The Moths and the Flame
They gathered together fluttering in the night
To decipher the truth about the candle light.
Many went and came back with news,
One about the window through which it viewed
The glow of hope, another singed its wing
Against the lips of the flame, but still they
Could not tell the nature and the abundance
Of the fire that consumes with eternal delight.
“You do not,” said the mentor, “bear the signs
that show on those who fathom how it shines.”
Then another went and passed far beyond
Where the others had feared, wooing the light
Like a lover in the dark, dipping and soaring
In a trance before the glorious face at the heart
Of the fire, before its gaze. It was engulfed,
Wings, head, eyes, and body consumed.
When the mentor saw the sudden flare,
He said, “He knows, he has felt the truth
Beyond all knowledge, all words, all speech.”
To wander beyond reason, to stare death
In its depth, to give your body and soul
To consuming passion for what eludes
The mind. No Self clinging to flesh
Or desire for the world is admitted there,
Where identity disappears in rapture and love.
A Song to be sung with Fear and Trembling
From what fable do you ride,
To what land will you glide,
What word bring
From mouths dry
From famine, eyes
Dark with ruin,
The flame from the sky,
The snarl of the air,
The whine of dogs
Licking at the trough?
Finally, we can die for something.
Finally, by the grace of God, we can leave
And travel to other lands to expend self-disgust.
The enemy is merciless and craven
and without shame, and so we will carve
our tons of flesh and draw our buckets
of blood to wash the gory face of Mammon.
You fell into the pit of my stomach
And I gave birth to you from my womb of tar.
Snakes squirmed around my spine and bit
the chakra of hate. I’ll bomb you into the Stone Age,
rip your hair by its roots and hold it
above the mouths of my devotees and feed
their frenzy. Die in me and see the impermanence that is life.
Oh, you grass widows,
Oh, you grass widows!
When you look at your work, you will think of me!
-- from a legend of how Coyote learned the Ghost Dance
Invisible, dancing where bullets are ice
That melt in the air, cloaked in small pox,
Anthrax, the radiation of ions, ancestors
Appear before my eyes, come back,
Come back, come back to feed the orphans,
the widows, the men who long for their wives
In their beds at night. We will not die,
We will not die, we will not die,
the life beyond death protect me.
Maize and meat and the fields of plenty,
bring them in your hands of light, let clear
streams flow from your mouths,
Sing the song of the hawk on the wind,
Scatter the enemy with your piercing cry,
Bring this peace that fills our bellies,
Brings birth from the pyre, cleans
The graves filled with so many.
I will not die where death has no power,
The joints of my limbs will not break,
Blood will not flow from my heart,
For you are here, you are here, you are
Here, children beyond death, beyond death.
(c) copyright 2012 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.
This excerpt is from a long poem on 9/11. The poem intersperses different shorter poems with passages from the Sufi mystic classic, The Conference of the Birds. The italicized part is a rendition of part of a poem from the translated version of the Sufi poem, The Conference of the Birds.