Though the following is clearly not poetry, it is poetical in spirit, and what’s more important, it just goes here!

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Because I say so.” — Karima Vargas Bushnell

Little Monk

I think I was very happy as a little monk working on illuminations. A humble person, rarely or never allowed to touch the gold paint, but doing my part, my little bits of flowers or letters or borders as needed, my little side ornaments. Surely this was not a joy for everyone. There must have been monks abused by bad abbots, pushed around by elder brothers, misunderstood and slighted, cold and hungry. Every profession has its bad places. I mostly went unnoticed, and if I was cold or hungry at times, I don’t remember and don’t believe it bothered me. What I do remember is the perfect peace of working with ink and paper, letters and designs. Go on, tell me this little fellow would never have been allowed to do such and such. You’re quite likely right. I believe I was treated with kindness, and I knew the silent happiness of slow concentration on a beloved object. It comes again as I write in Arabic, slowly, carefully, recapturing the stage of twenty years ago. Last week by accident, I made a perfect Qaf, though my dots were not perfect. For the gift of ink and paper, for the space and peace and silence, for the great blessing of being the most minor player in the halls of real learning, this little monk and I, again, praise God.


Sufi Love Poetry

There’s a type of love experienced by mystics and others which the Sufis call ishq. The teacher who most awakened me gave the name Circle of Ishq to the group for which I’m responsible, and his teacher wrote mystical poetry under the related name of Ashki (a variant of ishq), so it’s in our blood, so to speak.

This is not a calm love, to put it mildly, and it can lead to different degrees of disaster, awakening or both. Because I first fell passionately in love in kindergarten, books and movies cannot be blamed for this tendency in me, except perhaps Jane Eyre, which my somewhat eccentric mother read to me at age five.

For some, this kind of love is not just an emotional experience, but a spiritual path, a rich and varied landscape through which we travel. It has its mountains, its deserts, and its watered gardens. Here are a few of the scenic outlooks.

The way of passionate love, Alhamdulillah
Transformed by divine love, all praises are flowing to Allah

                                                 — from the ecstatic holy songs of the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi order

Following Rumi* Part 1

“I want burning,” said Rumi.

So did I, until the fire got hot.

“A parachute, quick,” I cried.

“God help me, pour on water!”

I said, “Light my pyre,” and He took me seriously.

Ten months of daily and hourly burning.

“It takes incredible mental

and physical suffering

to become a friend of God,” I read.

Is this a stubbed toe, a broken leg,

or death?

Following Rumi Part III

Another hole for the flute,

Bored through the wood of the heart’s core.

More pain, more notes for the Divine Composer.

It renders me speechless

But how I can sing!

*Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, known as the Pole or Axis of Love, is the 13th-century Persian poet, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic who drew from the depths of the Qur’an to write works which, in translation, have introduced the global West to the Sufi path of love.


For you I am a young girl

In a garden of peaches

tender, expectant.

The breeze touches her cheek.

This night so beautiful —

Surely Love will come.

Sea and Wall

Ocean waves beat against a great, gray wall.

The waves seek connection, a response.

There is nothing . . . nothing . . . nothing.

The wall is silent, empty, blank.

The wall is tired and weary, annoyed and enduring. “If only this would stop,” it  thinks. “Oh, if this noise would go away! There’s no room to breath, no air.”

The waves have energy to share, projects, laughter, meaning and ideas, boundless power. Beneath their crashing surface lies a world of depths. They want to play!  And they want to go everywhere!

The wall, silent and enduring, wants none of it. Every interaction is a loss, a drain. Quiet and in pain, it does its duty, maintaining a surface of good manners.

The wall has depths too. It conceals forests, creatures, worlds.

Rarely, the waves glimpse them, like the silent play of seals and shells, whales and coral, all submerged.

Would you like to watch an irresistible force battle an immovable object?

Maybe not. It isn’t pretty.

The sea has learned, “Break through by trying harder. Push forward, always. Shout until they hear you!”

The wall has learned, “Protect yourself with silence, blankness. Give them nothing. Then they’ll go away.” These two tactics, which have worked, do not work against each other.

Both are tired, disgusted. Maintaining or not maintaining a surface of good manners, each escapes into a separate dream. Each wishes that the other would go away.

One hundred years.

Then one day: “Oh,” says the wall. “You wanted me to see you, not your surface, and look you in the eye. I’m sorry — I did all I could.” Oh,” says the sea. “You wanted peace and silence. I’m sorry!”

And the waves discover. . . that Silence is a good thing

When chosen, not compelled.

A Shy Little Poem

No words

A gentle touch

A kiss on your eyelids

Safe in your arms


Nothing to say

Nothing to do


Following Rumi Part II

The bewildered ache of your absence

No passionate storms of protest

No emotions that lash like a gale

Tired of dashing itself against the bars,

This tiger lies curled in a corner of its cage.

Beneath duties and challenges

Enjoyments and frustrations

1000 small interactions

The bewildered ache of your absence.

These tears don’t fall

They leak sideways from the eyes

Silent and continuous

No sharp blue pen for this poem

I’m writing with a dull pencil.

How appropriate.

Dream and Waking

My small, soft kisses

fall on you like rain

one here, one there

drop by drop

as pure as snowdrops.

Perhaps in time

your body will be drenched

with the rain of my kisses.

Was I with you last night?

A waking full of sweetness

but dreams eluded me like clouds.


A lighthouse

Sending gleams of brilliance over the dark water.

A radio tower

Flinging shafts of inspired craziness into the void.

Is anyone listening?

Everyone? No one?

I did.

Beneath the wit

Well defended

Something sweet

Something rare and precious.

If life allowed

I would walk this country.

I would bury my face

In this large flower,

And rest my head there.

It feels like home.


He is the sun

You are the lens

I am that which is cooked and burned

beneath the lens

“Take not unto yourselves

lords and patrons other than Allah.”

But my lord and patron

is not other than Allah.

Looking where He was

I see only you.

Is this a sin

or Unity?

You are an open doorway

He, the wind that blows through you.

You are an empty river bed.

The rushing torrent you contain

is only He


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