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The Harpist

“O dear harpist,” said the girl by the well.
“Play a song for me that will cast a sweet spell
over my heart that’s weary as can be.
For I am alone now and no-one comforts me.”

“Grandma passed away in the middle of the night.
I prayed for her soul and I held her hand tight.
I know she’s in heaven, mother at her side,
but, oh, the empty place now by my fireside!”

Softly he played to ease the girl’s heart,
plucking at the strings of his beautiful harp.
As they both sang the people gathered round,
there at the well – what a beautiful sound!

They sang seven songs then the harpist said,
“I have a little halvah and I have a little bread.
If I gave you some money could you fetch us some tea?
For, oh, what a thirst has come over me!”

The teaboy’s heart never stood a chance;
it melted right away at the girl’s first glance.
He heard her tale as he carried her tea,
said, “I’ll look after you – will you look after me?”

One day by the well when she was full grown,
and married to the teaboy with children of her own,
the girl, now a woman, saw a very old man
with a beautiful harp in his frail old hands.

“Are you the harpist?” she said to the man.
“Certainly,” he said, “fair lady, I am.
And are you the girl I knew long ago?
We sang by the well, now isn’t that so?”

“Yes,” said the girl, her heart full of joy,
“And how happy I’ve been with my teaboy.
But how have you fared, Sir? Where have you been?
What concerts given, what marvels seen?”

“I’ve played for a sultan, I’ve played for a king.
I’ve played in the places where the greatest sing.
But better than money and the clapping of hands
was playing to the Friend on the desert sands.”

They sang another song for the people there
as the moon unveiled in the mild night air.
And when they were done he whispered in her ear,
“A blanket please–tonight I sleep here.”

The morning found that his soul was now free.
He’d passed in peace the woman could see.
The desert of his heart was open to the wind.
Allah it was who was plucking at the strings.

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Read and Return

I read and return
this self to his Lord.
Alif, lam, mim:
in Self I am poured.

Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim, Ya Shafi, Ya Karim!

Dead on a hill,
I wake to His Word.
Alif, lam, mim –
fly, little bird!

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September Hu

September, love, with fresher winds
all that summer promised brings:
A harvest full of bounteous gifts –
whom shall we praise for this?

‘Who but Hu?’ September sighs.
‘Who is Hu?’ the heart replies,
while in the dappled, turning woods
angels wink from russet hoods.

‘Who is Hu?’ they laugh and sigh,
in wind and leaf their forms disguised.
‘Die, sweet soul, before you die,’
the message from each almond eye.

So we read from Nature’s book
and walk the rustling path of love;
glimpse Mevlana’s graceful whirl,
gown of yellow leaves-a-twirl.

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The Cherry Blossom

The cherry blossom’s time was brief,
and so our pain, and so our grief;
but yet remains the trunk and leaf,
the spreading roots secure beneath.

So scornful of all outward show,
deeply down our way may go;
flower or wither, yes or no,
sweetly sweet the undertow

that draws us like a corpse to dirt,
underground to hug our hurt;
let beetles’ claws unpick the shirt,
touch the root, with maggots flirt.

For here there lies the source of things;
unseen, eternal springs;
beyond the root the Root that brings
our frail, our surface blossomings.

The cherry blossom’s time was brief,
and so our pain, and so our grief;
but yet remains the trunk and leaf,
the spreading roots to our relief.

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The Hoopoe

Shocking as a friend of God,
his plumage in the air,
the hoopoe heralds mystery
inviting us to share.
A drunk one, sober one,
causing us to stare.
‘Huu-huu-huu –
follow if you dare!’

Pink as the rose of
Farid ud-Din’s delight;
an interplay of opposites,
stripes of black and white;
a drunk one, sober one,
such a shocking sight;
yet hiding in the ditches
this one’s delight.

Two feet on the ground,
so he bows to the earth,
eating up the grubs
in the filth and the dirt.
From sober ones, drunk ones
who has not heard:
‘It is from the lowly
the heavenly is birthed’?

In the stubbled field
on our knees we may find
that he has taken off
on a wing at a sign.
A drunk one, sober one,
he zigzags as he climbs;
for sometimes ‘the straight path’
takes a crooked line.

Shocking as a friend of God,
his plumage in the air,
the hoopoe heralds history,
a lineage to share;
A drunk one, sober one,
one beyond compare.
‘Huu-huu-huu –
follow if you dare!’

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Silence

My words are all a-jumble,
unconscious of their mark,
but Yours an arrow honed
on every matter’s heart.

I feel Your eyes upon me,
the bending of Your bow.
If I could enter silence
would You let it go?

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The Rendezvous

My prayer mat is
of midnight blue,
like Mary’s veil,
like mercy’s hue.
Upon it stars,
a ladder true
to clamber to
our rendezvous.

And as I climb
these woven stars,
my soul reflecting
counterparts,
I wonder deeply
at Your dark
midnight pouring
in my heart!

