You Were Brave in that Holy War by Hafiz
by Steven McCabe
You have done well In the contest of madness.
You were brave in that holy war.
You have all the honorable wounds Of one who has tried to find love Where the Beautiful Bird Does not drink.
May I speak to you Like we are close And locked away together? Once I found a stray kitten And I used to soak my fingers In warm milk;
It came to think I was five mothers On one hand.
Wayfarer, Why not rest your tired body? Lean back and close your eyes.
Come morning I will kneel by your side and feed you. I will so gently Spread open your mouth And let you taste something of my Sacred mind and life.
Surely There is something wrong With your ideas of God
O, surely there is something wrong With your ideas of God
If you think Our Beloved would not be so Tender.
– The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the great Sufi Master
translated by Daniel Ladinsky
The smiling image of Jacqueline Kennedy in Dallas contrasting with the shock and horror she soon experienced has haunted me since my youth. Is it enough to say this Hafiz poem is about coming to terms with grief in a metaphysical context? I do not claim to be an expert on such things but with this project I attempt to address grief. I created digital variations of a coloured – pencil drawing of Mrs. Kennedy in Dallas, November 22, 1963. I used seven of these drawings for a collage series, including drawing & painting, on handmade Japanese paper for a 2003 exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversary of JFK’s death. The poetry video My Story Is Not My Own (below) continues the theme:
I’m beginning to see the fearlessness in your expression, Steven, but only because I am new to it. I remember this day well. I could even smell blood the images were so visceral. Life changes in a blink….I know we all recognized this collectively that day. It’s a wonderful poem to chose as balance. Thank you….
Thank you j.h.,
I’m not sure how fearless I am. When I am making images sometimes I take chances and it works. Sometimes not. But I’m always casting my bread upon the water.
In this case, there’s an emotional component to work out, as I am probably conflating the ‘widow’ with sadness my mother experienced in her life.
As well as, of course, because of the day, that day, with its ramifications, to recognize things, upon reflection.
The poem adds a quality of the mythopoeic to the images doesn’t it. Ancient Persian spirituality laying a new roof, made of unexpected materials, to the house built in 1963.
It is harder for me to relate, of course, to the events that took place 50 years ago, being of a younger generation. But the pain is universal, and as Hafiz is such a genius at expressing, so is the tenderness of God. -I hope more universal- if such a thing can be. At any rate the Tenderness of God that ultimately overcomes and heals pain.
I, like J.H. appreciate the “fearlessness in your expression”, though I might say courage, because it acknowledges the fear and the risk. Thank you for casting your bread.
Thank you Jack for your thoughts about Hafiz and the world of the spirit. And your thoughts about courage motivating casting the bread.
I guess for me the motorcade is always rolling along. It’s always approaching the point of betrayal, it’s always hitting the climactic horror, it subsides into the sediment, a fossilized newscast, perpetually announcing. I spent a long time with ‘theories’ which, over time, translated into a surrealist speculative narrative which now rest in a place of grief and the universal energies surrounding us, from (in my humble perceptions) from where we come and where we return.
You might not have had this particular event as a fixed point of reference but your work shows that you have felt many low hanging clouds, can we call them ‘motorcades?’ pass overhead. Thanks again.
Steven, I read the words and studied your somber and elegiac portraits while listening to Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. In the contest of madness, it seemed highly appropriate, and also transformational.
I’m sorry for bringing music into the discussion yet again, but that’s often how I deal with unspeakable emotion.
Thank you Prospero for introducing these sounds. I found them quite engulfing and shocking in their perceptions. Afterwards I had to retreat into Paul Klee to reacquaint myself with anticipation.
In Klee’s case it is perhaps anticipating the ancient. Which is also a type of transformation. I appreciate your thoughts.
Wow. Though Hafiz’s words are compelling, your images stand alone.
Thanks very much for your words and visit…
“You have done well
In the contest of madness.” There’s little else I can add to that, except that the emotion(s) you convey… exquisite.
thank you for this thought…and for your visit Stephia.