Solomon was born on July 11, 1977, and left us on January 31, 2012. He would be 44 on this birthday. For all who still feel a loving connection I offer a short tribute to Solomon as DJ SOLOMON, the way he offered music to so very many friends and how we moved and grooved in his inspired musical mixtures. Thanks to Solomon’s brother Ammon for making this short clip. You are with us Solomon!
January 31 our son Solomon lost his life in a car accident in Bangkok Thailand. Every year at this time I write to you Solomon, to share some beautiful moments of your life and celebrate what you brought to Shabda and me, Nicole, Ammon and his family—and all your cousins, friends, sports and music fans and long-time-ago schoolmates.
Dear Solomon, I was thinking about you and music, and Pharrell Williams makes me smile and feel like moving, like I did to your DJ music awhile ago…when I listen to his song from 2013 – HAPPY —
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do…
LAS VEGAS! According to the pictures it was March 27, 2007 that my friend Palden and I flew to Las Vegas to hear you make music and relax at the Hard Rock Café. You set it up so we were VIP’s with a nice room overlooking pools and a waterfall. Once a week you and Chris Clouse played in an outside restaurant – Hard Rock Cafe – there inthe dinner hours. We got in a taxi just before 10. “From 10 pm until way late”
DJ Solomon was the music for STUDIO 54 at the Las Vegas MGM GRANDE.
There was a trail of velvet ropes holding people who wanted to enter, between the lobby entrance and Studio 54. We went to the crowded club doorway. Inside the music pounded. A Hollywood type doorman looked doubtfully at the two women who were clearly over 40… “I’m the DJ’s mom,” I said. He looked amazed, surprised as he’d been all night. “Well, that’s a first!” he laughed and stamped our wrists. Inside it was full out. Loud and peaking—both the energy and the music. After about 5 minutes, with us pressing our way into the second room, past a very small DJ booth, the music stopped. It was less that 60 seconds before Solomon plugged in and turned up the volume on his set. The dancers and arm wavers picked up and went with it, as if he didn’t miss a beat. I turned to Palden and said, “tonight I know that Solomon can do this full time as long as he wants. He’s a pro.”
None of us can forget your passion for boarding—water, snow— You called yourself an adrenalin junkie, loved speeding in your car, on your bike —OOoooo— the beauty of acceleration! This from friend Leila Burrows:
Leila writes me: Every year at this time I find myself remembering Solomon. Our friendship was quick and fast in large part because among other things we shared three loves : Water sports, Snow sports and Nicole… Solomon, I’m sorry my husband Brendan and son William never got the chance to know you. When I learned our baby was a boy, I thought, wonderful! The chance to raise a good man. You were a good man. Although William will never get to shred or go boating with you, we will raise him to be like you: kind, inclusive, generous and fun. We will play in the snow and not take for granted what a gift it is to be alive. I love you, I miss you, I thank you. ❤️ Leila
Your nieces have become amazing girls as the photos show. Maeve was in utero 9 years ago, but Oona had a ride on your shoulders in December 2011. Wish you were here to be with them and teach them a few of your best tricks in the sports world and on the music boards.
In this difficult time of the Covid Pandemic I am glad you don’t have to worry about how the world of music can support you. (Although I’m sure you and Nicole would have a plan!). Live music played in concert halls, City Hall, clubs and outdoor places is so much better than on zoom. I’m wishing you could see the branches with plump green avocados in the garden. Most amazing of all is the banana tree with clusters of new bananas here in Terra Linda! I’ve never seen either fruit in Marin County.
We miss you and appreciate all our great memories when this time rolls around each year. Know you are with us— KNOW I take you with me and share you with all the many friends who love you and will read this.
Our mother ancestors hold the knowledge of the womb of love and compassion. Combining history’s stories with poetry allows me to attune to a communicated essence carried and shared in the tradition of Lucille Clifton who wrote a poem on Joan of Arc: to joan, …did you never wonder/ oh fantastical joan/ did you never cry in the sun’s face/ unreal unreal?…
Another favorite poem is W.S. Merwin’s Odysseus: Always the setting forth was the same,/ Same sea, same dangers waiting for him/ As though he had got nowhere but older.…
Traveling with Joan and Odysseus, the creation of inner cinema of lives that become known, felt more deeply— continues to have tremendous appeal to me. After joining Moroccan Sufi women in chanting (zikr) more than 20 years ago, I began to read the stories of the women in their line of ancestors, back to Prophet Muhammad. I felt their strength and influence on the man who guided the birth of Islam long ago. They are still with us, here today.