Oh, what a scent
of wonder this
of nights they bowed
and bent to kiss:
those friends of God
in ocean’s bliss,
outstretched hands
of ambergris.

And of that night
my Prophet flew
on Buraq to
his rendezvous,
beyond the stars
and even through –
bow’s breadth
away from You!

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Wish Me Well

With Jacob Dyer (lead guitar).

I copy those whose longing’s real,
for I’ve not yet reached the state to feel
half the heartache that I tell.
Yet, fellow traveller, wish me well.

It’s not that I wish to deceive;
words of mine shan’t make you grieve.
All is borrowed that I sell.
Yet wish me honest, wish me well.

Oh, to feel as those who feel,
whom Love has set with her red seal!
Could the heartache that I tell
be, smiling traveller, yours as well?

Come, let’s pick on the tavern step
dervish pockets – love-change get.
If you’re not one, one might say,
‘Poor pilferers, come this Way!’

I copy those whose longing’s real,
for I’ve not yet reached the state to feel
half the heartache that I tell.
Yet, mystery traveller, wish me well.

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Alhamdulillah (adapted from Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen)

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
that David played and it pleased the Lord,
but you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this:
the fourth, the fifth
the minor fall, the major lift,
the baffled king composing alhamdulillah.

Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah,
alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah.

Your faith was strong but you needed proof.
You saw her bathing on the roof.
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you.
She tied you to a kitchen chair,
she broke your throne, and she cut your hair
and from your lips she drew alhamdulillah.

Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah,
alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah.

You say I took the name in vain.
I don’t even know the name.
But if I did, well, really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word;
it doesn’t matter which you heard:
the holy or the broken alhamdulillah.

Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah,
alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah.

I did my best, it wasn’t much.
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch.
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
with nothing on my tongue but alhamdulillah.

Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah,
alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah.

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Hunting the Hart

I search for footprints in the downing of the hart,
deep in the dawning in a world of light and dark;
and stalking through the elm trees clinging to the night,
I finally see her tender sides glooming in the light.

Down on one knee now I level up the bow;
two hearts beating in the darkness now I know.
I kiss once the arrow tip, let fly and hit my mark!
Now spreading on my chest is a bloodstain in the dark.

I nibble on the berries in the downing in the bark,
deep in the dawning in a world of light and dark;
and stalking through the elm trees clinging to the night,
I finally see his arrow tip glooming in the light!

Down on one knee now he levels up the bow;
two hearts beating in the darkness now I know.
I kiss once the arrow shaft that quivers on its mark!
Now one heart rises from the world of light and dark.

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Heart of Fire

Tell me do you have a heart of fire?
Does all that you are burn on a pyre?
Tell me have you seen the Sweet One’s face
and fallen into ruin, shame and disgrace?

Tell me if you have – friend, draw near.
The fire grows stronger when two burn here.

Tell me have you heard a silence grow,
happy as an awkward, ugly old crow?
Tell me have you found your heart can sing
sweet as the nightingale of a king?

Tell me if you have – friend, draw near.
The fire grows stronger when two burn here.

Tell me have you heard all your ego’s moans,
and smiled at his cunning, his sticks and stones?
Tell me have you let your shadow know
you’re happy he follow wherever you go?

Tell me if you have – friend, draw near.
The fire grows stronger when two burn here.

Tell me have you heard Mevlana’s call
to the beat of your heart, its rise and fall?
Tell me have you caught a glimpse of the sun,
Shams-i Tabriz, that shimmering one?

Tell me if you have – friend, draw near.
The fire grows stronger when two burn here.

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Zhikr

‘Forget,’ says the body,
‘And please only me.’
‘Remember,’ says the heart,
‘All rivers meet the sea.’

‘Remember,’ says the world,
‘Your worries weighing here.’
‘Yet One,’ says the heart,
‘Is cause and cure of fear.’

‘Forget,’ says the time,
‘There’s not enough of me.’
‘Remember,’ says the heart,
‘In a second you are free.’

‘Remember,’ says the mind,
‘Our list is very long.’
‘Yet One,’ says the heart,
‘Plus infinity is One.’

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My Prophet and the Snow

I wonder did my Prophet
ever see the snow,
flakes fresh from heaven
dancing here below?
Perhaps in the caravans–
whither did they go?
I wonder did my Prophet
ever see the snow?

I think that my Prophet
would have smiled at the snow;
light upon light
that the heart longs to know;
spotless as the desert
where feet fear to go.
I think that my Prophet
would have smiled at the snow.

I almost hear my Prophet say,
Huuu! to the snow.
Earth, water, air:
all in white they now go;
and don as one a veil,
their naked truth to show.
I almost hear my Prophet say,
Huuu! to the snow.

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Blizzard Love

With Jacob Dyer (lead guitar).

I have not loved You
as I should.
My Love, I love You,
let me love.

Nor have I known You
as I could,
my known Unknown,
my Life, my Blood.

Oh, say that I
might catch my drift,
this blizzard love
I’m turning with.

