I had a vivid, delicious dream about POET, Robert Bly. I have taken classes from him and met him briefly. In the dream we were friends. We were in the car, Shabda, Robert and I, and I was crying with delight and saying, why did it take us so long to connect? He and Shabda had just sang a little, harmonizing some beautiful piece of music and it opened my heart, and woke me up, so I could remember the dream and write it down. We had been at a conference, somewhat boring, and Robert wasn’t surrounded with eager people — he and Shabda were just laughing over spiritual jokes.
The clock said four AM. I went back to sleep and dreamed Robert into my suddenly expanded writing room… He was just smiling, as if we had all the time in the world, sitting there in a big comfortable chair that holds him in his vastness – not large size, I mean his energy body, though he is taller than I am. I remember him bending slightly as we walked together at the Dodge Poetry Fest years ago, and I asked him, “Tell me something I need to know about writing ghazals.” “Exagerate,” he replied. “Don’t say 100 birds, say a thousand or a million.”
I had my back to him, struggling to find my favorite poetry books— the ones I felt we both liked. In the dream my books were scrambled, not where I keep them in sections. I kept mentioning authors—Mahmoud Darwish If I Were Another, with the beautiful translation by Fady Joudah: Like a Hand Tattoo
…He said: We’ll walk even to the last fraction
Of life, even if the paths let us down.
We’ll fly, as a Sufi does in the words… to anywhere.
I mentioned Bly’s Ghalib translations: Lightning should Have Fallen on Ghalib. “Why would you smile so mischievously in my dream?”—Ghalib. The lightning struck ME— Tamam! I am telling him how I found a beautiful quote from Ghalib and posted it with pictures of his shrine I had just visited in India. In my haste, I forgot to mention the translator’s name. I wrote an introductory note to Michael Sells that week. He replied that he loved my translation of Ghalib…. I wrote him back excusing my oversight and knew I never heard from him again. <> Bly looked at me and said nothing.
Where were those books? Anything by Shahid Ali. From Kazim Ali:Dear Rumi …Dear Shams-e-Tabriz, I do not mourn You spindle me, sun-thorn to the sky.
Adonis: An Introduction to Arab Poetics. I put that in his hand.
Oh, Robert, soon to be 88 years on this planet, I love your words! Everyone over 60 should read Talking into the Ear of a Donkey. Words of a poem from that collection:Frogs After Dark: …We’ve heard the fiddlers tuning their old fiddles, And the singer urging the low notes to come. We’ve heard her trying to keep the dawn from breaking. There is some slowness in life that is right for us. But we love to remember the way the soul leaps Over and over into the lonely heavens.
Here’s the great thing about dreams— you pull at a corner of the dream sometimes, and it opens. Writing it down gives you the sound, taste, smell of the dream— just a whiff, but in this case, that’s enough. Thank you, Robert Bly.
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