THESE ARE NOT TEARS OF SORROW, BUT TEARS OF JOY!Fragrant was the Garden
which foretold of My Birth.
The living waters blossomed
a second time,
In the witness of Water and of Blood.
In My Mother's dream
Babajan rose out of the Well
beckoning Me with a Holy Lamp.
I was not yet born
Yet she foretold of the Kiss
That would bring Me to God-Realization.
And when I open the seventh seal,
My reign of Silence
Will be broken in Heaven
And over all the earth.
As your Shepherd I will guide you
To springs of Living Water;
Your Beloved Father
will wipe away
all tears from your eyes.
(Vision, Bk. III, p. 13)
Andy and Peggy Muir brought my rough drafts, the ink still wet, to Kitty. I was "ordered" to read them for Kitty and Jane. There was to be a concert for Avatar Meher Baba in the auditorium at two o'clock in the afternoon. When I arrived at the auditorium, there was no one there except Andy and Peggy, my East Coast links to Baba's Sufism Reoriented, and Kitty Davy and Jane Haynes, Baba's early women disciples entrusted with the care of His Spiritual Center at Myrtle Beach. The blinds had been drawn, the door locked. And all the lights had been turned low. When I told them that I heard the poems as Music, and that I performed my music on the piano with the poems, Kitty told me that her brother in England often performed on the piano for Meher Baba, and I could both read my poetry and play, if that's the way I heard them.
It was dark in the auditorium. I closed my eyes...and began to play. I felt thrilled---there was a definite feeling of Baba's Presence in the auditorium. I have felt Baba's Presence whenever I give a performance, but especially at Myrtle Beach and in Mandali Hall, the poetry seems read into an electrical space. The poetry found its own Music; the poetry is Music and the Music is Poetry; and His Music sings through us always...They are blind in My Light,
Letting My Music play through them.
And the Music they play is Nameless
Because I am the Only Name,
Because I am the Only Word.
(Vision, Bk. II, p. 17 )
When I rose to bow, Kitty said, "Do you have a copy of the scores?"
"The music is always improvised," I answered. "I am always praying to Baba when I play."
"Then do it again."
"The whole concert, Kitty?"
"We all did this for Baba!"
The heat of the Myrtle Beach July leaked in through the dark shades drawn at the windows. I was drenched in sweat. My fingers leaked and oozed onto the keyboard. This time nobody applauded. Andy and Peggy nodded to Jane. Kitty rose and said, "Do it again!"
"But Kitty, I 'm exhausted!" I cried.
Kitty said, "This is what Baba would do with us. Baba would have Margaret Craske dance on the rocks! We all worked like this for Baba. Do it again for Baba! The whole concert!"
And this time when I got up, I was so drenched that I had to hold on to the piano. When I looked out over the audience, I looked out over the heads of Kitty, Jane, Andy and Peggy---there was the blinding Light of Avatar Meher Baba as He appeared to me in 1968 at the University of Massachusetts, one month before he dropped His body.
"Baba!" Baba broke my heart open, and I cried, "Baba, Baba!"
"Do you see Baba in this room with us?" Kitty stood up.
"Yes, He is Fire! He is Immortal Fire," I cried.
"Then these are not tears of sorrow, but tears of Joy, as Hafiz describes 'when the veil is lifted, you see the Beloved face to Face.'"But the Poets who hear Me recognize My Voice of Love
Singing into them and through them forever.
Let My Musicians record My Song as it arrives,
breaking My Silence!
(Vision, Bk. II, p. 87)
LYN OTT SAID, "THIS IS A POEM OF BABA'S MANIFESTATION."
Lyn Ott asked me to stand in front of his paintings of Baba and read to Baba the fragments from "Lagoon Cabin Series." Baba's energy was all around His paintings and all around the studio. Baba had asked Lyn to look into His Face for almost three hours. Lyn Ott told me, "Baba cupped my cheeks in His hands and drew my face close to His. No one had ever been allowed to look directly into Baba's Eyes for that long a time."
It seemed that Baba had charged Lyn up with a special energy to paint one painting after another of Baba's Face endlessly. Not only the paintings, but the entire studio reverberated with Baba's Fiery Free Form. Lyn Ott got special permission from the Center to allow me to stay there to expand Vision from The Bridge of Fire for four months. I was also cast as the devil with Robert Cushman and Val for the Center's Christmas play, so I worked half-time as the Poet and half-time as the Devil.
At the end of the four months, everyone had seen me as the devil. I was the choreographer-devil in Hell presenting The Hershey Bar Ballet. I portrayed the devil disciplining four obese women in ballet tights. We created the lines ourselves out of improvisations. As the devil, I sounded like an imitation Charles Boyer, with a French accent, "In Hell there eez zo much pain, we drink it like champagne."
In our first improvisation, we imagined a huge Celestial Penis dropping from the ceiling on ropes. "Reach for it, stretch for it, you will long for it all your life, but you can never, never have it." When Jane Haynes sent word that the "oversized penis" violated Center decorum, Val, the director, asked Lyn to design instead a huge Hershey bar that would drop down over the four reaching women as the "Lizard Music" came on. The four mushrooming women and I performed "The Hershey Bar Ballet". Following the dancing Hershey bar shuffling from one end of the stage to another, I tap danced the "Lizard" with long black cape and cane. Myrtle Beach auditorium is the most wonderful place to do comedy as Baba seems to "cook" the vibrations, and waves of laughter roll up from the audience at the slightest gesture. The fact that I have Japanese-type bushy eyebrows also helps render a "devilish" look.
After the performance, Lyn Ott shook my hand and John Dennison, his assistant editor, said, "Jane and Kitty were rolling in the aisles with laughter."
