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Everything’s an offshoot of something else
just as we are offshoots

So a boat on the high seas being tossed by waves
got there by a web of circumstances that
includes the tempest sunset whose
gorgeous glory fills the doomed with joy

Is our job to cut some shoots and
let others prosper?
Not all lead to healthy outcomes
but all are intertwined

A black rose filled with venom
as much as that deep red one filling the
house with death-defying fragrance

Each extension of ours from here to there
interconnectedly resulting from

that event now sliding into obscurity
while another event emerges with its
painted backdrop of sheep-filled valleys
under pellucid skies

One step away or toward somewhere rather than
somewhere else making a perfect
pattern if seen from above perhaps that being
the vantage from which the star shapes and
snowflake designs the circle coils and
black holes of our lives can be

leading always back (and forward) to a
divine spring rushing over

slick rock beds of wonder
7/6/2007 (from The Sound of Geese Over the House, in preparation)

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Flowers in the shapes of cozy houses,
fountains in the shapes of windows
opening onto gardens,
roadways over bridges in the shape of
prancing white horses,
bridges leaping over gurgling streams in the

shape of two people in love gazing into
each other’s eyes over
tea and cucumber sandwiches,

esplanades in the shape of classical German literature,

trees flying upward like stationary flames,
their dark leaves rippling endlessly upward
in the shapes of deep-sea tropical lantern fish
suddenly become Flamenco dancers on a
hot Spanish night in Granada,

the garden itself in the shape of a heartbeat
all alone over the edge of the world, face
to the black night,

the black night itself in the shape of a
garden circling endlessly back
into itself like
circulating blood,

eyes and faces of children from the subcontinent
or from Madagascar, surrounded by
exotic vegetation,

the moment in which the garden is glimpsed
in the shape of all those missed opportunities
or in the shape of a sudden breakthrough in the

the heart of the garden, the voice of the
garden in the shape of an
angel’s wing that opens onto a
stairway within a stairway within a
stairway that leads either

up or down depending on your
preference, or where your

garden-shaped, fire-shod feet have led you in
this life.
6/8/97 (from Chants for the Beauty Feast, Ecstatic Exchange, 2010)

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When we look at death’s door it
looks like nothing at all

Blank and featureless
a serious expression on a featureless

face that could be gazing across
empty desert or a crowded room

at a dark frail flower limp on its
stem or a king propped up on his

ermine pillows surrounded by wives and viziers
or at a wall as blank as itself

in front of unfathomable space
full of indifferent planetary matter

whirling to its own music

a camel sleeping by a tent-flap
waiting to be mounted for a month’s trek

a plane smoothly gliding twelve hours homeward

a mortally sick pre-teen boisterously
chatting with ten best-friend schoolmates

a lone spider waiting too long on an
unprofitable web in a dusty under-populated


This side of the door is the
only side of the door we can see

Centuries pass through the moment
and it remains the only

side we can see though before it in its
shady light and unambiguous atmosphere

huge ceremonies take place
and backwards celebrations with the

celebrants holding their breath

Oh ocean behind the door of true pure

Ocean behind death’s door in us of true pure silence
by the shore of the living and most alive

daily ocean of silence

none of us alone for an instant
from your thralldom’s kingdom

have mercy on the little ones and the

You are God’s door in your
starry radiance

standing with no walls in
emptiness of space

each creature eyeing you with
fond hope and expectation

knowing the annals of your
complicated mythologies and your direct

irrefutable invitations

So many symphonies written to
woo you

so many choirs written to call up your
most sympathetic angels to soften the blow

so many doors for each one of us
erected in the stir and softness of

each one’s cosmos with their exact
particulars and names whispered or said out loud

God King of all this
King and Master of our allotted breaths

unmistakable recognition as the
door squeaks open a tiniest crack

and one sharp ray of Your Light pours out
even should we live many decades more

in perfect or in dubious health
our own bodies Your

death door behind which our
organs play their parts to the

best of their energies and according to
Your decree’s calculated speed

a lightning flash splatter shock above a
sleeping town

the irritable nose twitch on a
deeply hibernating bear

the first smile not from intestinal gas
on a new baby’s face

fairy lights over a meadow
bird flocks gathering in a spring

birdbath ten or twenty at a

time suddenly at the end of its
tether with no length left

Let the blast of Your sweet
Mercy never subside on all of us

one creature at a time
and all of us together

at once

Death’s door’s
silent smart momentary

ding dong bell

tart dewdrop
on our silent tongues

All’s well
3/25/14 (from The Sweet Enigma of it All)

Posted in ABDAL-HAYY'S POETRY, Death, fana fillah, ISLAM/SUFISM, Muslim Poetry, POEMS, POETRY, Sufi Poetry | 12 Comments

Orpheus Wore That Look


Orpheus wore that look of astonishment for the
rest of his life

How could he have been so
thoughtless as to turn around?