From my book: Fatima’s Touch, pp. 43, 44…
It was a hot day. Umm Ayman looked in the window and saw Fatima (daughter of Muhammad) asleep, with the millstone spinning, the cradle holding Husayn rocking itself, and a hand raised in praise. She went to the Prophet and told him what she saw. She asked him, “Who was grinding, rocking, praising?” He laughed and told her the names of three angels.1 Husayn holds the tender place in the story, as the son constantly remembered in Shia history, assassinated decades later in the massacre at Karbala. Umm Ayman was the servant of Amina, mother of the Prophet. She assisted in the birth of Muhammad and years later—his children. She was the rock of the family.
While She Sleeps
One grinds. One praises God. One rocks Husayn.
Uplifted gesture in the air—what’s this?
Two angels brought by Gabriel—one mills
the grain for Fatima, one gestures praise.
You see it and you don’t. Not flesh and blood,
nor anything like that. Transparent hands.
Who rocks Husayn? What fingertips can nudge
The cradle? In the room his mother sleeps,
exhausted, fasting, ripe for angel aid.
Her grindstone turns, as if it were a top
and bread could make itself. Who rocks Husayn?
A touch so light, the child smiles in his sleep.
The outside world is still, the stems of thoughts
curl tucked inside, while Gabriel bends down
to stroke his cheek, his heart-shaped face. Don’t ask
Who rocks Husayn, that little cup of love.
1 Encyclopedia of Fatima, 17:119, 120. See also Muslin, The English Translations, 4, #1701. Form iambic pentameter — blank verse.
And from my book Untold, A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad this poem:
It is the way for the Wife of the Prophet
not to turn her back on us. After
she notices we are looking to her, she opens the door
and beckons us in. But we are just watchers,
wanting to be close-up from a distance. We stare
at one young wife, leaning forward, her chin
on Muhammad’s shoulder, her fingers
squeezing his arm while the Abyssinian woman
dances. Another wife gives Muhammad
a turn of phrase to calm a thousand
disobedient men. We notice the well-shaped
mouth, the strong white teeth,
her damp hands on a towel. A future wife
stands looking at Muhammad’s open face.
We hear her gasp and understand. She’s modest. Still,
we can’t stop looking. Close details
make each wife’s bustling seem intimate,
but not too real. We wonder what we’d see
inside. There might be holy striving,
talk of paradise, a questioning remark,
a judgment. We may never know,
although there may be truth there
that we need, some understanding
from the source; some word of how it was
before something startled the world
into thinking — us and them.[i]
[i] End notes: There is a hadith that Aisha, watched the dancers in the Mosque, illustrating how relaxed Muhammad was with spontaneous expression. The source is the Alim on CD-ROM, narrator al-Tirmidhi, Aisha hadith, #1565. The other references are to his wives, Umm Salama (at Hudaybiyya) and Zaynab.
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After Untold and Fatima’s Touch, I continue to write about women of history. Most recent is Rabia al’Adawiyya of Basra, the 8th century Sufi woman seen as a saint by many in the Middle East.
What did Rabia Wear?
Rabia, I can’t help it. I’m accustomed to bring home the landscape, an Islamic culture like something out of the Yunus Emre Netflix series from Turkey, with its dirt roads, people walking with mules and hand carts, a minaret with the call to prayer. It’s hot and damp in Basra. Palm fronds will shelter as a roof. What are you are wearing as you walk in longing for God? Sandals in the mud, and a layer or two. Not dirty, but pale cloth, a gauzy veil scrubbed in well water then set to dry on a line near the door. The long sleeved tunic is woven to last, a coarse cotton. I think you were gifted with used tunics from a devoted friend or two. Here’s beautiful fabric, say pale green, with the woven words of God almost worn out on the sleeves. The scribes leave you clothed in nothing but words, but that’s just their way to show how Holy you are. Along with this: robed in the quintessence of pain… Pain? I want to see the fabric move as you walk, haul water, gather dates, or drape it on a hook before bed—when you slip into something else, a lighter covering. As a woman, I like the practical side of bringing you forward twelve-hundred years or so. How you look with an old cat in your lap.