"But what about the Poet?" I asked. "What about Vision from the Bridge of Fire?"
Lyn Ott said to me, "Vision from the Bridge of Fire is a twentieth century surrealist epic about Baba's Advent. That will come later. Now Baba has chosen you to be His clown!"
"PERFORM WITHOUT TEARS, DIVINE CLOWN!" ORDERED BHAU KALCHURI
The frozen poem becomes a clown show...
The drops of blood from Isaac's neck...
The assassin, Punchinelle, with a water gun.
A mad clown, attacking the President
With an accidental shot changes history.
America's history is a silent scream --
The lips of Picasso's "Guernica"
Played on the stage of Open Mouth.
The theater became a telephone booth.
In our time,
The death of the President.
The theater becomes a telephone booth,
The frozen poem becomes a clown show,
And the Magician speaks the monologue.
(Vision, Bk. II, p. 2)
When I was eighteen years old I appeared as Caliban in The Tempest and received the Best Actor Award and a Shakespearean fellowship from Dr. Bernard Beckerman, author of Shakespeare and the Globe Stage, at Hofstra University. I was applauded as a serious actor and had all my training in Shakespeare. Bhau made me perform Caliban---hump, limp and spitting hisses---in the tiny space of the Trust Office in India. Ward Parks had to move back to give me room to limp and avoid my spitting bark. Since then Bhau nicknamed me "Shakespeare."
So, where did this clown in me come from? Was I born a clown? Was the clown hidden from me, under the dark folded curtains of the stage of my subconscious...?
- O Pogo, my son, God sent you to me.
- Not yet. I am not yet sent to you.
(Takes out a notebook and pad.)
- Are you going to interview me while I'm in labor, Pogo?
- There are certain conditions which must be fulfilled before I push through your womb!
(Assumes role of interviewer.)
- As usual, I have to do all the work!
- What is your background...
- I was born the granddaughter of Rabbi Mutterpearl and raised in the Convent of St. Anne. (Moaning) The blood of Abraham and of Jesus are mingled in my veins.
- (Writing) Mixed backgrounds. (Pause) Not a very good start.
- I was sitting in the middle of a movie theater and suddenly saw a blinding flash of white!
- (Writing furiously) Conceived in a cinema...I'm not going to be addicted to visions!
- It was in the third row of Loew's Lexington that I promised to God, Our Father---my father and yours---that I would bring you up to be a man of God.
- And what do I have to say?
- You can be any religion you choose! (Begins pushing; breathes heavily) Push, Pogo! Push! It takes two to get born!
- Suppose I should invent my own?
- As long as there's a God in it somewhere, you'll be all right with me, son! (Pause) Just don't pick a God with a big nose!! (Demanding tone) Push, Pogo, Push! Why are you taking so long?
- Why are you rushing, mother?
- Why are you lying in darkness?
- I'm meditating!
- It's five to noon! Push hard, Pogo, and I'll have you out in time for lunch.
- I'm staying in here! Three meals a day!
- You were a reluctant sperm....
- So! (Pause) Sue me!
(Pogo kicks; mother groans)
- The surgeons had to poke their long and painful hooks to turn you around.
(Miming labor pains.)
- Oooowww! Give me a break, doc!
(Pogo resists doctors pulling on his feet.)
- You came out by your butt!
- (Overlapping) No, feet first!
(Mimes getting pulled out by his feet.)
- Your reluctant head soon followed after...
- This head...this strange...wild rock...
(Feeling his head for the first time.)
- (Amazed) What planet dropped you on us? Head bigger than the rest of you!
- How could it ever have been born!
- We don't understand what planet you came from...but we love you just as you are!
- Dad named me "an egg with legs!"
(Pogo's End, Act One, Scene 1.)
When Bhau announced he was visiting America for the first time, Lyn Ott called me on the telephone: "Bhau has agreed to hear you read your epic poem, 'The Advent of Avatar Meher Baba,' in my studio. Fly down immediately! Baba's orders!"
When I arrived at Lyn's House, Lyn whispered to me, "Bhau is to Baba what St. John was to Jesus. Bhau is the St. John of Baba's Manifestation." He then declared, "Bridge of Fire is a Poem for the Manifestation. You must read it for Baba---the entire epic---from beginning to end." Bhau nodded and I began reading.
Phyllis Ott, Lyn's wife and resident Baba artist at Myrtle Beach, started banging on the door. "These doors are locked!" ordered Lyn.
Three full hours alone with Bhau, Lyn---and Baba. All the time I was facing Lyn Ott's paintings of Baba. It was like an unveiling. No, more like an initiation. I was only aware of Meher Baba's Presence. I swooned in His Light!
"It's sublime! All of it! Sublime!" Bhau exclaimed, then commanded: "NO TEARS! It must be delivered without tears!"And here is the clown, Zaloom,
Building farces out of theatrical trash.
And here is the rump of Chaplin,
Bouncing the ball of the earth
On the backside of Hitler.
When Chaplin dared to wear the moustache of Hitler,
They exiled Chaplin from America.
They missed the hobo taking pratfalls;
The twirling penguin clown
Vanished the tear-drunk world.
In a magic moment, the blind girl
Sees through his tattered prison clothes.
The tramp's immortal gaze of love
Could not erase the infant's shadow
Imprinted on the burnt flesh of his mother's back.
The child melted into her skin
Under the shadow of the A Bomb!
(Vision, Bk. II, p. 2)
Where does this Clown come from? From a hidden part of my ego? I am most serious when I am alone. Whenever I meet Bhau and Lyn, they say, "No tears! No tears!"
