W.S. Merwin, American, 1927-2019

(from The Shadow of Sirius: Copper Canyon Press)




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





untaught language






that brings the bees to the rosemary;






many years after it had been found






its true name remained



DSC03840 - Copy



on the other side of knowledge




Second floor private, enclosed loggia for the wife of Ahmed Shah, Jummah Masjid, Ahmedabad, Gujerat


yet it was still there






like a season that changed






but appears in the light






in the unspoken morning.





These photos were 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 today 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 Indian city.




The poet is speaking of the Dionysian life force 

where there are not bees and salukis, sassafras and the great crested grebe in separate expression.

The experience is of the indivisibility and eternity of life, of the life force.

An eternity which it is the function of time to allow all living organisms to experience.



As to the Islamic images in this post,

the first I heard anyone speak of this was the Sufi master, Idries Shah (1924-1996) and his friend, the British poet, Robert Graves (1895-1985). 


The insight into our insertion in an unending life force is experienced – the experience is believed widespread despite the scant discussion in the ‘West’ – 

as a momentary slip into a reality from which our ego-centered consciousness cuts us off.


A momentary experience whose half light enlightens one’s whole life. 


A reminder that we are an expression in time of a life force not bounded by time.





The header photo is of the Tree of Life jali  (latticework) in the Sidi Sayedd Mosque, Ahmedabad. Built in 1572-73, the last year of the Gujerat Sultanate by a man who was in the retinue of a general of the last sultan.  This is one of 10 jalis in the mosque. The mosque is still in use.





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