And so near the top?

Wasn’t hearing her behind him on the
steep gravel enough?

It was all dark anyway and he couldn’t
have made out those features that

so swung him around

In the end Majnun even says he doesn’t want to
actually be with Laila

He has Laila inside him

If we’re given a command and its
conditions knowing full well breaking it

entails disaster

what crazy mechanism inside us
whispers its shaytanic hiss to

flagrant disobedience?

Adam and Eve! Back to the original
in the leafiest loveliness known

plucking fruits at our pleasure
and being held accountable for our

wrong move so deeply inspired
a split second of

colossal miscalculation we
pay for for the rest of our lives

The two beloveds almost floating up the
steep incline from the Underworld

They could feel the upper air’s fresh
breezes on their eyelids and cheeks

Orpheus could have evermore sung his joy

Is this an explanation for the
rough time we have here?

We can’t control ourselves to do what’s

Is lament the real song we sing
each time we sing?

Even as we dress it up as “Orpheus:
The Musical”?

Do we own any of this?
Is our own phantom lurking around in the

shadows to curse us?

Can’t our clear face face God and
win the day?

Can’t the Prophet’s mere gorgeousness in every
act of his control us?

God’s Peace seal us in His embrace?________________________________________________
4/19/14 (from The Sweet Enigma of it All, in preparation, insha’Allah)

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Saintly Places


We need to stand in saintly places
the way our body needs food to not topple over

We need to go there and find nearness there
even just a rude rock-strewn place where something

saintly took place or is taking place
tombs in giant sepulchers or a rude

rock-strewn place you can feel under your
feet or at the base of the heart the

non-physical saintliness of a real person in whom
God was by that person’s pleasing Him pleased

and stand there in its crystal waters rushing
past our ears and bathing our limbs the way

careful mothers of all creatures bathe their young
in the same way really we need to

find and stand in saintly places in this world
or stand with saintly ones and

stand with them for a time or for all time
and once found not ever leave their sainted precincts

in time or out of time
but stand with them

in their saintly places or those
who have gone before whose places are still

palpably alive the way even other live places
are not but these places are refuges and

refueling places not known anywhere
else on earth or with any other practitioners

and to stand in the bounty of a saintly place is
indescribable but evident if not then

then now in its great effect and the continuous affect
it has on us to

stand just once or have stood for even a small time
in space

in saintly places
8/10/2005 (from Stories Too Fiery to Sing Too Watery to Whisper, in preparation)

Posted in ABDAL-HAYY'S POETRY, amazement, fana fillah, gratitude, ISLAM/SUFISM, Kaaba, Light, Love of God, Muslim Poetry, POEMS, POETRY, saints, Sufi Poetry, The Path, The Soul, waking up | Leave a comment





A little ramshackle shack on a hill
blown apart by the wind
door roof and walls lofted aloft and sent flying
no weightier than paper upon which is casually written
a name
twists in the air almost signals goodbye then
suddenly is gone only
bare hillside left behind
a goat now stands upon
two goats a small herd after the wind’s died down
straggle along distractedly

Madame X is led out to the guillotine where a
head once encircled by ermine on a tall neck once
encircled by strings of pearls and glittering diamonds
rolls like a dark pearl into a basket its
eyes rolled heavenward its body relaxed
backward like a flung necklace onto a
marble tabletop in an
empty room after the
ball is over


Imagine the precise and daunting gears and
levers of the decree that led to all those innocent
people meeting death at the World Trade Center in
New York September 11, 2001
all the little accumulating gestures and maneuvers that
put them at their desks on schedule in time to die
the horrific fireball of the angel of death who may have
appeared to them all at the last as
cool refreshing waterfalls of light or open
delightful corridors leading to emerald green
gardens so bright with joy they forgot completely
how they got there

We all wonder how we’ll die
hoping for a soft bed in a warmly lit room surrounded by
loved ones after a short and not too uncomfortable
illness a kind of light cough or a
stitch in the side and that’s all
never imagining falling to the ground from 110 stories in the air
or twisted in molten steel like a tyrant’s cage
in suffocating smoke


The high school diplomas the happy
vacation moments in Cancun across a turquoise pool
the epiphanies while reading Moby Dick
the birthday banquets with long-lost relatives
the recent wedding or long-awaited love letter received

It’s a lone figure in a woolen hat on a sheer white hillside
whose coat trails the ground and whose
footprints evaporate once the meeting’s taken place

It’s unfathomable and beyond any human
words devised to describe it
and for all those souls lost in the New York disaster
whose accidental but destined martyrdom is absolutely assured
(except ironically to the fanatically deluded
hell-bound perpetrators of the unthinkable
disaster itself)

there are coats of eiderdown so soft and pearls so ethereally gorgeous
so filled with subatomic music that pours out of
every gap in their weave to envelop the air in
ecstatic choir