No smoke coming through the screen or the keyboard, just evidence of smoke in green circles turning to yellow, then orange and finally red, on the AIR NOW page or my cellphone. Red—like the sun has been lately. full orange moon. Outside we are mostly in a barbecue setting, and I have two #95 masks I wear at the same time, as I had lung problems not so long ago and like to take an hour outside walk.
How do we cope with knowing that nearby beautiful trees and hillsides and small animals have flames and hot air all around? I don’t know. I feel gratitude from time to time. I am grateful for my life. I have been cooking blueberry cobbler and writing. I move the air purifier machine from room to room, and sing on Zoom with my husband, Shabda. Here is a poem to share.
Fire Flowers by Emily Pauline Johnson [Tekahionwake—her native America name] And only where the forest fires have sped, Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands, A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head, And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed, It hides the scars with almost human hands. And only to the heart that knows of grief, Of desolating fire, of human pain, There comes some purifying sweet belief, Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief. And life revives, and blossoms once again
This poet had an English mother and her father was a Mohawk chief. They lived in Ontario. She was born in 1861. What kind of life would that have been?
May you who are reading this have full breath, a comfortable house to live in, food on the table and friends to give support when you need it.
Here are some walking pics to make a record of this strange masked time.
July eleven has that special ring to it with the sound of Solomon’s laugh and the twinkle in his eye. Just when I feel he is far away, something happens to remind me—and same for many of his friends—that he is ever nearby. This year I took a pair of his laced shoes to Nicole’s house to celebrate his day of passing 8 years ago. After dinner I went to the Unitarian Church on Franklin in SF for the second part of the Ram Das memorial. After admiring my friend Trudy’s sparkly black lace-up shoes, I was gifted with them. Hmmmm,
Thanks Solomon! So much has happened in the last months. Politically I can quote Jon Stewart who said, “Usually it’s the president who ages during his term, today it is the country that is aging…” So here is a happy photo of Solomon and Nicole who flew to Chicago on the eve of Obama’s first election. When we were all much younger. Joy is in the air.
Happy earthly birthday and blessings on your Sacred Journey of love and service.You remain in our hearts! All of us who knew and love you.
Mama Tamam and Papa Shabda
Solomon ~ Gone 8 years on January 31: ♥ 7/11/77 – 01/31-12
Shabda just landed this morning in Delhi, India after 16 hours flying from SF. It’s that time of year. Looking thru my old E-mails from Solomon, I find his writings from India. One E-mail is from 21 years ago:
Friday, February 5, 1999 2:42 am
Mom, I actually found a cyber café in Delhi, imagine that… All is well here. We have been in Delhi almost a week with a packed schedule. I am attending some music classes, hanging out with Dad a lot and enjoying the people and wonderful sights and sounds, tastes, smells. He sang a beautiful concert yesterday, and this morning for Delhi University Music Department and Inayat Khan’s URS too. He sang with Terry (Riley) and Samiola. Filming (for a movie on Guruji) is going well, and Terry is very happy with what I have filmed so far… anyway maybe I have a future in documentary filming, but who knows.
Solomon, Shabda and Terry in India 1999
I am really psyched to get south to warmth and the parties and I’ve been hearing cool things about Goa guess we’ll see. The musicians I’m going to travel with are super cool. We will get to jam while we hang out at the beach…
Dad sends his love. Take care, much love, Solomon
♥♥<> In 2008 Solomon went with Nicole to India and they were there in Mumbai during the Barsi, an annual day-and-night yearly homage to Alla Rakha, (Abbaji), Zakir Hussain’s beloved father, famous Tabla Master who died in 2000, and helped introduce Indian music to the Western World. Solomon told us Zakir went to see him DJ at the well-known Blue Frog Club that he writes about here:
poster from the gig in India
February 3, 2008, 1:50 pm
Just got back from day and night sessions of the Barsi—totally amazing! We are staying in Bandra at a cool little hotel… my gig last night went VERY well, the club stayed open 45 minutes later than planned and was very busy. We didn’t get home til 3 and had to get up at 5:30 so we are a little tired and ready for a nap. Both of us are having a wonderful time. I will send pix soon, Much love, Solomon and Nicole
Ean Golden and Solomon made music together.