Oh, say that I
may one day know
this secret self
who loves You so.

I have not loved You
as I should.
But, oh, my Love,
my Love, my Love!

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Life in Death

‘I feel so frail and small,’
said I to Life so tall.
‘Then come to death in Me,’
With tender smile said She.

‘I thought I spoke with Life!’
said I as I turned white.
‘Indeed you do,’ said She,
‘No falsehood here with Me.’

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Mevlana, Mevlana

Mevlana, Mevlana,
teach me to turn.
I would be like the moth–
in the flame I would burn.
I’m mocked by the clever,
but the clever never learn.
Mevlana, Mevlana,
teach me to turn.

Tell me Love’s secret,
Shams-i Tabriz.
I have begged of the moon,
I have begged of the trees.
I’m mocked by the proud
for begging on my knees.
Tell me Love’s secret,
Shams-i Tabriz.

Mevlana, Mevlana,
teach me to whirl,
my arms outstretched
and my heart unfurled.
The worldly all mock
but I’m giving up the world.
Mevlana, Mevlana,
teach me to whirl.

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The Boat of You and Me

Rowing from the island with our booty in the hull,
you were struck by the mountain, by the shrieking of a gull.
Could there be cold powers who are jealous of the tree,
these little seeds of His in the boat of you and me?

But the tree carries blessings that the mountain understands,
and we lap along the waves in the ocean of His palms.
The gull is but a speck now; gentle the sea;
and wrapped in the twilight the boat of you and me.

What is this talk of a boat and a tree?
A vision, or a dream, or a bubble on the sea?
Our longing for each other is the sap for the tree,
and we carry seeds of His in the boat of you and me.

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The Limits

I’m learning to love the limits
God has set for me,
know failure as success
and tender clemency.
The line that’s drawn about my feet’s
the line that sets me free.
I’m learning to love my limits
to a limited degree.

I’ve made a friend of a limit
God fashioned fittingly.
I’m pushing at his boundaries;
he’s pushing back at me.
I know that God is watching our
struggle patiently.
I’m learning He loves my limits
to a limitless degree.

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This Court that I have come to

This court I that have come to
is without resplendent wealth.
She ranks highest
who serves the most;
he’s entrusted
who deserts his post,
vanishing
himself.

This King that I have come to
doesn’t wear a crown.
He holds my hand
to his lips,
takes my burden,
makes it his;
wears blame–
no gown.

This Queen that I have come to–
no vain gems at all.
The first to rise,
she sweeps the floor;
for each courtier
holds the door;
and poverty’s
her shawl.

This table I have come to
is one big begging bowl.
Each thinks her
(or him) not me;
mixed with wine
herb courtesy;
and no name’s
on the roll.

This garden I have come to
grows nothing that’s not Love’s.
Unlikely seeds
take their place,
watered here
with tender grace–
Mevlana’s
little buds.

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Embracing the Shadow

Reviled shadow, exile,
I come to love you now.
You’re the sum of all I fear to be–
embrace me now somehow!

Our Master builds a house of love
and needs a cornerstone.
So I venture to these utter depths
of darkness you call home.

How have you suffered here?
What agonies you’ve borne!
What meagre rag of life
in terror here was torn?

Oh, cursing and accursed one,
I’m haunted by this line:
‘The sun must love its shadows
or why does it shine?’

Reviled shadow, exile,
I come to love you now.
You’re the base of all I hope to be–
embrace me now somehow!

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The Chickpea Song

Don’t let us interfere with what you are doing.
If we complain–we need more stewing.
We came to the kitchen tasteless and raw,
smelt a sweet smell and knocked on the door.

Drawn to the fire, we were reckless as moths,
none of us knowing how much it would cost.
We could be in the field or scraps on the floor,
instead we are cooking–boil us some more!

We entered the pot with too much of ourselves,
an eye love’s spices decked on the shelves.
If we leap from the pot faint-hearted in a swoon,
hit us on the head with the edge of your spoon.

Round and round and round we go.
Stir us, whirl us, let love flow!
We could be in the field or scraps on the floor,
Instead we are cooking–boil us some more!

Too many cooks will spoil the broth.
Soon we won’t care if you scold us or not.
We came to the kitchen tasteless and raw;
smelt a sweet smell and knocked on the door.

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Thank You

I thank You for the night
as it falls on me.
I thank You for the day
as it leaves.
I thank You for the veil
through which I cannot see.
I thank You
for the soul that breathes.

And for the light that cracks my heart
and whispers to the trees.

I thank You for the night
as it falls on me.
I thank You
for my bending knees.

I thank You for the clouds
as they brush my sky.
I thank You for my joy
as it leaves.
I thank You for the pain
as it clears my eye.
I thank You
for the soul that breathes.

And for the dark that holds my heart
and gently plants its seeds.

I thank You for the clouds
as they brush my sky.
I thank You
for my bending knees.

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Welcome to Begged of the Moon. I hope you enjoy the songs here.

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