And the divine shadow of Truth moves aside to let pour
a radiance so pure every moment set in motion in time
one step after another year after year that led to their
being there in the right place at the
supreme right time
suddenly becomes a series of perfect stepping stones like floating
lily pads over deep black water to a Paradise even our
most ornate imaginations cannot adequately imagine


People are very involved with having
faces and eyes and thoughts of their own and
smells in the odorous parts of their
bodies where the human anatomy dictates

They move with a certain self-consciousness which is sometimes
nonchalant and at other times unnatural
they can feel their spines hunched or vertically straight
and how their rib-cages make room for their

People are curious capsules of atmospheres and internal weathers
and at complete ease are either blessed with expansive
horizons or cursed with tics and foibles that
intensely constrain them
a consciousness that may include the Serengeti for example with
all its wild flora and fauna or the
bleached out and tattered prospect of simply
four walls a ceiling and a floor

Young ones often betray a jumpy and eager quality
old ones a sleepy and generally exhausted quality though they
may achieve beneficence from time to time as their
bones creak and their nerves ache

But each one is categorically a cosmos and has vivid
cosmological thinking and a deep appreciation of its consequences
and each one experiences the end of the
world when death appears like a
yawning sea to drown them in its

drawing back within it the
essence of their beauty


This is the music space
where music is most difficult
this place of joy and horror
sound of fuselage entering steel as if
slicing through butter

This is the silence out of which
all the thrilling chords emerge

This is the space of the silence of souls
at their moment of release

This is the air over a dewy wheat field
crackling like cellophane in the morning light

This is the music space
voices in a room of those
visible and those who are invisible

I think the music of the spheres
can be heard in this space

It’s the sound of life
which takes place without echo
or is nothing but echo

And the original sound is the
sound of God alone audible to Himself
and we are the humming elements of that sound

This is the music space
we hear it this very moment

It’s the sound of hooves
and nothing at all like the sound of hooves

It’s the endlessly heaving ocean-sound
which turns out to be our blood beating
and the deep tidal push of our own heartbeats

Each whisper of love and fear and grief
rises in this music space

And one single note is enough to fill it

And silence itself is part of it

And the silence or the sound that follows it
is also part of it
9/15-16 (from The Music Space, Ecstatic Exchange, 2007)

(NOTE: I first read this poem in its entirety in public at an event produced by the New York ASMA Society in Grace Cathedral, January 19, 2002, Reflections at a Time of Transformation.)

Posted in ABDAL-HAYY'S POETRY, Angel of Deathj, Death, ETERNITY, ISLAM/SUFISM, Music, Music of the Spheres, Muslim Poetry, Muslim Prayer, NINE ELEVEN, POEMS, POETRY, signs of allah, Silence, Sufi Poetry, World Trade Center Tragedy | 1 Comment

World Split Apart



The façade of a building falls away and
reveals a man praying

A bakery loses its show-window showing a
hundred weddings who’ll have to
wait in the next world for their cakes

An Orthodox cathedral split in two
revealing a solemn baptism that’s now become
more like a drowning

A synagogue smashed like the tablets of Moses
the dust of the Torah continuing to
rise for years through the lunar cycles

A medieval mosque’s minaret struck into rubble
and the muezzin’s call going out bodiless
a hundred times louder

The road rutted with machinegun fire
and ghost cows dancing with their dazzled cowherds

New houses and old houses collapsing like cards
and the surprised furniture giving up their
inhabitants like birds released from their cages

Windows of government buildings falling into streets
revealing some making secret deals and others
receiving holy light for works of self-sacrifice
anonymously accomplished

A firehouse going up in flames and no
nozzle quenching it

A police department getting flattened and no
police whistles piping through the roar of falling plaster

Trees just coming into bud turning as black as
pokers their fruit both present and future
now gracing the fresh tables of the dead

Hillsides turning as black as ash
revealing lairs of tiny mammals
tremblingly shielding their young

This earth sliced apart like a unripe melon
revealing both incandescent fury
and radiant secrets of redemption
incomprehensibly intertwined

No one returning with a happy face at the
end of the day or followed by children like the
Pied Piper to safety beyond the rocks

The soul of man split asunder at the
first crack of unjust death and unjust retaliation

revealing a person naked drenched in
original water coming toward us surrounded by
anticipatory angels anxious for an

outcome already known to Him
who benignly created us

and Whose Voice rises inaudibly
above all other voices

saying over and over
the single word:

(from In the Realm of Neither, Ecstatic Exchange, 2009)

Posted in ABDAL-HAYY'S POETRY, Angel of Deathj, dead children, ISLAM/SUFISM, Muslim Poetry, POEMS, POETRY | Tagged , , | Leave a comment