One time at Myrtle Beach, I sent Bhau my hospital bracelet as a sign that Baba had inspired me to get out of the hospital just to greet him on his USA tour. Immediately Bhau began sending the Pearsons, his "schedule wallas," with his ghazal book to my cabin every night. "Bhau wants you to perform a ghazal each night for Baba. But Bhau says, 'No tears!'"
Baba inspired my fractured coccyx to create the Clown in Bhau's ghazals with the strength of eagles in a new mime's body. For "More Kicks Than Kisses," I rehearsed several hours each day in the hot July summer to create the Clown that was getting kicked in the buttocks by Baba: "First he kicks me, and then he kisses me." On the last night, bathed in sweat, I rehearsed like a young man in my twenties with the psycho-physical techniques of Grotowski (an intense movement-sound technique that continues transformations of the plastique muscular system unendingly). This was focused on the creation and transformation of the Clown's body into a serpent that hissed and hissed as I crawled downstage into Bhau's lap.
Was it one of Baba's illusions (Baba is the Master of Illusions) to send me out of the hospital into a young man's body---or was it Baba's way of teaching me that laughter is healing for others?
I forgot completely about myself. And for the time that I was with Bhau, Baba completely rejuvenated my performing instrument so that I performed as a much younger man, including dancing and turning on one foot! Bhau would tell the audience, "There is mast (God-intoxicated soul) of the fifth plane, mast of sixth plane, but here is mast who gets up and dances!" And as if Baba were puppeteering my new body, I would rise like Lazarus to become the Eternal Clown.
BABA'S CENTENNIAL, FEBRUARY, 1994, IN PUNE, CITY OF HIS BIRTH
"Pune is Baba's city. Wherever Baba walked, three thousand people would follow Him; the whole city was Baba's," said Shri Brahmananda.
Pune is alive with the energy of Hazrat Babajan; when Baba bowed down to the shrine of Hazrat Babajan, His immortal energy was inscribed within the spiritual cells. The architecture of the soul of the city, these holy spaces, filled with Baba's energy, continue to create poetry within me, endlessly.
And I hugged the Pune trees
Electric with the kiss of Hazrat Babajan
On Your forehead, the fire that brought You
Spiraling to God-Consciousness
(Vision, Bk. III, p. 6)
Paul Smith, editor and translator of the two volume Hafiz told me, "I spent months filming Pumpkin House." Someday my poetry about Pune may be linked to his video-tapes of the city of Baba's birth. Paul came all the way to Pune from Australia. He embraced my poetry; we both create art out of our pilgrimages to Pune. (Paul taught me to hug Hafiz.) He came to New York City, embraced me like a long lost brother from several lifetimes ago, and after some tall beers, lugged me off to the Metropolitan Museum to see the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of illuminated manuscripts from medieval Shiraz---those delicate swirls of calligraphy, the miniscule illustrations with the subtle strokes of the brush. Hafiz' manuscripts are visual works of art; so too am I haunted by desire for visual art and cinema, for music, and all the interdisciplinary arts to synergize in my poetry concerts for Baba.
Pune, Baba's city of birth, I can never leave you! City of a thousand silences!
The sunsets of Pune
Have the warm silences of the Beloved's Eye.
In His Eye, the sunset of love
Lingering long after the night.
(Vision, Bk. III, p. 7)
First, Baba stripped me to my shorts, by making my suitcases disappear for a month. Was Baba shaving my ego, or did I live here before as a mast. What did Bhau mean by calling me, "Mast with a doctorate" or "Mast who gets up and dances?"
The disappearance of my luggage forced me to go to clothing stores to buy Indian suits and shirts; the men and their assistants all nodded their approval as they watched my expression of awe at the rainbow selection of pastels and lovely silks. "This is how you should dress for Me; you have always lived here in this city!"
"Baba's improvisation," I chuckled as Baba inwardly guided me around His city. First, He directed me to the house of the mayor. Baba opened all these doors for me at once.
As a complete stranger I was welcomed into the house of T. L. Vaswami, the benefactor of Pune; his uncle's statue stands in the center of the town.
Kneeling like a fortunate slave, I gave the nobleman a copy of Vision from the Bridge of Fire: the advent of Avatar Meher Baba. I began reading to him from the floor of his Victorian mansion.
Vaswami said, "This is the poetry of a man from the East. You have lived here before!"
"Did you know Meher Baba?" I asked.
"You must visit the college of St. Mira's. Baba visited there when he was a boy."
"Did you know Baba?" I asked.
"Of course. My whole family knew Baba, especially my uncle whose statue you see in the town square. He knew Baba, and Baba visited the college of St. Mira often. St. Mira was one of his favorite saints! Will you stop by the school? My sister is the high school principal."
"I'm on pilgrimage for Meher Baba. May I read my poetry for Baba there?"
"Do you perform Shakespeare? They love Shakespeare! Shakespeare first, and then the teachers will have an informal tea for you afterward and you can read your poetry about Meher Baba. The girls never get a chance to see live actors on stage performing Shakespeare; they mostly watch Laurence Olivier and the old worn out films. They will welcome you, a live actor on stage. Shakespeare first! And then your poetry. They'll be very interested to hear how you met Meher Baba. How did you meet Meher Baba?"
"I met Meher Baba in His Fiery Free Form, at the University of Massachusetts in 1968. And then in Dr. Harry Kenmore's office in New York."
"His Fiery Free Form?" (There was an uncomfortable pause in our conversation. The silence was unbearable.)
"You are definitely from the East! You don't talk like a Westerner. Even your accent....It's..."
"It's from Shakespeare," I said, laughing. "Bhau calls me Shakespeare!"
