Tag Archives: Robert Frost

Refract Hope Through the Rainbow Window

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Hazrat Inayat Khan, circa 1920

New Start—284

A Ploy Called Poetry

A word of explanation about my poetry
Or maybe it’s more a full disclosure bit:
I write poems about the issues in my face
Like the disgrace of poor meditation

Or breath control
But I defend myself with a ploy called poetry
Which works in place of my Sufi “meditation”
I qualify the word because I was never good

At meditation which in the Sufi ashram was de rigueur
For fifteen minutes a day (And on spiritual themes!)
My other bugaboo Waterloo was because the Sufis were
Big on the breath too for instance they have a thing

Called Fikr in which you imagine your breath being
A playground swing thing and as it swings
Back and forth you ponder a choice
To be decided in your life

And if all goes well
Well then that’s like fine wine
But if it’s a bad thing for you
Your breath will falter

Yet I could never get that far
You see my mind is a steel trap
And not in a good way
For instance if told to watch the swing

Go back and forth
My mind says “Watch this!”
And makes the swing come to a dead stop
But as I write a poem I meditate quite naturally

Because all meditation is is paying attention
And I love my little inchoate poem I do
Wouldn’t you? If only for gratitude
For somebody listening to your heart?

And this love breeds attention span so I can
Refract hope through the rainbow window
Of translucent colored pebbles in my heart
Like a Good Little Kaleidoscope

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

While I am on the subject of my poetry (see above), perhaps you have noticed that often the poem is not so much for artistic expression but is rather my medium for expressing a thing of importance to me metaphysically (see above). I even use a poem instead of prose to express a metaphysical idea. What I am getting at is sometimes my poems are also a sort of essay, which you’d think is perforce a prose thing.

But I do suspect something is lost when writing poems whose primary function is to explain ideas and so is not as dynamic as a lyrical poem for instance.

I like to think of it as a musical in which there is a switch from exposition to exhibition.

In other words the prosaic ideas are sort of dressed up (like for when company comes for Sunday dinner) as poetry inspired from the heart.

I guess it’s then this simple:

A lot of my poems are about how I approach how-to Sufi questions, (like a woodworker may read or write a woodworking magazine).

Whereas other poems have a different purpose and if you asked what was the purpose? It would be a meaningless question like asking Beethoven what was the purpose of an arpeggio.*

I should emphasize once again that Sufism is not like other “religions” in which one is given rules and a dogma to study. No, Sufis start from scratch. Although this Sufi believes in reincarnation which make starting from scratch like the old saying that scientists have stood on the shoulders of previous scientists.

It’s all a matter of successive progress. But I digress.

Anyway, to further clarify, I am like Will Rogers, who denied belonging to any “organized political party” on the grounds he was a Democrat.

Yup Sufis aren’t necessarily organized and if someone gathers a following it is on a case by case basis which depends on both the pupil’s interest and background but also his or her deepest longing which after millions of lifetimes well you add up the variables and then tell me how we should all just follow one size fits all rules.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS—I am imminently off to my annual California vacation, for a month or so (to visit family and old friends) and then a week or so back in Guatemala to visit my best friend here the nonpareil art restorer, Daniel Casimiro, who works for the Basilica in Esquipulas (home of world famous “Black Jesus”) as their art restorer for their cache of centuries old Christian art. And I just fell and broke my right arm, which may occasion a delay in my next post (Fortunately yhis post was about ready, and but it’s hard to type with only the left (non-dominant) hand.

PPS—Please forgive any typos. It’s hard to play copy editor with a broken dominant hand.

*Which brings to mind an amusing story about Robert Frost.

Once, when he was giving a reading, and during questions afterwards a lady asked him to explain what the poem meant.

He smiled and agreed to try, and proceeded to read the poem again.

When she still had the same question, he smiled encouragement and patiently read the poem again. And at some point she wised and shut up.

I will leave you to draw inferences as to how this applies to poems that are more like music or have that quality mixed and if you tried to dissect out which part was which and how it worked together, well now that reminds me of another story, this from E. B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web) who said “You can dissect a joke like you can dissect a frog. But it tends to die on you.”

