Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Power of Poetry

We need to be reminded every once in a while, of the power of poetry to move our lives.

When I posted the poem "Palestine" on July 16 some people were kindly appreciative, and some (on another blog, were not :)

Yet few, outside the Arab World, noted the subsequent passing away on August 9, 2008, of Palestinian National Poet Mahmud Darwish, of whom it was said "In his work, Palestine became a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile. The poet Naomi Shihab Nye has commented about Darwish's work, "Darwish is the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging...."

and I hope my poem in some way reflected that..

I want to let people know that without poetry ( a dance of words) or music (of sound) or art (of the senses) or healing (energy) we would not have a soul, because we could not even express, nor could we be moved to go beyond, ourselves. Each of you has a voice, and it deserves to be heard!

Many people are moved by the sonnets of Shakespeare, or the savage verse of Ezra Pound. Some have now come to appreciate the Sufi poetry of Rumi and Hafez, and I would like to encourage you to discover the Persian poetry of Indian poets Allama Iqbal and Muhammad Ghalib. Above all, read Sappho, who distills worlds of longing into just one phrase.

But this post is a continuation of the previous, "Miracle in Toronto", and here I am literally warning you about the loss of soul.

These are the first poems I wrote, The Beginning, and The Man, from my book. Written in 1974, published 1990. I look at the rough, unpolished, writings of a young man and yet, it is what it is. The remembrance of lives past, and, seeing his future laid out for him...

The Beginning

There is a planet called Atlan. Thousands of years ago, people from the planet Atlan came to Earth. The story, however, begins at the beginning, where all beings are created. I was in God, in His peace and love. Then He told me that it was time to leave, to be born in a place called Atlan. I didn't really want to go, but He said it was the destiny of all his children to be born. To live and die, and to live again. For no man really dies, He said. There is a reason for your existing, and you cannot fulfill it in a mortal lifetime. Therefore, you are Immortal. Need you then fear anything? I'm afraid of being alone, I cried. You need not be afraid, He said, in his infinite kindness. There will always be Love....

Hurtling through space infinite
Countless stars flashing by
From the farthest galaxy
Thus came the spacemen

Man, infinitely small, alone
This was his god
Hunger of the flesh
We showed a way

Gods were we, priests,
This our purpose was
To come to mankind
And touch their souls

Atlantis, cradle of science
Time, space, mortality transcended
Forces controlled for man
One day destroyed Atlantis

Mu, birthplace of religion
In simple rustic life
Calm peaceful joyous meditation
God in our selves

Ah Crete! Beautiful jewel
In emerald undulating sea
Art, beauty, music, darkness
A flame was kindled

Nineveh looked at stars
From whence came men
And deep momentous knowledge
Of events to come

I remember my Egypt
I was a god
Who flew with eagles
Worshipped by all Egypt

The people adored us
Made offerings at altars
Our godhood condemned us
To lonely loveless existence

Yet Egypt was where
Love touched a god
For one fleeting instant
Made him man again

All through these lives
Have I searched for Egypt
Now I see pyramids
Sense your presence here

Do you remember when
We soared like eagles
Mystic moments of passion
Forbidden, unforgivable tragic love?

The Man
1974 A.D.

The day I met you
Magical moment in time
I saw many many
Lives of my past

In many of them
Were worlds of loneliness
With oases of calm
That I drank from

You, love, were there
Mystic everlasting woman
With eyes that shone
With warming soft flame

So was I lost
There were no defenses
Against a love ordained
Two halves together again

Long have I searched
For your soft caress
Love in your eyes
Ecstasy in our souls

What can I give
But mind, body, soul
If such is loving
Love me in turn

Your face haunts me
Would that I could
Capture it, even fleetingly
In painting, poem, song!

Wandering as we are
Through the desert of
Time, let us give
Shelter to each other

Love comes but rarely
Soul mates just once
Let me find her,
God, here and now!

