The Flame of Transformation Turns to Light $15

These poems in traditional ghazal form, the first half begun in Turkey, are a companion volume to “open form” poems written at a later visit, published in 2006 as Love is a Letter Burning in a High Wind (The Ecstatic Exchange). Visiting the epiphany-inducing tombs of Mevlana Rumi and his spiritual companion Shems in Konya, their baraka bathing the journey, the grave of Turkey’s great native Sufi poet, Yunus Emre, and traveling through a land of such subtle spirituality, these poems chronicle an imagistic diary through both interior and exterior countrysides, with the second half continued in the same vein at home in Philadelphia.

Poem Selection from The Flame of Transformation Turns to Light

Ghazal: At Rumi’s Tomb


A sky shaped like a face – no it can’t be that
A wingéd horse on fire in the middle of the air – no it can’t be that

A sound of bells that burns from the feet to the heart
A whisper of hidden words falling from the top of a tree – no it can’t be that

A look across centuries that today is enshrouded in the world
The touch of a child’s hand who already knows the secret – no it can’t be that

A bridge of light in all the usual places
A bird that expands to embrace every living heart – no it can’t be that

An eye that beholds the cave where the Prophet became Messenger
A sing-song voice speaking perfect rhyming sentences – no it can’t be that

Hello before you arrive and Hello again before you get up to go
A kiss across green water that reflects both sun and moon – no it can’t be that

A call from within Rumi’s shirt so old its threads look like rain
A light that slides up a corner of the tomb and fills the body – no it can’t be that

What is it then? Is there any answer?
Is it possible to say? – no it can’t be that

Ameen was gone for a moment but something remained
There’s only a trace left in the air from all of us – no it can’t be that

Mevlana – we certainly had a magnificent celebration
Does it need to end? – no – please – it can’t be that

5/7/2002 (from The Flame of Transformation Turns to Light)
(written at Rumi’s tekke in Konya)

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Ghazal on the Prophet, peace be upon him


The Prophet Muhammad walked in – his face a moon – his head represented by God’s flame
The room filled with rose-scent – the windows with doves – in our hearts we scented God’s flame

How on earth did a man like this come among us? How beloved of Allah – how kind!
All who saw him as nothing but a mad relative became demented by God’s flame

The world was reversed by him – inside became outside – outside became in –
Each word came from Truth’s conflagration – descended by God’s flame

It burned up this old world and replaced it with a pure one –
Both world and self entering purifying fire – even if resenting God’s flame

His touch was sure – his tread so light – his smile creation’s first morning on earth –
In his eyes was inexpressible perfection – augmented by God’s flame

His voice pronounced words spaced like individual pearls on a string –
We hear them as clearly today – as though aged and fermented by God’s flame

A star straight above him in the Unseen points him out wherever he goes –
Allah’s increasing love for him through the centuries – as portended by God’s flame

As the Prophet passes we long for him to stay – to turn to us – bathing in his light –
Allah’s most beloved before anything was even invented by God’s flame

His sweetheart – His intimate – His Messenger – His most cherished creation –
Just hearing his name pours new stars into the sky – supplemented by God’s flame

In a dark smoky corner of the world – as far as China – as near as our jugular vein –
The pulse of the Divine throbs out his name – linked forever with God’s – implemented by God’s flame

This firmament – each lineament – each filament – each element –
Ameen – his graces flow without limit or measurement – documented by God’s flame!

6/20/2002 (from The Flame of Transformation Turns to Light)

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Ghazal: Opalescent Soul

As humans we have so many things to look after – our nails – our hair – our hearts – our transcendent souls –
We file our nails – we cut our hair – we fall in love or find the true object of the love of our resplendent souls –

A camel stands in silhouette in moonlight on a desert horizon – majestic and nobly still –
The whole scene taken in by our eyes of love – ancient dimension of our luminescent souls!

I see you over the wall in your garden so tenderly tending your red and yellow roses –
You move so slowly you might be a ghost – the most vivid thing your bright quiescent soul

If we veer too far to the left we might founder – if we veer too far to the right we might turn to stone –
The frenzy of movement from side to side is the wild animal of our adolescent souls –

I just ate an animal cracker from the bag – it’s hard to tell what it is – it might be a horse –
The fuzzy and insecure outlines of so many folk show the sad sinking of deeply depressant souls

The door opens and light pours in – in a flash we’re past gross physical being and gone –
Our own outlines disappear altogether engulfed by our death-angel’s incandescent soul

O heart – lift up your sleepy eyelids and look out through the darkling trees!
Wildflowers burst into firework blooms of your efflorescent soul!

Dive down Ameen – through air – earth and water – pass through infernos of fire!
In the depths where sunlight rarely falls – you’ll find your original opalescent soul!

5/30/2002 (from The Flame of Transformation Turns to Light)

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