The Rubáiyát of Michael the Tent Maker

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.

1.

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.

2.

No limitations, no asymmetry,

No deviations, no impurity,

No seam, no change, no thing to wish for,

Nobody to wish, nobody to gee.

3.

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.

4.

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?

5.

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.

6.

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.

7.

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?

8.

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.

9.

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.

10.

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.

11.

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.

12.

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.

13.

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.

14.

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.

15.

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.

16.

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.

17.

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.

18.

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.

19.

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.

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