Ean has joined me this year for the time around Solomon’s passing and is offering some of their combined music as GoldenSol. Here is the best version of Papa Was a Rolling Stone I’ve ever heard—including The Temptations tune. YES!
This from Ean — Solomon and I met in 1999, when a local promoter asked him to scratch over my DJ set at a club called the “Blind Tiger” in the China Town district of San Francisco. We quickly became close friends and spent the following 10 years making a lot of music and djing in many clubs together as a duo called GoldenSol. Two recordings stand out in particular as I reflect on this special anniversary of his passing:
1. Papa Was a Rolling Stone (GoldenSol Remix)
This bootleg remix released in 2002 and became quite popular in underground record stores. We sold several thousand copies of the 12” Vinyl and often heard it played in clubs around the bay area.
2. Keeps Me Movin’ (Radio Edit)
One of our first original songs, this soulful number featured a promising new singer named Latoya London who would go on to place 4th in American idol season 4 and have a very solid R&B career.
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Ending this time with Solomon with some photos. Solomon, we miss you and love ♥ you! Thanks for all you have given us that keeps on giving over the years. Although you are not with us in the same way you were back then, you are with us—all of us who love you!♥♥
On July 11 Solomon would have turned 42
This time every year (the last 7) I feel Solomon draw closer, with the luminous memories, with a mist of grief —both together. Writing this tribute brings him near for a while, sparking memories of the 34 years we shared—mother and son.
Wendell Berry Sabbaths 1999
I dream of a quiet man
Who explains nothing and defends
Nothing, but only knows
Where the rarest wildflowers
Are blooming, and who goes,
And finds that he is smiling
Not by his own will.
A quiet man, his rarest wildflower music as a DJ, introduces Stevie Wonder at the Salesforce Celebration and plays in front of City Hall at The Black and White Ball in San Francisco, who goes——around the racetrack in his blue Lotus sportscar, down the mountain on his snowboard (having been dropped on a high ridge by helicopter)—smiling—to Burningman, Sufi Camp, Chile and Morocco, Germany, Peru, India…
Some emails from Solomon: note to his grandmother—Shabda’s mom Ilse (shown below): Monday July 1, 2000 Omi, Happy birthday from your grandson in South America. A am having wonderful adventures in Peru with Ammon. We got to go to Machu Pichu, one of the most incredible historic wonders I have ever seen… I wish you a happy and healthy birthday and a joyful and fulfilling year to come. Much love, Your Grandson Solomon ♥
Omi, Solomon and Shabda
Friday June 28, 2000 Hi Mom, I just had a super long day of seeing all of these ruins which I am now convinced were built by aliens. That’s what everyone says about this place and I thought it was a load of crap until I saw 120 ton rocks that have been carved perfectly to fit into this intricate stonewall work… I actually got to DJ last night at this spot. Now I can add Cuzco, Peru to the places I have played. Much love and I will write soon, Solomon ♣
Family boating… June 30, 2008 Hello family, I am extending an invite to our wonderful family for a day of boating/birthday celebration as I bring in the 31styear of my time on our little rock. We thought it would be fun to have everyone go out on a Sunday. The boat is located in Tracy, about an hour from SF. We will plan on a picnic lunch…Any questions? Hope you all can make it! Much love, Solomon ♥
Let’s say you were asking me ♦ What’s up? ♦ I’ll write you back here and now.
You’ll be glad to know I’m getting healthy after a long-time bacterial infection and a difficult period of very low energy. My lung doc is pleased with my slow bounce-back. I’m going to Mendocino Sufi Camp this week. Dad is in charge this summer, and Ammon, Laura and the girls as well as Nicole will be there. Nicole is a very popular yoga teacher. She will be there with Samantha (now 3½) and Varvara to help. Ammon will DJ Thursday night, as you used to do often in those years.
