Easter, 2019 (Western, Armenia)
W.S. Merwin, American, 1927-2019
(from The Shadow of Sirius: Copper Canyon Press)
The poet is speaking of life in its undifferentiated form where there are not bees and plovers, sassafras and the great white shark in separate expression.
Millions of people are believed to have experienced this from one unexpected, anguished or awed moment to the next.
Mihrab, 1354-55, mosaic of polychrome glazed tiles on stonecut paste set into mortar. Isfahan, Teheran. Islamic wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
The inscription is hadith of the Prophet Mohammed.
Under a virtual taboo in the West, mostly only poets, monastics, native Americans, Franciscans, Jungian psychoanalysts, studiers of myths, those who practice meditation and those who have taken psycho-active substances speak about this.
Niche-form tile evoking the mihrab, 1312-13, stonepaste, modeled and polychrome glazed, Sultanabad, Iran. Islamic wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
The inscription lists the 12 Shi’i Imams and the family of the Prophet Mohammed.
In the East, this is mother’s milk, of course.
As to the Islamic images in this post, the first I heard of this was from the Sufi master, Idries Shah (1924-1996) and his friend, the British poet, Robert Graves (1895-1985). Even if Shah believed that Sufi thought predates Islam, it is its acknowledged heart.
Experienced by Sapiens as a momentary metaphysical slip into a physical reality from which our ego-centered consciousness cuts us off, its pale half light lingers one’s whole life.
As a reminder that neither life nor death nor suffering nor sex nor evil nor infinity can be grasped with the rational mind.
And once grasped with the non-rational mind, no matter how momentarily, enmeshes us in ethics more rigorous than what we have today. Because Sapiens is dying with everything and everyone the species kills.
And that our heartland is fully congruent with the boundaries of both our rational and non-rational mind.
That half light also removes (some of) the anguish of approaching death which, after all, is the necessary nutrient for the everlasting life of life itself.
William S. Merwin, who died in January at 92, created a preserve for palms, some now extinct elsewhere, where he lived on the lip of a volcano in Hawaii on a plot of land exhausted by pineapple cultivation.
That was towards the middle-end of a singular life in poetry.
From the beginning it belonged to distance
as the blue color of the mountain does
and though it existed on a map somewhere
and might be discovered by chance
and even be recognized perhaps
at an odd moment
it survived beyond
what could be known at the time
in its archaic
that brings the bees to the rosemary
many years after it had been found
its true name remained
on the other side of knowledge
yet it was still there
like a season that changed
but appears in the light
in the unspoken morning
The photos, taken in 2010, of the Jumma Masjid, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India.
Around 3 sides is a covered, columned passageway with a roof punctuated by domes. The mosque’s masonry had a number of carved marble lattice screens destroyed in the 2001 earthquake.
The fourth side of the rectangle has an area the size of a football field which is covered and pillared and contains a completely enclosed second floor to allow Ahmed Shah’s wife to attend service without being seen.
The mosque was built in 1424 in yellow sandstone by the founder of the city, Ahmed Shah, 1411-1442. It is in the west of the city.
The mosque is a vast rectangle floored in white marble. A place of flashing sunlight and absolute quiet in a city as noisy and lively as any other Indian city.