BABA'S CLOWN IN PUNE---FROM STRIPPED SHORTS TO SHAKESPEARE IN A CHAUFFEURED LIMOUSINE
A COMMAND PERFORMANCE, BABA? But how, Baba? Without scripts of Shakespeare, Baba? Where will I get Shakespeare's plays on the spur of the moment?
Running all around the city looking for Shakespeare! Looking in all the shops. Searching for Hamlet, MacBeth, The Tempest, King Lear. And Baba, where to find the photocopying machine to make stage copies that I can move and dance with in the wind!
Baba's Clown dancing through Pune. Rummaging through bookstores. Rehearsing Caliban, hump and limp, by the river under Pune trees; the bemused buggy boys stopping their open beetle cars to watch, grin and applaud! This strange American acting in broad daylight!
And then when I saw what Baba had invited! The college had sent me, after all this stripping down to my masty pair of shorts, a Sunset Boulevard limousine with a fully sun-glassed Indian chauffeur to whisk me off to my performance at the college of St. Mira! I felt like a Hollywood star in my new striped silver shirt. Mani refers to it as Baba's favorite detective hero shirt; she says I look like His poet-detective, but she always says, "He has the heart of a child. I always have to pray to Baba to put a special veil of protection around him when he comes to India. He wanders around like a mast, and one time he wandered into the military compound without his passport and they arrested the poet-detective as a spy. Six hours later, the Trust Office representative presented Michael's passport just in the nick of time, or he would have spent a long time in an Indian jail."
But now I was headed instead for St. Mira's, being chauffeured in Baba's roller coaster! The ups and downs of Babadom!
Driving by the river in a chauffeured limosine, I call out: "Pune! City of a thousand silences!" Your squares fountain a hundred dialects cascading over these tourist ears, international fugues of multi-colored languages...beggars carrying suitcases on their heads like balancing balloons...the smells of slowly roasting fish tandoori, cooking and turning, blossoming the glazed afternoon with spices of flowers...moonlight spilling over Babajan's Trees...waterfalls of midnight-moonlight, white, dazzling...the kiss of Hazrat Babajan, moonlight spinning over the audible buzz of the "OM":
I hear it everywhere
From the echoing neem tree
To the dancing jester of my soul.
Your nuclear birth
Explodes again and again,
The thousand rains of Your love
MY PERFORMANCE IS MY PATHWAY OF FIRE
I created a monster with hunched back...St. Mira's College for Girls...danced on stage as Caliban, complete with hunched back, limp and spitting fire...giggles and flowers...auditorium swelling with a thousand teen age girls, veiled and virginal, a hall full of ravishing Rabias, pushing toward the forestage with bouquets of roses...swells of excitement rush up on stage like waves. Then I hushed them with King Lear.
Vision of Hazrat Babajan on stage:
Her wild white hair
Rises in waves about Her
And the light of Her eyes
Was so great that Her funeral
Blinded the mourners and electrified
The trees under which She kissed Merwan
And fired Him on to God-Realization.
(Vision, Bk. III, p. 29)
The energy of Pune, solar energy of Pumpkin House, blew out through tempests of breath. "Howl, howl, hoowooool" of King Lear hushed and silenced the hall. For three fiery hours the energy of Babajan gripped this audience, spell-binding like a dance of breath, Babajan emerging out of my breath...breathing through me...as if I were an instrument. I suddenly realize Hazrat Babajan must emerge immense, giant-sized in Vision from the Bridge of Fire.
As a boy I took my socks off before I stepped on stage...the stage is a temple. Before a thousand people I became naked as a pilgrim. I climb up on a "stake" and ignite myself in public...set my heart on "fire." Suddenly I realize the stage, itself, is holy...is my personal witnessing...my "Pathway of Fire."
FROM A LETTER TO MANI, PUNE 1994
Dearest Mani, Beloved Sister of Baba,
When I hug you, you always sweep me into Baba's childhood. I write again in Pumpkin House, Baba's boyhood home. All the spaces that Baba touched still resonate with His presence. "His drops of blood" are living witnesses to His eternal Crucifixion.
The veins and arteries of Your white stone wash us and purify us. Your Tomb breathes New Life, modulates our blood stream. You strip us of our egos. You pour Infinite Love into our hearts. We grow immense, gigantic, with your Nazar, Beloved Avatar! You are the Celestial Garden of our souls, the Cosmic Tree.(See O Tree of White Weddings)
O Beloved, You are the living poem! You are beyond the words of a thousand poets. The words of the supreme poets are but shadows compared to Your Fiery Free Form!
One hundred years of Your Presence pulsates, here...now...electric! Within us! Above us! Beyond us! Like a bird knocked senseless by the Light in Pune, I grasped for new wing ways. Center of the birth of the AVATAR!
Why am I drawn like a magnet to Your navel, which is the burning of a thousand, thousand suns? Have I lived here before in Your city as a fiery insect? Have I been wingless, consumed by Your flames?
Ecstasy and violence
Explodes as I hit my head
Not once, but many times
On that stone gnarl in Pumpkin House
Where You brought Yourself
Down from God-Consciousness.
And I cried out,
"Baba! You are my Master!"
In Pumpkin House
Where Your Presence hummed in the Center.
(Vision, Bk. III, p. 6)
When giants, the Perfect Masters, bend down to kneel in Pumpkin House, They are utterly consumed by the childhood of the Infinite One.
I am so intent on that stone gnarl in Pumpkin House; from my hotel room, it draws me like a magnet. At midnight, my soul is pierced by a whirlwind of dazzling light. Sleep has disappeared. The flames of Your divine name blind the midnight skies over Pune!
No one can measure You, Protean and Promethean!
You rise over Pune, atomic in Your nuclear birth!
