Translation of Light / Ruhama Veltfort

About the Author
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POEMS
Opening
Sandscape
Shrapnel
Lost Child
Brooklyn, 1963
La Sirena
Zhikr
Susan, Number Four

Early Bird Sutra
Why the Boddhisattva Came
   to Battery Street: 7:55 AM

The Lightning-Struck Tower
The Well
Why Monks Are Fat
Retreat
Meada in Two Worlds

Looking at the Vault
   of Heaven

Translations from the Spanish:
Song of the Lovers
Dark Night: Climbing
   Mount Carmel

Flame

 

 

Looking at the Vault of Heaven

Imam Al-Ghazali's Ten Reasons for Looking at the Sky

“Because it
            Dispels anxiety,
            Diminishes Satanic suggestions,
            Removes imaginary fears,
            Reminds one of God,
            Increases the heart's reverence for Him,
            Banishes evil thoughts,
            Prevents melancholy,
            Consoles the one who longs for reunion with the absent,
            Brings joy to lovers,
            AND IS THE DIRECTION TOWARDS WHICH LOOK ALL WHO PRAY.

— Abū Hāmed Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazālī (1058–1111)
 
 

Because it dispels anxiety:
Are you drunk? Or just staggering under that load
of debts, uncertainties, other people’s problems —
Your prized collection of regrets for the past and worries for the future —
Stop!
Look up and see the wind's breath part the clouds' frayed veil,
Baring the face beyond. In this same way
Breathe through your thoughts to see the light of day.

Because it diminishes Satanic suggestions:
That trickster, whisperer of tender insinuations,
The small self who beckons us to treachery and deceit — He tells us
the world is random chaos, God doesn't care any more.
Yet, far larger than any small sin,
Yonder the fog bank waits to roll in
From the edge of the twilight sky.
As evening falls, let your small self fall too
Into that luminous, deepening blue.

Because it removes imaginary fears:
From deep in the belly's dark caves, a low terror rumbles:
of explosions, kidnappings, fatal diseases,
Wars and disasters, wild weirdness in high places —
Numbing fears of the unknown, and the known.
Lie still, on your back, looking up till the trembling stops
Open yourself to the clear peace above
Let heaven’s serenity enter your eyes, feel that space!
Become one with it, and all dread is effaced.

Because it reminds one of God:
Oh, yes. Somehow all this was created: this beauty and power.
This encompassing infinity of sky!
But for its sight and feel, we might forget
there's One beyond the hypnotizing press of mundane trifles,
above the gravity of daily life.
We earn money, scold children, call the dentist,
Do the laundry, write a poem — surviving against all odds —
Yet only God Is, while we play at being gods.

Because it increases the heart's reverence for Him:
Pick any spot in that turquoise. Extend your heart
through your eye, let it stream out on your gaze.
As far as you can travel on that beam, and farther still
The Creator himself extends. His marvel has no more edges
Than this sky. And remember this: He also made your eye!

Because it banishes evil thoughts:
Now come the wild brutes no cage has yet confined:
Creatures of the mind: revenge, lust, envy, greed.
They rush and roar, devouring, until we see with their eyes.
But look high above! Follow light’s travels through our sky —
By the time that ray returns to where it is now,
Those monsters are lost in that vastness! How?

Because it prevents melancholy:
Dark and dense, the plumbball sinks the spirit:
Joy is gone. Nothing’s funny. Laughter? Dead.
Let your vision rise high and wide,
that heavy lead a counterweight to lift your eye.
Shining out through sorrow’s dull gray shroud,
see the Light of all light, transcendent, luminous, alive —
See the same boundlessness, deeper than deep, inside.

Because it consoles the one who longs for reunion with the absent:
The heartpain of longing when one, once loved, is gone:
When sleep comes hard, and waking is worse;
And food turns to papier-mâché in the mouth. Yet,
While we dream alone, the same light shines
In each heart's lamp as in the sky.
Who can be separate? We breathe the selfsame air —
The same roof covers all — see it up there!

Because it brings joy to lovers:
Pulled by passion, two souls join, that never were apart
Dragging the deadweight of identity and experience,
Their clothing clashes. Their armor chafes and scrapes:
We call this love.
While the real heart cries out against the bondage of the I,
The jet night sky, splattered with starry jewels, abides.
When lovers dive blissfully into each other,
It's that midnight core they discover inside.

AND BECAUSE IT IS THE DIRECTION TOWARDS WHICH LOOK ALL WHO PRAY!
Raise your face, your eyes: Look up, and join
The mullah, the fisherman, the artist, the child
The farmer, the widow, the empress, the fool
The bored, the grateful, the slave and the free —
With all these, say Alhumdullilah!
Lord, thou art Peace; Lord, give us Light!
Is the sky not immense enough to give us all refuge?
Constantly changing, yet it remains unchanged.
It is nothing of itself, no solid entity.
Its curve has but one work: To reflect and shape that Light
And our sole work, to empty out ourselves
Until we become as spacious as that sight.

   © Ruhama Veltfort, 2010  

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