We are all vulnerable
We live and die
When we are loved
Give me love again

Let me take you
Away on my carpet
And show you gods,
Kings, beautiful, wondrous things!

I see many things
And have countless gifts
This I know not
When will she appear

Mountains are lonely places
Yet we must climb
I take your hand
Will you take mine

I felt your body
Nestling, close to mine
And as we caressed
Our fears melted away

As we made love
Ancient magic, universal rhythm
We were whole again
We died innumerable times

I have eyes that
Mirror my soul
But I must know
What you see there

He looked into the night sky, remembering. This was how it had been from that time when they flew through the stars. So many memories coming back from the darkness, now a part of him. He looked into the sky again, beyond the darkness beyond the stars. To Atlan, where his life had begun. Now the years of searching were over, for he had found the Way. And it was this, above all, that had come back to him."I love you."

And I was the Man from Atlan...

And just one more, which was the only other poem I ever wrote before "Palestine".

I Dread the Morning

I dread the morning
that comes,
into my room of dreams

I miss the days
of my youth
that flew on wings
of possibilities and imaginings

Yet now,
in the twilight, I say:
Grim Reaper, I have defeated you,
Weeper, I have beaten you.

Naseer Ahmad


Xanadu said...

After reading these three poems, what is my first reaction? One of mute astonishment and wonder. Having read so far only your political prose, I was quite unprepared for these mystical transports in which I see for myself a soul's yearning for the lost paradise.

These are poems of longing, and they are true poems; for like all the best poems, they are poems of inextinguishable longing: longings for the archetypal paradise garden, longings for the long-lashed Bride in the shaded portico by the azure sea, longings for times long vanished, longings for the youth that has fled and the youth that never was, longings for the lost half of the psyche, longings for the Holy Kiss.

Do I make sense? Yes, I do. But only to you — to you who has been to the lost lands I speak of: who has walked in the greenswarded garden by the crytsal streams, who has seen the angels playing their harps under the olive trees.

Nonsense? To others who read these enraptured lines, yes, almost certainly! But not to you. You know what I am talking about. I have been there. I have looked into the same dark wells. I have stood on the edge of the same Abyss.

Elemental Genius, I salute you! At your feet I strew my metaphorical rose petals. What your eyes have seen in the far spaces between the worlds, my eyes have seen too. The haunting music that has wrung your heart in the valley of darkness has wrung my heart too.

Lalara said...

Whew, my sister needs to calm down! Just let me say I endorse all her sentiments. She has not actually provided you with a critique: she has done something better. She has read your poems and let a tapestry of images impress themselves on her mind. She has then allowed you a peep into her mind, and let you see a photograph of that same tapestry of riotous images: a kaleidoscope of mental images, in other words, triggered by contact with your poems. Her comment, you could say, is itself a prose poem.

It is all very strange and beyond my comprehension. I move and function on a much more mundane and earthly plane. Unlike my dear sister, I have no mystical leanings.

The third poem, 'I Dread The Morning', is a little gem. It is intellectually the best poem, in my opinion, and shows signs of having been written at a much later date than the two earlier poems. There is a spareness and austerity about it which I admire very much.

Having said that, however, I would say that you were actually MOVED more by the writing of the two earlier poems. Especially by the second poem in which there are many haunting lines and much to admire, especially the two final quatrains:

Love comes but rarely
Soul mates just once
Let me find her,
God, here and now!

I have eyes that
Mirror my soul
But I must know
What you see there.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. If that's not poetry, I don't know what poetry is.

Man From Atlan said...

Wow, many thanks to both of you. Prose poetry just as powerful as any effort of mine.
Thanks for the encouragement, and don't be discouraged by any criticisms..elsewhere :)

X said...

OK, I'll try not to be discouraged "elsewhere". But it ain't gonna be easy unless I get some support!

Man From Atlan said...

C'mon, you and sis liven up the scene considerably!