Thursday, July 26, 2012

Excerpt from "A Conference of Ghosts"

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

Seagull overhead,

Scavenger King,

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?


The Cynic

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.


Ghost Dancer

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.


  1. Chaz, amazing. I like the incorporation of various traditions--Kali, the Ghost Dancers etc. I don't remember you ever writing in rhyme and meter, but I'm not surprised at your ability to pull it off so smoothly.

  2. dang on the sufi poems...spent time the other week listening to a sufi poet...kali is filled with intense and vivid imagery...that one will def stick with me....the ghost dancers as just speaks to me as i read...all of these are really potent man but these two just jumped out at me...

    an interesting structure you chose as well mixing the short poems in with the sufi work

  3. A feast from you. The Sufi excerpt was a very effective opening and the whole thing whirled and cried, the Kali piece visceral and terrifying. I'll be coming back to this one again tomorrow to immerse myself again in its intensity and illumination.

  4. Amazing. Each piece really stands on its own (magnificently.) I confess to being too tired to take it all in. They are all great. The last very piercing, the first very piercing. (And all in the middle - though I think I like those the best.)


  5. I think the first had the greatest effect upon me, but each provided food for thought and enjoyment. Fine writing.

  6. I hope you are planning to publish this so more people can be graced with your talent. You are a true poet, seeing life and death from a place enlightened. I enjoyed all of these too, though the first one had the most impact on me. Great work!

    1. TY Myrna for your kind thoughts and words. I am rarher reluctant to print. Perhaps, though, your words will inspire me!

  7. Entertaining and informative! Very nicely done!

  8. i am speechless....this is great yes a solid book with this poem will be a honor .....The Kali....I felt like the goddess in Hinduism....

  9. I would like to know what all books you read on such subjects,......

    1. Hi Sreeja, I am inspired by the works of Ibn Al-Arabi for Sufism, as well as Henri Corbin's work. For Hiduism, I have read several trans of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Gita. My understanding of Kali comes from my other readings in Hinduism, as well as a conversation I once had with Kali devotee. My understanding of the Ghost Dance goes back to Black Elk Speaks, as well as numerous works I read in classes I took in anthropology. I also learned a lot from Mircea Eliade on Yoga and Shamanism. This is just a list of some ofvthe works I have read.

  10. They gathered together fluttering in the night

    To decipher the truth about the candle light....esp. that first part made me think about so many we try to understand things...the different approaches and experiences and the different things we learn from it chazz

  11. Absolutely beautiful, the vanishing ego and the acceptance of true self. We had a death in the family last year and my little ones experienced the height of decay and the continuous song of death that goes along with a funeral in the Indian culture. One on my sons said that the flame is not to be afraid of, he said that it is just a partner for the soul to dance with. Anyway, I love the reference to Kali, she is an embodiment of it all, the 'whole of nature' like Pan. I am very much so inspired as I leave here, I will definitely return.

    Charles, this is such a refreshing place. Thank you so much for your visit!

  12. Hypnotic dance about death. Pretty ambitious in breath, Charles.