Friends follow nothing less than a love for the scent of each other, counting beads strung along the silk sequence of their sound.

    I have heard their amazing stories – blessed by these deep listening minds and gathering awareness.  To some extent, I’ve walked through the mansions of their hearts.  We all do this, and may we never leave our houses unattended for too long.  So long as I have the occasional visitor, I may never leave.

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