THE EYES OF RABIA
Spinning under the moon's long song,
And something about them danced;
You could go in them,
You could go deeper in them.
(Vision, Bk. III, p. 2)
Eyes of Rabia, haunted by you in Pune, these eyes that burn into the center of me...eyes of Rabia, sixth plane saint...eyes of the Perfect Master, Hazrat Babajan...haunted by Babajan in Pune...danced under Your gaze for Baba's Hundredth Birthday celebration.
At last, the suffering of Baba in a wheelchair ended, and He was dancing with us...tabla, sitar, flute, and five classical Indian musicians; they had played under my words at His Tomb at Amarthithi, and Baba swept us up here to dance in the city of His nativity...three hours of dancing for Baba.
"Baba told us you would be coming. Baba told us the poets would return to His city, singing and dancing like madmen about the Perfect Masters, and here you are!" said Ramakrishnan, Meher Baba Center, Pune.
I first came to Baba through the Eyes of the Ancient One. The eyes of Rabia---do they bring me again to Baba's Eyes, the Eyes of the Ancient One?
Music angels Jane Viscardi Brown and Cathy Haas Riley lift my poetry to the Eyes of the Ancient One. Jane set "The Eyes of Rabia" to music in 1968 at the New York Poetry Forum, and Cathy composed both music and dances for this poem in 1998. This performance brought India to Asheville for me.
"I surrendered my voice to Baba at His Tomb! And He completely changed it! It was His instrument forever afterwards," Jane told me.
And Cathy Riley's voice at the feet of Darwin Shaw, naked without instruments, the pure fluted voices of a music angel of vision, floating up into Pune trees swaying under the swelling moonlight, and the scent of roses lifting the Franciscan voice of Darwin Shaw, emerging like a simple monody, as Cathy's voice comes over the rose petals of Baba's hands, over His Fingers of Grace.
Baba motioned for Chanji to bring him a rose...to my delight and surprise, He peeled off a petal and handed each one of us a petal to keep "...as a memento of this occasion." I suddenly realized that Baba was sitting with His legs crossed, His lovely Foot was right in front of me, the Foot of Christ...and I became fascinated by His Foot...the Foot of the Beloved...I was reminded around Baba of the moment in the New Testament...about the woman who would come with precious ointment and oils and anoint Jesus' Feet...how Mary wiped Jesus' Feet with her hair. I was overcome with the urge to kiss His Foot. I would never have another opportunity to kiss the Foot of Christ! I looked up at it and everyone was looking, so I said, "I can't do that." I still had an urge to kiss His Foot; and this time when I looked up and nobody was looking, not even Baba.
Was Baba saying to me, "This is your chance! Do it!"?
So I kissed His holy Foot. Think of it! In the Twentiety Century, to kiss the Foot of Christ.
(Darwin Shaw at the Tomb of Meher Baba)
THE BIRD OF SORROW
Darwin and Jean Shaw tucked suprise socks in Christmas wrappings...warm, so warm for my diabetic toes...cold toes. O so cozy these tiny gifts...the miniature "gingerbread house" in Albany...no room for chairs. When Baba brought floods of lovergulls, NorthSouthEastWest, we shared His Sadra on the floor...Darwin warming his hands above the flames of Baba's Slippers. You could feel Baba's Electricity shiver all though you...at dinner together at the Baba Diner...we would hold their hands...hold all of our hands in a circle...Darwin's eyes twinkle when Begin the Beguine waltzed us back to the 1930s...Baba walked in Harmon-on-Hudson with Darwin and Jean, His beloved children.
Now, at this moment, the funeral of Jean Shaw, Jeff Wolverton delivering the elegy, recalling the moment she suddenly came out of her week long coma and smiled, suddenly, "Baba is so kind. We cannot comprehend how very loving Baba is!" And then she dropped her body.
Twenty years at the feet of Darwin and Jean...sitting on the floor with Baba's sadra on my lap, Darwin reading Baba's Discourses like a jazz musician, stopping now and then, taking us into another world with his Baba riffs, his intimate moments, his unrecorded thoughts alone with Baba...magical, beyond time and space, eternal. Hugging Darwin as he stands alone looking down on Jean's coffin, his head bowed low and silent, I tell him in my hug: I know, Darwin, I know what you're feeling. I took care of my Dad for the last ten years of his life. The last year of his life he sat on the porch waiting for me to come home; he cried each time I came home, greeting me like a puppy. We went everywhere together...those last ferry rides to Manhattan...his elfin ears...his wild hair blowing in the wind...waving his cane at the boatman. Baba told me, "Take him wherever you go. Tell your father how much you love him, every day, at every meal---breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The time you have left together is very short."
The waitress crying at our table, "Why are you crying?" I asked.
"The way you are holding your father's hand...so much love."
"It's Baba's love," I tell her.
"This is the ring my son gave me," he tells the waitress as he holds up the ring with the blue lapis lazuli stone I bought in Ahmednagar and had blessed at Baba's Tomb for my father. "I put my life in your hands," my father tells me. "I would have given myself up as a piece of junk, an old worn out car, if it wasn't for your love, Michael...I've never felt so much love before...You have such a good heart, Michael."
"It's Baba's heart, Dad. It's not my heart alone...It's all Baba's heart."
And at night I look into my father's bedroom and find him, my little birdling Da, holding his hands up in prayer like Ghandi... My father, who told me when I was a boy, "There is no God. I come from a family of scientists...we're atheists...not like you bunch of psalm singing hypocrites." My father, who broke the door down when I was praying and ran at me with a knife, now saying good-bye, his wrists bound to the hospital bed, the skin peeled off of his chest, his arms, and his back...peeled raw. The slightest drop of water from my cup makes him scream in agony.