Mendocino — Naomi, Solomon, Nicole, Varvara, Jason, Shabda, and Jamilah
June 8th we had a pool party like in the old days. It was a birthday party with 3 cakes: Nicole and Ryan (May 30) Maeve (June 1) and me (June 14). Naomi was there pregnant. She is due with #3 child this summer. Lots of Nicole and Ryan’s friends were there. Chris Clouse was at the party. Ean has been out of town most of the time these days, Runni and Sasha and the kids are in Israel as Jeannie hasn’t been well. I talked with Christian Heath who tried but couldn’t come to a memorial day dedicated to you the end of January. Jason Rezaian and I have been in Email touch. He is back at the Washington Post. Leila Burrows is recently married and lives up by Lake Tahoe.
Minhoi, Nikolai, Tamam, Shabda, Naomi,and Solomon
The nearly eleven-hundred ft. tall Salesforce Tower in SF makes the city look different from when you were living there. The old Sears store a few blocks away at Northgate may become a Costco. Our RV is twenty-three years old. An antique! We still drive it to Mendocino once a year. It’s lucky you don’t have to deal with the politics our country is stuck with. We are about as far from Obama’s view as anyone could imagine. Ammon is co-founder and VP at Formation, which is becoming quite large and promising, an (AI) Artificial Intelligence design company. Oona and Laura took part in a race around Lake Merrit and Maeve is a fashionista and quite an artist.
Oona (almost 10) and Maeve (7) your adorable nieces
Nicole and Samantha at the beach in SF
The family and friends still feel you are with us, but we miss the adventures you took us on. I miss your smile and humor. Your enthusiasm. Your fantastic music.
Your Dad joins me in sending you love and more love…endless love, Mom
Solomon and Ammon at Lake Tahoe at Burningman — both were DJ’ing there
Django and Solomon – cousins Solomon and Rah (Runni) – cousins
Ammon, Laura, Nicole, Solomon, Tamam and Shabda
Subhana Ansari cultivates beautiful “Day Lillies.” SOLOMON SUNRISE is this flower she named for Solomon. It blooms at the end of June every year, before his birthday. Continue reading
I am reposting this page. I feel it’s important today, perhaps more than it was then.
Marrakech Sufi Gathering: The Sidi Shiker World Gatherings of Tasawwuf Affiliates. I just returned from Morocco. The Royal Government paid for airfare, hotel, and food for a week. I was invited to present my poetry to a conference of nearly 2,000 Sufis. It doesn’t seem possible – but it’s true. I was there in the triple digit heat, sharing a tajine, heaped with rich and delicious food or an elevator with people from Lebanon or France.
In 1998, my husband, Pir Shabda Kahn, and I went to the Sacred Music Festival in Fez, Morocco as leaders on a “sacred journey.” We returned the next three years with groups of American Sufis and visited sacred sites and caravan-ed on camels in the Sahara. Our good friend, who made this possible, was a man named Dr. Sidi Ahmed Kostas. Now he is the assistant to Dr. Ahmed Toufiq, the Minister of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs for the king. Around the Summer Solstice June 21, 2009, Dr. Kostas and Dr. Toufiq got permission from King Muhammad VI to assemble a Sufi Conference in Marrakech July 10-12. They had less than a month! I got a personal phone call from Dr. Kostas while in England, waiting to go to Germany and teach from my forth-coming book: Untold: A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad. Dr. Kostas wanted me to read my poetry at the conference. I said yes.
Dr. Kostas set out to invite Sufi groups from all over the world and on 10 days notice almost 2000 people accepted the all- expense-paid invitation of airfare, beautiful accommodations and banquet-meals – from Minister Toufiq on behalf of the King of Morocco. 100 Nigerians. Chinese and South Africans. Americans, Europeans, Middle Easterners. It was the Moroccan travel agent’s nightmare. The conference was tri-lingual, Arabic, French, and English, with simultaneous translation for all presentations. The weather – hot as West African summer; the hotels were well air-conditioned. Marrakech is as sophisticated as it is beautiful. The reason for this whirlwind was echoed in the words of the presenters. Sufism is recognized as a hedge against fundamentalism in Morocco. Sufi teachers and their followers hold the notion of the true meaning of Islam as ” the inner state that causes the feeling of peaceful surrender to the protection, safety, and healing of the Divine.” The Sufi is one who carries the essence of love, harmony, and beauty, and pays attention to transforming the nafs (ego). He or she may be a warrior of the inner jihad (a phrase that means to contend, to challenge the unrefined self). Sufis are known to stand together and chant, la illaha illallah (There is no Reality but The Reality,) celebrating this in joyful assembly. My definition of Sufi mysticism is: “It is the fragrance over the flower of religion.”
