By Mike Stone
(a work in progress … )
I’ve decided to return to my first and oldest mistress for awhile: poetry. Actually I never really stopped, but now I intend to make a concentrated effort. I’ll call the project “The Rubáiyát of Michael the Tent Maker”. We’ll see how that turns out. The journey of a thousand quatrains begins with the first one, so here goes. The rubái is a quatrain (plural rubáiyát) popularized a thousand years ago in Persia by Ghiyath al-Din Abu’l-Fath Umar ibn Ibrahim Al-Nisaburi al-Khayyami or Omar al-Khayyam as he is known in the West. The quatrain is four lines of iambic pentameter with a rhyming scheme of a-a-b-a. He’s the poet who wrote “a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou, would be enough…” and “the moving finger, having writ, moves on…” His last name, al-Khayyam, means in Urdo “the tent maker”.
There you have it, my point of departure.
An ancient form the rubáiyát but not
The moving hand of al-Khayyam and naught
The labyrinthine bazaars of Samarkand
But only modern words in English thought.
No limitations, no asymmetry,
No deviations, no impurity,
No seam, no change, no thing to wish for,
Nobody to wish, nobody to gee.
Between the interstices of this page
The potencies so small and faint presage
That it is like the whispers of the trees
Suddenly raising their voices in rage.
It is strange how we’re conceived like our
Inmost thoughts. Is this a proof that we are
Thought before we’re matter? At what point do
We subtly change from thought to matter?
The woman, man, and infant seem so young
A torn and aged photograph it’s strung
Nestled head against her breast and breathing
His silence heard her song too soon unsung.
The train chugs silent with the child’s sup
Until his father comes and picks him up
And swings him through the air around his love,
Big worlds, small worlds, a child’s wide-eyed worship.
Who will sip from time’s own empty fountain?
Who will come and hear my little mountain?
Who will think the thoughts that only I think?
Who will touch my temples gentling pain?
Little sister three years old with light brown
Bangs jumped up and down and broke her crown
And dashes our young father scooped her up
With pain and horror their eyes were large and round.
Through the keyhole a brown red bud amidst
The snow white mound on which his eyes transfixed
And only after drinking up their fill
Moved on t’ th’other breast voluptuous.
A no-nonsense kind of love exudes like
Clouds of steam from crisp warm shirts she strikes
With alternating motions of her hands
‘Tween flat palmed left and iron in her right.
Like a child’s hungry arms the belt holds
Her waist quite prim, her silken blouse enfolds
Enwrapped, her hand upon the doorknob rests
Picks up her suitcase, toward the cab she strolls.
A skinny awkward boy plays mumbly peg,
A little dimpled girl of four, her leg
Bent underneath her chin, her eyes on him,
An old grey mailbox flies its small red flag.
The child looked for love where it was found
And when not found, his arms’d wrap around
His own waist, changing til he couldn’ rebound
He wrote like falling trees without a sound.
On the distant ridge the dense green dogwood
Where purple blooded elderberry stood
Hides the sleeping whippoorwill that waits
For night to sing its song in somber mood.
The pale blue sky above the distant hill
Aeolus’ bloated sacks of wind do fill
To take our stagnant sailboats home at last
To some unremembered Ithaca still.
Four horses stood upon a distant hill,
The fourth, a woman straddled, gaunt and chill.
She pointed at a blood-orange sky, grown dark
With withered ghosts ascending to god’s swill.
The waters lap the rotting wood of my
Small boat. I dip my sword in the high
Waves for starfish. Beetles crawl up the side
And fly backwards against the stirring sky.
Il Tempio’s pages flutter fitfully
Through gardens of the Villa Borgesi,
Landing, scooting, never hesitating
For long in Rome a very well read city.
Time became an orchid splitting into
Two frail branches the day that you withdrew,
You took the one that had the purple flower
And left us with the one forlorn and nude.