"This skin disease is unknown...we have to take photographs...even the antibiotics, the super drugs, are dangerous." The doctors said, "Your Dad has all the cards stacked against him. He's not leaving the hospital...not this time. You've got to make a choice."
"But I can't, doctor! Nobody has that right!"
"You have to choose now. Once you put him on a life support system, that's it. I won't be able to do anything for him. We'll have to go before a judge, and that takes months."
"I can't! I can't choose!"
"I wouldn't put my own mother on a machine. As your father becomes more and more sensitive to his new surroundings, he'll become more and more depressed...a machine world...machine feeding...what do you think his state of mind will be when he realizes that he's hooked to a heart machine for his heart, a dialysis machine twenty-four hours a day with complete kidney failure, and a lung machine when his lungs fill with water."
I always woke up in time...these last few years...sometimes twice a month I would hear his lungs fill with water and I would wake up. I'm his "seeing ear dog" at 3 a.m. And got the medics here on time. He always gave me the good-luck sign in one hour...the medics got his lungs clear. Watching the spasms...my father's neck and arms jerking like a jagged puppet and the squashed, raped language bleeding from his lips. "Why don't they give him enough morphine? They promised there would be no pain."
"It's the creatinine level...it's going up...it was five yesterday...this morning it was seven and now it's nine. If we don't put him on a dialysis machine, your father will die."
"That's it! I'm not going to stand here and watch my father die! How do you expect me to stand by and watch my father murdered like this? He's chained to the headboard."
"Well, we have to prevent him from scratching the skin off his body...he's all raw...look at him...he's got to grow some new skin."
"I'm rescinding the order. Tomorrow you will put my father on dialysis."
"Well, all right (reluctant groan) but it's risky...you'll have to sign a waiver."
They wheel Da downstairs and I try to hold his ears...massaging his neck. "You'll get better, Dad, you'll get better."
"You can't go with him," the doctor says. "We don't let family in while we do the procedure."
"Let me go with my Da!"
"You can't watch the procedure! He has no veins left in his arms and legs. We have to enter the tubes through his neck...if we can."
I whisper in my Dad's ear, "Go with the doctors...they've got to take the poison out of your blood...so you won't die!"
My Dad cries and cries. "Michael, take me home! Why did you let them turn the switch off on me?"
"Baba, Baba, look at me! I'm down on my knees! You tell me what to do! You take over, Baba. You take over and heal my father. Help heal my father with Your immortal healing love!"
No sleep. Three days and three nights. I become the night nurse. I see Baba all around my father....Baba's suffering face in a wheelchair. The nurse tells me to go out while she changes the needles. It's all Baba...even the exhaustion, the fatigue. "It's all Baba," I say to myself as I lie down on the floor in the room next door. There is a mattress on the floor and I drop down like a dead puppet. "Take him, Baba. I love my father so much! I beg You to take him quickly, without any more pain, without any more suffering." I lie down in Baba...from a distance I hear my father crying out to me, "Michael! Michael!" I try...I try...but I can't get down. "Wake me up, Baba! Wake me up so I can get down to my Dad!" Why can't I move into my body? "Wake up! Da!"
You can't tear me away from my Da,
This familiar face, this everyday moon.
I buried myself in your doorways,
Ferreted in like a wild thing
Down, down your midnight throat's tickle
Or the deep centered purr.
Home, O home in your hidden smile, Anchises!
Why do you cold white birds
Come in to claw me away?
Let me wash his body, too!
Let me cleanse him.
Maybe I will awaken him
With a warm bear's kiss.
O home no more...
Can I take him with me?
Not leave him to be packed
In a snowbound room.
Shall I pack his body like Polonius?
Drag it with me? Sing all night vigils?
How much animation can I give
To your dear corpse
To make it dance, to make it
Live, O live once more!
One kiss now upon your forehead
And see how, dear Anchises,
Does the contemplation of your forehead...
One kiss upon your cold cheeks, moon-burned,
See, death opens up his spiral Universes.
One kiss upon your forehead,
Yorick; you died a minute ago.
Why was I sleeping? To join you in a duo death?
To leave you solo, raging at the wind!
Warm, so warm
and died only a minute ago!
For surely nightly I shall live
This moment when I missed your farewell kiss
To move towards you again and again
For your ghost's embrace, our resurrected face,
Becoming twin selves born out of our pain.
And see how I rock your brazened box,
This darkling nest,
To give birth to your ashes...
The progeny of winds...
To scatter, you said,
Over the seas of our memories.
I sent my father into flames!
It was too simple a cardboard box
For such a complex withering.
Now I release you, my birdling Da, my Ariel.
Didst say thou wanted to fly,
Anchises, looking down on me
Weeping to join you
In twin flights toward Our Father's eye?
"O vast rondure," saith Whitman.
Emerging from my father's skull
Thy kingdoms spiral out.
"Kiss me my father;
Touch me with your lips
As I touch those I love," saith Whitman.
Now through your death, Da,
I discover my own.
Looking down at my body
Like a lost piece of music
The atoms played yesterday,
And always Beethoven, always Beethoven
Breathing through airways of my childhood
And your ghost hero conducts
His invisible symphony.
But I am suddenly
Not on your lap!
Struck, shrieking in dissonant chords,
The shell of my body unsheathes
And I am walking alone in the silence of Beethoven.
I cannot go home anymore.
(Vision, Bk. II, p. 50)
Vision of Mehera on Silence Day...I became silent before you...as if I had read myself out into death...your classical sculpted face like Helen of Ahmednagar...sculpted forever in the garden of Our Beloved.
