(Note: I attribute the title and theme of this poem, based on the word “Irene” to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. While we were working on…
I think many of us are still in a state of shock over the Israeli powered holocaust in Gaza against the Palestinian innocents. The utter horror of such death and destruction, people living with such horrific wounds, in rubble and ruins, in extermination camp environment, barely subsisting, dying. It’s cold in Philadelphia but our old steam heater works, our table is always spread… I can’t just imagine their suffering. Our hope in President Obama is still strong, and his presidency hopeful, but his silence on the Gaza tragedy is deafening, in spite of his extending a hand to the Muslim world, a good sign, but muffled by an increasingly irrational fidelity to the protection of Israel. Why are we so afraid of condemning the outrageous actions of Israel, when we don’t hesitate to do so with regards to Russia or other sovereign countries? Why has Israel made no attempts to harmonize with its (yes) belligerent neighbors all these years? How does Israel always get away with such egregious behavior, and effectively no one says “boo!” Or holds them accountable in any real way? When will beating the drum of their own Holocaust finally be drowned out by the one they are inflicting on the Arabs? And I’m never satisfied with the usual answers. Humans simply can’t be this inhuman… though history consistently disproves it.
Meanwhile, I also mourn the passing of a great Mexican poet, Marco Antonio Montes de Oca (1932-2009) whom I first met in Mexico City in 1962 when I was learning Spanish, and whose dedication to a particularly inspired and imaginal poetry has been an inspiration to me throughout my life. I’d lost touch with him these past years, but recently made a greater effort and found he was very ill and often hospitalized. He died on February 7th. May God grant him ease and forgiveness and nearness. Here is my translation of one of his better-known poems:
O singer inspiration, you pierce the dome of trills
with highest noise and most avid song!
Your power is the sunrise that thins out above the hill,
the firmament that dumps its purple baskets over a ravenous precipice,
the foliage of bells you hang in the enchanted wood.
For you, who illuminates my faith,
I clear brush from the path and remove its verdant traps.
For you, who flows on a giant groundswell
as frail as a turtledove’s bones,
as vulnerable as geranium thatch
and as fragile as the warrior who defies an avalanche
with the single bright wafer of his shield,
I now braid my enamored offering.
For you who possesses the required password to reign in the Southern Cross,
the first to hurl yourself between creaking rafters
and escape from the night of the world by a frayed cable,
for you, unique word, solar incarnation of all miracles,
I stretch the stalactites of poetry to the ground
and kindle the heart of mankind with strange light flashes.
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