The king, like his father before him, recognized it was in Morocco’s best interest to promote this fragrant fraternity for benefit, and bring together Sufis from everywhere to foster connection and mutual brother-sisterhood.
The Ministry further seeks to fund and promote publication and education toward this gentle reflection of Islam in the culture of Morocco.
Of the 2000 delegates, there were less than 50 women. Three of us presented; a Moroccan scholar, Dr. Zakia Zouanate, and an American scholar and long-time Sufi friend, Murchida Tasnim Fernandez, and myself. Several times at the break I was the only woman in the vast, hotel restrooms. The women were a tiny minority, yet
we made our presence felt. I had instant sisterhood with the few women I saw, nodding or introducing myself to Laurence from Paris, Ikram from Fez (in the photo below), Hafsa from Scotland, Fatima from Nigeria, Ora from New York.
My poems were translated by Dr. Kostas, as we stood on the stage at the banquet close to midnight Saturday night. Dinner had just ended, but nights in Morocco seem to go on forever. Before I began to read, I thanked the King. (He was absent, but it’s not often you get chance to say, “I want to thank His Majesty, King Muhammad VI for his generosity ….”) Afterward, Dr. Toufiq expressed his appreciation to me for my work on the Mothers of Islam, and told me I was always welcome in Morocco. My friend and fellow poet Abdal-Hayy Moore read his poems as well.The next day, Arabic-speaking delegates called out to me in Arabic, smiled warmly, gave thumbs up or offered me their business cards.
The conference swag was amazing; the women received silver or gold brocade slippers and a stylish silk scarf; the men, an elegant white hooded burnous, a briefcase, leather slippers, an Arabic language Qu’ran, and a beautiful sacred manuscript book.
Because my name ends in a consonant, an Arabic “male indicator,” and my husband’s with the female “A,” our invitations read His Eminence Tamam Kahn and Her Eminence Shabda Kahn. Nice.
On Saturday, the international press was everywhere. I gave two interviews, one to Italian TV and the other to a journalist and photographer from Brussels. You could spot the women reporters in their casual hot weather clothes, while most delegates wore traditional robes called djelabas and some kind of head covering. The Nigerians dazzled – in vivid colored caftans and hats. The day we went to the desert, it was well over 105 degrees and all who went – nearly 2000 of us – ate lunch in tents with ceiling fans and a couple portable ACs. We were there all day. The women staged a take-over and claimed the large tent designated for us and provided with pillows, couches and a computer. Sleepy men left and went elsewhere. At 7:30 we all returned for dinner in a bus caravan accompanied by a police escort all the way into Marrakech, flashing lights and all.
The night before, we were driven to a palm garden just outside the city and entered the circle of tents on red carpets, lined with drummers and men playing long trumpets. We sat in chairs at tables of ten in twelve traditional Moroccan tents placed around a carpeted open space, desert style. The couscous and chicken arrived with a procession of tajine-carrying waiters. After dinner we listened to live Turkish music as the moon rose over the dark palms.
I return with new names and e-mails in my address file, my
Ahamed Granoff, Khalifa Abul Fathi, and Sheikh Tijani
luggage perfumed with amber from the souk, and most valuable –the gift of friendship. In this time when most people in the world are withdrawing financial largesse, when programs falter, I was conscious of how generosity on the scale of this event may bring expansion, blessing and God willing, insh’allah, the peaceful benefit of the open hand and heart.
Morocco, may you be peaceful and strong.
The end of a tabla and Kanjira drum duet (Zakir Hussain and Selvaganesh in Berkeley three days ago)—that last moment of eight beats played at light-speed—that moment linking heaven and earth was pure delight! I dedicated it to you, Art Buehler, right then just 6 hours before you passed away, April 1, 2019.