O mother, Helen, blessed daughter of God, I cannot go to your grave where rabbits have nested under your headstone...your tiny slippers by your bed...after seven years...your fragrance...the Spiritual notebooks you read to me. You taught me language by the sea...the white scarf, the prayer shawl I wrapped around you on the night of your death...billows up on the foam. The sea folds in its leaves...it's November now...I am with you always.
All day the light that was around you was His light...always by the sea...encircled us. Ringlets of fire haunted me that night and on into Silence Day. Your birth rhythms, mother...your heart flesh. "Here you always have a home with me," you said.
O Mehera, fire pointed upward from the tresses of your wedding veils!
O mother at the United Nations, I still see you standing with your shopping bag full of peace cards. The officials of the United Nations pick up a card or two...discard them among multitudes of dismembered speeches...Walnut Lion sleeping between black and white lamb...mother alone, always standing in little leprechaun hat...nourishing with a smile...alone in God...speaking to Him always...you taught me the aloneness of God.
O Mehera, Baba bends the delicate trees down to bow to your footprints...your tiny, pink slippers...mother, the worms eating your toe-space.
Your processional towards the Tomb on Silence Day...I could not go to your grave, mother. Then suddenly you flung your veil open---a Bride of Fire---and wept fully before His Face.
You cried for me, mother, you wrote in your notebook,
"What have I done?" Aeneas cried.
all day you cried for me...
The bird pointed down in the river
Where drowning soldiers bled.
on the day your heart broke,
All bleeding into the same river
you cried for me, mother.
"Why do you haunt me?" Aeneas shouted.
"My mother taught me The Song of the Birds," wept at eighty-three, Pablo Casals...final Birthday Concert, United Nations.
The bird flew higher
And a voice in the winds keened.
"He told me I was closer to Him than breath."
I am that Bird of Sorrow....
"He is God and yet He let me cut his hair."
The Bird of Sorrow
"Mother said it was freedom, The Song of the Birds.." Pablo mimes the flight of birds. "Peace, peace," they cry. Trembling, his hands flutter, "In the sky...they are free."
"I pawned my ring....so that you can go to Julliard," mother sang. "Call it a scholarship from God."
"He is God," Mehera whispered, "and He let me clip His nails."
Like a white fan.
"She taught it to me." Pablo Casals, United Nations. "I was in exile..."
It beckoned to Aeneas to follow it
"forty years in exile"...Chaplin of the cello..."from my own country."
They forced you into a plastic bag...little china-doll...
With these white wings...
They zippered you tight behind me, mother...
Its voice fell,
Raining droplets of blood
I bury you in these poems, Sea-Elegies, O Mother of Mystery!
It beckoned to Aeneas to follow it
See here are His tokens of love...locks of His hair
...you hugged me from behind my neck...
...clips of birthday nails...my treasure box...
hot breath of angel wings...you taught me to lift the veil.
O Mother of all answerings...
electric stings...that join the sky to sea!
Salt-wedded to the sky, vaginal....and always giving birth.
The sea's mind unfolds the rose...Pablo Casals plays for his mother...breaks open the flower...the cello weeps...upon the shore...fragrance of the rose unseen...blossom the moon-burnt air...waves like blue nurses huddle his heart.
O Mehera, there was nothing of earth remained of you beyond this Silence Day...
It was a bird of snow
That led him to the bridge,
death of Jean Shaw...death of Filis Frederick...incense of flowers rooted in the sky...
Emerging out of the fog,
death of Lyn Ott...
Out of white smoke,
death of my own dear father...
Out of discarded ashes.
The sea records our history...
I am writing these words now as from an after-death moment in Pune and Pumpkin House. All these experiences are Baba---the experiences of Darwin Shaw, the experiences of Andrew and Peggy Muir, of Kitty and Jane, of Lyn Ott bleeding his eyesight out in Baba's cupped hands. All these witnesses, and my own personal witness through poetry, are now woven together in a zen tapestry of the present. The present is overwhelming with Baba's Presence.
I surrender all those deaths to Baba. I surrendered the death of my father at Baba's Tomb at Amartithi 1994. I crawled behind the Tomb and placed my hand on the burning stones all night long, crying "Baba, I give my father up to You, as I touch the hem of Your Tomb!" And I suddenly do something that I have never done before! I create a poem out of the air...out of the flame of Samadhi...I create it out of ecstacy...I create it for Baba alone...repeating it over and over like a zen koan:
Your Tomb is the Living Womb of God
Which gives birth
To the swans of the world.
Seventeen thousand Baba Lovers are crowding around me, swarming like dazed ants up and down the hill. The "love police" are trying to keep the swirling crowds from crushing the flowers on the floor of Baba's Tomb and from running over Eruch's frail frame. Eruch, with woolen hat and blanket over his head, has been sitting up all night, too, behind Baba's Cabin, telling, sharing, entrancing...repeating those jeweled stories.
And always there was a bird that led us to Baba...would point us in the direction of Baba's gaze...would sit on Baba's head and, finally, die at His feet, incessantly, unendingly, charged with an energy that cannot stop. I cannot stop either.
Suddenly I realize: I have been searching all my life for the Word that is more than physical words---the Word that will shatter my prisonous form, the Word that comes out of the center of me---the Word that comes out of the silence to shatter my very being. I scatter my poems like leaves at the feet of His lovers, hundreds of poems, thousands of lovers...and I cry out to them: "The poet is no longer separate from the poem. Baba's life is the jewel; my words are only the setting. Baba's life is the Poem." And where am I? I am disappearing into Baba's life. I am dissolving into the poem that is Baba's LIFE!
WALNUT CREEK, 1998
Bhau said suddenly, "Shakespeare, don't think! Don't rehearse! Do it instantly!"
