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April 12, 2006
This is God. On the highest of highs through the gulf of a tomb,
(This is God.) I’m on top of the worlds born of mind, spirit, womb.
I am not. Now the bubble has burst, there is nothing but sea:
This is God. I’m as drowned in his kiss as the bud in her bloom.
I’m in Love. All the pain in my heart’s disappeared like a dream:
This is God. I am dead to the worlds yet awake to my swoon.
I am him. Now the primal beloved and lover are one:
This is God. I’ve become who I journeyed towards and from whom.
Oh my love! He’s embraced me and brought me at last to himself:
This is God. Now I see there is only myself in the room.
I’m the soul. “There’s no dark where there’s light, no unknown where one knows.”
This is God. Little mind has been razed with its search and its gloom.
O my Self! You’re beyond the beyond but you’re found on the Earth.
This is God, All in All, in the flesh: its perfection, and tomb.
(*I have followed the convention of the soul being female, the divine beloved being male, here, as in The Song of Songs.)
We've just got back from Florence, where they start spring in April. Apart from attempting to interest Fiorentina in having a poeta inglese as their modern Dante (no reply yet), I spent a lot of time gazing at the visions of heaven that Florentine artists have been attempting since Dante, Giotto, Fra Lippo Lippi, Michaelangelo, Learnardo et al. The trouble with organised Christiaintiy is that there are far too many meditations on hell, sin and guilt and far too few visions of heaven. In Florence, this is not the case. Some readers say that Dante's Inferno is a lot more gripping than his Paradiso and that his vision of God in the final cantos - as a tiny spot of brilliant white light - is much too small a pay off for all the hell and purgatory that's gone before. If that's true, it's certainly not true of his descriptions of Beatrice and the Virgin Mary (the white rose petals of that spot of white light) which are truly heavenly. Anyway, my own modest efforts in this direction in my 1991 book "Coming Home" - with its three love-driven steps to heaven: evolution/ ghosts/ involution - are revisited in the harvest section of my new book, Exile In His Own Country. "Coming Home" (one of the selections) is my attempt at a vision of heaven as guided by such spiritual writers as St John of the Cross, Bhau Kalchuri and Meher Baba as well as through a fairly headlong (and heartfelt) leap of my own imagination. I wanted above all to avoid a set piece that lacked creative tension, and so located the tension in the agony/ecstasy of the self's surrender to the All of love. "When the bubble is burst, there is nothing but sea." and "I'm as drowned in his kiss as the bud in her bloom" seemed to strike the requisite exquisite, ravished and ravishing, note and remain lines I'm very pleased with. The form of the poem is the Persian ghazal, a divine love-lyric, one of a dozen or so in my first two books and of three in the "Harvest" section of my new "Exile In His Own Country" collection. The two photos from Florence here are a playful attempt at suggesting il poeta Dante at the start of Inferno - "in the midway of this our mortal life" - about to enter hell on Good Friday - and then a vision of heaven from the terraced slopes of Purgatorio.