The Old Guy Has a Cast Iron Stomach

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J. R. R. Tolkien

 

New Start–68

Science Proves the Existence of Love

“At his right hand, holding a trumpet, stood Hussein,
his bodyguard, a giant Oriental, wicked as a monkey . . .”
–Nikos Kazantzakis (The Greek Passion)

Now hold on!
I must speak in defense
Of the essential goodness of monkeys
For instance an experiment I read about
In psychology class with monkeys charged

To keep safe their monkey friends
They had to push a button
When a red light appeared or their friend
Would receive an electric shock
But they could intervene

(They had their own countermanding button)
But guess who got the ulcer?
Not the victims being protected
Though they knew the risk they were under
No it was the undertow of monkey love

The left hand of their friend’s fervent
Yet ulcer-producing defense
That had cost the monkey friend
And I’m sorry about that ulcer business
Though in general I like it when science proves

The existence of love
Speaking of which you’d think
Poor God then would get an ulcer
But I hear the old Guy
Has a cast iron stomach

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
(First, an apology if any recognize any of this post. Though it has been quite changed, it was cannibalized and adapted from pre-post records of an earlier post, that some hacker vandal erased from the archives; God knows why)

“Daddy! Daddy! I crossed the street all by myself, and I didn’t even get runned over!”
–Mehera Halliwell
(At age five, demonstrating proper gratitude for what she receives in life)

Something there is that doesn’t love a friend.*

Hell, something doesn’t love ceramics. Or so you could conclude by how often dishes break. Even valuable antique ones.

Not that I am suggesting paranoia.

No. it’s just like we look before we cross the street. So I think some “paranoia” is healthy. Indeed, some wise guys have suggested taking care, with reasonable precautions.

Yes, danger is there. That’s probably why with Jesus it wasn’t enough we be as gentle as lambs. It was good also to be wise as serpents. And sometimes the threat’s a spy behind our lines like some Wormtongue** within, whispering fear and/or other negativity. But in Sufism, it’s kind of an echo of Jesus when he said “By their fruits shall ye know them.” If afterwards (or during what you are doing) you are sick at heart, well, I believe in signs.

But the scary times are when that is too late. Meher Baba, the co-founder of Sufism Reoriented*** (the other being Hazrat Inayat Khan) had a favorite song, Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine.” There’s a telling lyric there which refers to cursing “the chance that was wasted.”

We’ve been talking about friendship.

I say “we” because I am expecting company on this blog–why? Well I am just being here a good Sufi. Keeping an optimistic attitude. Because it is always sweet to find there are people who share our concerns. It can even come to feel like family, such sharing. I start with friendship, but soon perhaps I will segue to another form of love: family, for instance. Of course too, I also think of my friends as that and in the very best tradition of that.

So as you may have surmised, today I will talk about how careful we have to be with friendship. But whenever I can, I will ditch the prose and rely on my poetry. If only because when a poem is any good it gets right to it and my prose likes to play Ring-around-the-Rosie. And gets to fall down a lot (on the job). But not in the other sense. It’s pulling teeth to get it to shut up. So my prose tends not to want to ever fall down (read: shut up).

Indeed.

Sometimes I think I became a poet as pure therapy for long-windedness.

And so without further ado, to the rescue.

I refer to a switch to poetry.

But for that you must see the above poem. It’s a poem about a true friendship that is a little off the beaten path of such poems, but to paraphrase James Thurber, “I think you will be amused by its presumption.” And speaking of poetry, I must digress to mention that just today I posted on Facebook two quotes about poetry. (FYI I am big on collecting interesting and/or inspiring quotes. As you will note if you check out the Quotes button up top. Along with Poems and Stories), Yes and though this is a pro-Sufi blog, suffice it to say it’s also a pro-poetry blog. Of course, that is tainted by my fierce belief that poetry is a very Sufi thing. Largely because it is therapeutic to the heart, and Sufism is the religion of the heart. So it’s hard to nail down stuff like connection/causation.)

“In the Eskimo language, the words for ‘to breathe’ and ‘to make a poem’ are the same.”
–Lyn Lifshin

“Poetry ought to be a by-product of living, and you can’t have a by-product unless you’ve got a product first.”
–Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety

So I am at my putative word limit and so time to say good-bye. Which customarily has been with this sign off: “God be with you.” But maybe it’s again time to explain how I came to that. I had an epiphany which helped me to choose. There is a line in a Bob Dylan song (Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right) that always puzzled me, “Good-bye’s too good a word, Babe, so I’ll just say fare thee well.” I remember good-bye is a contraction for “God Be With You” which is clearly a better word than a mere fare thee well.

And so, God be with you. Hasta la proxima.
Eric Halliwell

*Full Disclosure: Robert Frost reference: (Mending Wall) “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”

**Wormtongue was a weaselly advisor to the king of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings. (Happy to say, he got his comeuppance!)

***The Sufi order I was initiated into and which I belonged to from 1972–1979.