When I remember this I’m not so downhearted with loss from all that connects us, the years of back-and–forth translation and critique of 7thcentury stories that made up two of my books and one of yours—just finished. Gone is the coaxing of beings from writings of another time, and the accuracy of the charting. The disagreements and the places I was unable to climb in the tower of refined scholarship, how your stern German roots showed themselves only to move into laughter; your laughter, then my smile of relief.
About the time you started getting ill I took on plant-sitting for my friend Malik. He had six African Violets he brought me in a box. A table was made for them under the window and I began to water the little white trays once a week. When I began to spray and feed them with a brown plant food they bloomed into delicate flowers of purple and several shades of pink. I re-potted them and then had eleven. They thrived. Malik returned and took back six. Then came the fading; the leaves and flowers turned brown. There is no return to the full green leaves. I inhabit the world of loss.
I especially mean loss that is connected to the flowers that words make. First Master Poet Bill Merwin leaving this world and his palm forest slope in Maui on March 15th, and now you, Art Buehler at a hospice in Tucson. William and Arthur—kings of their craft, translators par-excellence, poet and consummate scholar—mentors to me for all that I have written in the last decades.
At a workshop in Mexico in the nineties I asked Bill Merwin a question I worked on for two hours:
How can we tell what needs to be told? What can you say about the vital shift from personal self-involved writing to a beneficial service to others through the poetic form?
He answered: “There is no poetry in the Absolute! Poetry is relational. It starts by being the attempt to say what cannot be said, while prose is something we can say.”
Then he looked at me and recited Shakespeare’s sonnet #18:
Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate……
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Merwin continued: “You can’t change a word of it. When you get to that kind of intensity, the poet must bear witness to the aspect of life from which poetry comes. It is beyond Shakespeare’s experience. A hologram. Because it is complete it can tell you something of the whole world.” Life-changing answer.
In that time I had linked my poems together in a rough text that would—years later—become my book Untold, A History of the Wives of Prophet Muhammad. In 2005 at the San Francisco Sufi Symposium I introduced myself to you, Art. I had read that you taught Philosophy and Religious Studies at Louisiana State University, and had lived in Yemen and with the Naqshbandis of Afghanistan. Plus you received a PhD from Harvard and wrote several scholarly books. I mentioned my writing on The Prophet’s Wives. Could we make time to discuss it?
You just sat down with a pen and began to edit my work. You told me to look for the oldest sources, not contemporary and 20thcentury historians, but the early ones, and continued over the next couple of years to send me crucial information on that. Less than a decade later you graciously invited me to contribute to a book you were writing on Fatima, Daughter of Prophet Muhammad. I flew to Amman, Jordan where you had just moved with your wonderful, beloved wife, Josemi. We spent a week with a twenty-five volume biography of Fatima. You’d ask what part of her life I wanted to explore, then open that volume and translate from the Arabic, while I wrote down every word.
Me and Josemi on the roof of the apartment in Amman, Jordan, 2014 where she and Art lived. She worked in the Brazilian Embassy
There was the story of Fatima grieving for her father after his death. The door opened there were three houris (female heavenly beings) who told her—we’re from paradise and have brought you blue date cake. Your father: you were longing for him. We know. ) From Shia Hadith: Musnad Fatima al-Tuyya Sirukani, #252, translated by Dr. Arthur Buehler). I made a poem “Blue Date Cake” published in Women’s Voices for Change November, 2017, and is in my book Fatima’s Touch—which I put out on my own as your work was far from finished in 2015.
Here’s some lines from one of the rough drafts you sent for me to edit: “A note to the reader:” My goal in writing this book is to provide an opportunity for more people to appreciate Fatima… By honoring Fatima, everyone gets honored. When I started out ignorant of Fatima there was no way to know how much I would end up loving her. If only one person comes to love Fatima after reading this book, I will be happy. May that one person be you. (March, 2015.) This poem brought you to mind recently:
…There was no arrogance about him
No vanity, only the strong backs
Of his words pressed against
The tonnage of a page
His suggestion to me was that hard work
Was the order of each day…
I drank deeply from his knowledge
A cup he gave me again and again
Filled with water, clear river water
He was never old, and never grew older
Though the days passed…
from: Mine Own Phil Levine by Dorianne Laux
In my last conversation with you, that phone call when you gently let me know about the incurable cancer, I had just been walking in a bird reserve, and offered to take you with me on my next outings, and that I’d send my husband Shabda’s bird pictures on email. Isn’t it strange, I said, that both of us were very healthy before the Fatima books. After I finished, right when it came out in the fall of 2016 I became ill for two and a half years, and am just now recovering; that you completed Fatima the Resplendent: The Prophet’s Daughter—as your new book was called as of January 30—that you may join her… as I would like to when it is my time!