I just heard that Lyn Ott died as I was writing these notes. I feel Lyn's presence here, his great heart land! Baba is shaking us all up. When I was with Bhau last year, I thought I would never see him again.
Went to meet Bhau on top of Meher Mount...gave him tape of Vision from the Bridge of Fire. Spent all Silence Day with Bhau and Raphael Rudd, angel of music, remembering his beautiful harp music, remembering how Raphael packed his elegant Renaissance harp into the open trunk of his car, carrying it on his back like an angelic turtle with blond flowing hair to his studio and improvising the stunning score for the recording we did together of Vision from the Bridge of Fire.
Remembering how Tom Riley took me boating on the Lagoon and had me read my epic to Baba's alligators, who poked their jaws out as if in curiosity at my intruding Shakespearean voice. "Here's a poet's golden apple," Tom laughed. "A gift for the poet from Baba!" and Baba's gondola rippled. Tom Riley, my first teacher of Baba, bringing the recording of glistening icicles dripping in the caves of Assisi that Baba visited...and Darwin Shaw in Albany, tossing me Baba's stone, saying: "Suddenly, without warning, Baba would toss us His stone to see if we were awake. 'You must be awake or you'll miss my Daaman!'".
Remembering...hanging upside down from hospital bed, ghost white, colon throbbing and swollen, dark eyes lasered. They tell me I am dying... Cathy Riley, musical angel of Vision for the Bridge of Fire calls from Asheville, North Carolina: "WomanSong, a thirty-six voice choir, performed my choral arrangement of Vision. It's the climax of my six concerts; people are clapping and dancing in the aisles. People who have never heard of Baba are dancing to your Fire."
Yaa hoooo! I rise up out of my sickbed like Lazarus and dance with music angel Cathy on the phone. Cathy's voice inspires me over the years...first heard at the feet of Darwin Shaw when we were "children" twenty years ago in Albany; her voice is immortal in my eardrums. The concert we gave together at Ananda Ashram still lifts me to the heavens; the disciples of Brahmananda said the spirit of Krishna seemed to levitate me as I danced to her deeply stirring music.
In my wheelchair, I follow Bhau to the airport on his way to Walnut Creek. Baba breaks my heart open. I feel that I must never leave Bhau. Stay with Bhau. I am wheeled to the ticket counter.
"Is there a ticket available on this plane taking off?"
"There is one seat left. Do you want it?"
Yes, Baba! Thank you, Baba!
They wheel me onto the plane. Bhau is seated in Row 14B. My ticket is in Row 14D. Thank you, Baba! Baba, are you playing all the roles? I feel I am living God's stream-of-consciousness.
"I AM WALKING AMONG YOU"
Lyrics by Michael Mathias, Music by Cathy Riley.
Copyright 1998 by Michael Mathias and Cathy Riley.LISTEN TO ME! LISTEN FOR ME!
MY OCEAN OF LOVE! PURIFY YOU! PURIFY YOU!
NOW I AM ASKING YOU, "LISTEN TO ME"!
MY POETS! MY PAINTERS! MY HUMANITY!
I AM WALKING AMONG YOU! I AM WALKING AMONG YOU!
I AM THE VOICE OF FIRE!
LISTEN FOR MY VOICE!
LET MY VOICE RESIDE INSIDE YOU!
LET IT ROCK YOU WITH DIVINE LOVE!
LET IT ROLL YOUR HEART ACROSS THE NATION!
FROM THE NORTH
FROM THE SOUTH
FROM THE EAST
FROM THE WEST
I AM ARRIVING THROUGH YOU!
AWAKE THE NATIONS THAT SLEEP IN MY TOMB!
BEHOLD, I AM MOVING AMONG YOU!
(Vision, Bk. III, p. 41)
Remembering...Lyn Ott calls me into his studio to read my Vision for three hours to Bhau Kalchuri. That moment reverberates--continues now--as I write this. Lyn sits beside me, laughing at my tears. Baba leaks inside us, spills out from Lyn's dazzling paintings. "Being blind is lower than the lowest ant," Lyn remarks between sardonic smiles. "Everyone spits on a blind man."
"But you do see, Lyn. You look right into people. With the eyes of your heart."
Lyn laughs suddenly. "Repeat the poem, Michael."
"The entire poem, Lyn?"
"The whole poem. Line by line. Word by word."
Lyn arches forward and tilts his head like a bee. With his spiritual antennae he sketches the bloodlines of my words on the blackboard of his mind.
"Good night, Lyn. Good night, Bhau."
While saying goodbye to Bhau, Baba made me put on two clown hats and Bhau said I was so funny. Suddenly he asked me to perform Shakespeare---without preparation---outside the Barn. I looked at the circle of everyone present, and I looked deeply into Bhau's eyes:
MM: "Thou'lt come no more. Never."
He let me cry all over his shoulder and weep and weep as he patted my back goodbye.
MM: "They laugh first, and then they bury the clown..."
Bhau: "You've come to Baba's Home in the West.
You've come home to Baba."
Your laughter echoes now under moonlight on stranded beaches near the Lagoon where Baba walks. Baba walks, and I, following, continue my dance---the dance of the Clown.
The Poet...Devil...Clown...Dancer. Were these the pathways of Your fire, Baba?At the "OM" point
"There the dance is"
Where the dancer is consumed
by the fires of the dance.
And his steps are transfigured
on the Pathway of Fire.
The knee as it bends before Him,
The arm as it spirals toward the heavens--
All vanish into the music...
Vanish as it moves in the flames
(Vision, Bk. III, p. 52)
POEMS GIVEN IN SILENCE
VISION FROM THE BRIDGE OF FIRE: the Advent of Avatar Meher Baba
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