Passover

God calls forth his plague

a devouring goddess

of old

firebreather

with wings of smoldering coal

and I

like Moses

40 years in the wild

driving at dark through the land of Pharaoh after a show in Vegas

Rolling Stones Radio

gas station coffee

a photo of my daughter

poised on the dash

for the she-beast

to passover

I watch her now

those death angel wings

dip and swirl in the rearview

One long beat

She sharpens the eye

against neon violence

I wonder if you know of her sweet tooth

for the hidden sugar in sick bellies

Rumi mentioned it to me in passing

one Christmas in college

He said, baby girl:

Blessed be the destroyer

She just opens that big black beak

over the great howl

and eats

Why Wine is Forbidden

“Sometime in the night my Beloved turned on me and swallowed me whole. I disappeared. And that’s the sin. Literally, without. Empty. Disconnected. Lost.”

So I love red wine.

The passion behind that statement deserves its own sentence.

In fact, if it weren’t for this pesky disease, I would be Rumi and she the honorable Shams of Tabriz.

I flip open my Essential Rumi this afternoon and, no kidding, I land on this one:

Why Wine is Forbidden

When the Prophet’s Ray of intelligence

struck the dim-witted man he was with,

the man got very happy and talkative,

Soon he began unmannerly raving.

This is the problem with a selflessness

that comes quickly,

as with wine.

If the wine drinker 

has a deep gentleness in him,

he will show that

when drunk.

But if he has hidden anger and arrogance,

those appear,

and since most people do,

wine is forbidden to everyone.

Selflessness (ego abandonment).  Comes Quickly (Knowledge, not Wisdom).  And, when drunk (I think we can all draw our own conclusions there).

That’s the trifecta for me in that poem.  It’s not about our so called true colors shining while under the influence.  I don’t believe that.  We are all capable of volatile displays of emotion at any moment, drunk or not.

What I see happening here is borrowed enlightenment, descending in a passionate rush.  An enthusiastic one night stand.  There’s no conversation, no engaged dialogue, no authenticity.  The Love element is unstable, implodes, and comes out the under side on its back.

Without traction, without mindful intention the addict’s sensualist power turns on her and everyone she encounters.

Ever chasing that sweet spot, on the brink of delight, Billie Holiday moaning in the background; then suddenly (or so it seemed in retro), fetal and broken.  With someone I love telling me how “different” I seem.  What do you mean, I’d say?  (Denial).  I don’t know, you’re just different.

God, that line really haunted me for some reason.  Still does.

Sometime in the night my Beloved turned on me and swallowed me whole. I disappeared.  And that’s the sin.  Literally, without.  Empty.  Disconnected.  Lost.

I’ve never been a fan of fire and brimstone conversion no matter the circumstance; but I will admit the analogies resonate.  Addiction is Hell.  An abuse of communion.  A perversion.  A demon to be exorcised.

Until then, the ray of intelligence falls over and over again on a dead body.

<Insert soulful sigh>

But as for this night, Lovers: “the woods are lovely, dark and deep,” and we are the moon rising and the wolf within, licking a wound where Rumi’s Light will enter.

One damn day at a time.

A Brief for the Defense

“We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world…”

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Jack Gilbert

Thankful I’m not blessed

“I’m thankful for every starving addict in the world because that hunger is a light house.”

I’m thankful for all the spewing demons behind the wheel of cars tonight because they are buying pies and visiting grandmas.

(I’m thankful for my dying Saturn because I feel like a tiny God when I lift the hood and shoot a knowing grin at a few of the pieces now).

I’m thankful for spending five hours in the ER with my daughter last night because when she puts her hand through the bars of that bed I get to squeeze it.

I’m thankful for the old woman I met there, whose agonized moans made my Love lurch.

(I’m thankful for every hour I waited for the goofy, bespectacled doctor who made us laugh over Bruce Springsteen stories and Lidocaine).

I’m thankful for alcoholism because it is the filthy mat I fall on daily; and most times when I lift my face, I see God.

I’m thankful for every starving addict in the world because that hunger is a light house.

So, I’m thankful I’m not blessed.

I’m thankful for every horrible thing I’ve ever said or done because I can’t fix yesterday, only now.

I’m thankful for the devastation of divorce because our blackest voids are really cosmic bangs of creation.

I’m thankful for every profane word ever spoken because passion is the seed of Christ.

I’m thankful for every offensive word ever spoken because it is fuel to a fire that needs to burn.

I’m thankful for every photo I have never shared because I am no different than any one of you.

And I’m thankful for every man, woman, or child brutally alone tonight because on the shore of that darkness is a broken hearted Lover waiting with a warm wrap.

Here I am. 

Lament

“I would like to step out of my heart and go walking beneath the enormous sky…”

Everything is far

and long gone by,

I think that the star

glittering above me

has been dead for a million years.

I think there were tears

in the car I heard pass

and something terrible was said.

A clock has stopped striking in the house

across the road…

When did it start?…

I would like to step out of my heart

and go walking beneath the enormous sky.

I would like to pray.

And surely of all the stars that perished

long ago,

one still exists.

I think that I know

which one it is–

which one, at the end of its beam in the sky,

stands like a white city…

Rainer Maria Rilke