poem from Fatima’s Touch by Tamam Kahn
Fatima is described in elaborate detail, in Shia history, crossing the bridge to paradise. On the Day of Resurrection, a herald will call from the middle of the throne: O people of the Resurrection, lower your gaze, for Fatima the daughter of Muhammad is crossing… reference: Suyuti, Musnad Fatima (courtesy of A. Buehler)
Fatima rides with the emerald houris,
maidens — immortals with transcendent eyes.
High on that she-camel known as al-Adba,
dressed in a thousand sheer garments of heaven,
with beautiful greetings inscribed on each hem.
Five thousand angels go with her as escort
on sapphire horses with pearls in their manes,
joining this liminal moment of glory:
she’s crossing death’s bridge, but it’s wide as a hair.
Gabriel guides her into God’s throne room.
Here, like a bride, she is light-crowned and perfect,
while star-marked galaxies gleam in her hair.
She’s known as the doorway to life-everlasting.
Calling and crying for help, people beg her:
Please help us, lift us right over the gap.
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Thank you Habibi, for your friendship, bold spirit of adventure, and support. May the way open before you, Ya Fattah! I dedicate this to Josemi Sawczuk
with love, Tamam
One-hundred and seventy years ago on this day San Francisco received its name.
AN ORDINANCE WHEREAS the local name of Yerba Buena, as applied to the settlement or town of San Francisco… has been applied from the local name of the cove on which the town is built: therefore to prevent confusion and mistakes in public documents and that the town may have the advantage of the name given on the public map; IT IS HEREBY ORDAINED that the name SAN FRANCISCO shall hereafter be used in all the official documents… appertaining to the town. W. Bartlett, Chief Magistrate January 30, 1847
On this day in 1848 the first gold nugget was found starting the California Gold Rush. Betsy Ross, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dick Cheney, and Phil Collins were born; and Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. The Beatles gave their last concert in 1969 on the roof of Apple Records, London.
On this day in 2012, I took Shabda to the airport for his trip to India via Frankfort and had lunch with Ammon in SF, buying a new watch just before we ate at a restaurant a floor down from his office at Microsoft. That night I vaguely remember the phone ringing after midnight but was too sleepy to answer. It rang several times. I woke to the news from the embassy in Bangkok that Solomon had died in a car accident a few hours before.
To me the 30thand 31stof January are the same, as Bangkok is 15 hours ahead of San Francisco. He died as one day slid into the next while I slept in my bed in San Rafael and Shabda flew over the pole.
AA Milne died (1956), ending the era of Winnie-the-Poo. This day Meyer Baba and the 11th Dalai Lama passed on. The Apollo Mission launched a rocket to the moon, in 1971, where a few days later, Alan Shepard would hit a ball with a golf club—on the surface of the moon. In 1893 the seatbelt law for drivers and front seat passengers became law. In 1990 the first McDonalds in Russia opened in Moscow. The 31st is Justin Timberlake’s birthday. Philip Glass will be 82 on Jan 31st, 2019.
Solomon will have been gone for 7 years. And yet he is with us in moments of freedom— walking, dancing, snowboarding, bicycling, out on a boat and in the world of music. I hear from Nicole and Ryan and Ean, from Michelle and Leila, Naomi and occasionally Nikolai in Germany, from Chris, Scott and recently talked with Christian from long ago. I meet a man named DJ Richard Habib who was so happy to learn I was Solomon’s mother. He said he helped organize the memorial for Sol back in March of 2012. Jason Rezaian read from his new book PRISONER from his 544 days in an Iranian Prison, at Dominican in San Rafael a few nights ago. They were at Marin Academy together back in the day. His mother Mary and wife Yegi were there. I felt Solomon in the room with us. His cousins Tiphani, Django, and Runni are in touch. And brother Ammon and his family are very close. Many more who love Solomon are not mentioned here. We love you Solomon!