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--Work in the invisible world at least as hard as you do in the visible--

--Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide     from beyond--

--The door to spirituality truly must be opened from the inside-- 

I just completed a four-week class on the life and work of Jalalud’din Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet. Rumi is not new to me. I first discovered him as a teenager and have been reading and loving his work ever since. Isn't it amazing that he remains, after more than seven centuries, the most popular and well-read poet in the world. Rumi believed that art both heals and transforms. He believed human beings were sent into the world to do a particular work specific to the person. We all have many branches and we spread out in thousands of different ways. Rumi asks us to remember “the deep root of your being.” 

For me, that deep root is writing, especially poetry. I know this by my behavior. Whenever I wake up with a poem, or the seeds of one, inside my head, I go straight to the kitchen table, still in my pajamas, pull out a notebook and start to write.  I keep writing until there is nothing left inside me. 

Sometimes this process goes on for hours and I will end up with 50 different drafts. And once I get it right, I feel ecstatic. So happy I want to become a whirling dervish, dance around and sing. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But this is what it feels like to be in touch with the deep root of your being. 

The following poem is the first one I’ve written since taking the Rumi class. I woke up with the image of the dandelion and how it propagates itself--blazing yellow flower--cottony ball tumbling into wind--and the following spring, another blazing yellow flower.  From there, my mind leapt to my children, the death of their father--his cremation, his ashes and the box that held them.  

It was interesting for me to see the subtle influences of the Rumi class in this poem--(its facilitator was one of those guides sent to me from beyond). My original title was “Cremation”. It didn’t feel right. The title needed to reveal something about the poem not completely obvious from the content. When I shared it with my daughter (who often acts as a midwife to me during the birth of a poem) we came to realize this one is about transformation and the fluent nature of time-- past, present, and future. It's about Samsara—the Sanskrit word that refers to the theory of death, rebirth and the cyclicality of all life. Something Rumi was very familiar with and was part of his teachings. 

Where Time Touches Eternity                                          

At the crematorium, a man in a black suit,  

yellow rosebud tucked into his lapel,
hands her a mahogany box carved with sailboats.
“It’s heavier than it looks,” he warns.
“Six pounds, thirteen ounces.”

In the first photo pasted in her baby book,
she is swaddled in a pink blanket,
six pounds, thirteen ounces,
cradled in the crook of her father’s arm.
His face, often stern, is soft,
frozen in wonder as he greets the last
of his five children—the daughter who
thirty years later will mother him
as he moves from professor to toddler--
like a birthing gone backwards.

She will walk him through a meadow of
dandelion blossoms—tiny yellow suns that blaze  
and bow with the breeze. For a summer moment,
she’ll pause to weave daisy-chain necklaces and
with a boy’s heart he’ll greet honey bees fat with pollen,
then turn his attention to one flower gone to seed--
a cottony bubble to carry his wishes into the wind.

Though she would always be his child,
he could no longer place himself between
her and the rest of the world, no longer weather
the first blows for her. But for seven years, she
stood up for him, believed her love could save him.

As she straps the box onto the passenger seat,
she hears his voice, as she has many times.
She now knows the dead never stop talking.
This time he says, “Let’s go for ice cream.”

She laughs out loud and pulls into Baskin-Robbins
for his favorite—a double strawberry waffle cone.
Later, she’ll find the tree where he carved their names,
scatter some ashes into the wind—her wish that he,
like the dandelion, might blow across the hillside,
replant himself, then rise up and take a bow.

John Martin Taedu Clayton blowing his wishes into the wind


Andy Goldner
05/17/2016 12:18pm

Outstanding. It really presents the circle of life. Like the flower we bloom, fade and live our seeds to carry on.We are all part of a long chain that goes on for generations.


The when time touches eternity is a glorious title. I already hooked on the rubric of your post. I think it's something behind your claim. I like how you write your new poem. I hope I can meet Rumi soon. I love to find out his new works. I'm trying to work with him. I want to ascertain from him too. I write poetry for many causes. It is an act of my reflection. I express my opinion through writing a poem. I write because I would like to be happy. It is my happiness. I don't want to steal this happiness from me. I want to be good in everything.

Martha Miller
05/17/2016 12:26pm

Whoa . . . another potent one, Susan, fitting interestingly into the thoughts I'm having as I read Norman Friedman's book, "Bridging Science and Spirit", which is all about what its title implies. I just read this line: "All energy contains consciousness" which rocked my morning. Then, your poem, which rocked it again.Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I love reading your poetry.

05/18/2016 2:21pm

Beautiful as always, but this poem resonated more with me than others because I'm aging and feeling closer to completing the circle.

Charles Dallmann
05/18/2016 9:56pm

I really liked the contrast of the weight of the ashes and the lightness of dandelion duff, how both are carried on the wind and both settle into new roles of renewal. It also reminded me of scattering my wife's ashes to the air, the sand, and sea at McClures Beach, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. I'm sure Rumi, himself an ecstatic dancer would approve of your poem and dancing at finding the right words.. Good work.

05/19/2016 6:03am

Thank you so much for your comment, Charles. I'm sorry for the loss of your wife. It must have been hard for you. Yes, I think Rumi, a whirling dervish himself, would approve of my ecstasy when the poem finds its way onto the page and

Charles Dallmann
07/13/2016 5:19pm

In my earlier comment I forgot to to comment on the title of the poem. "Cremation" sounds so compact, condensed, and Latinate, not at all what the poem is all about. You (and your midwife) discovered a title worthy of its subject and in the true spirit of its essence. Thanks for sharing how it came to be.

05/19/2016 7:01am

How apropos this poem is for me right now. A few days ago I was standing in the midst of the Taos Pueblo of the Red Willow people--a place that has been occupied for millennia. Many still make their home today. They are the caretakers of the surrounding mountains and the untouched water that flows from the mountain lake through their pueblo in a beautiful stream. For a moment I stood on the wooden bridge between the side where the Catholic Church stood (courtesy of the Spanish) and where people live today without electricity and with the stream as their running water. I felt the wind from the mountain brush across my face and seemed to hear the echoes of thousands of voices who'd lived in this beautiful spot for centuries. For that moment, I was completely human--part of the past as I stood in the present. As I entered a pueblo where a homeowner was selling his art, he greeted me with, "Hello. Please, have some water." Free of chlorination, having come straight from the mountain lake, it tasted pure and delicious. I was so grateful for such a simple kindness. I realized then that when we simply stop and listen we are able to understand how we are all just visitors here, and that our time, too, will end and we, too, will pass on into the breeze to be there for the next person who stops to listen. What a gorgeous poem, Susan. Thank you.

Bob Olds
05/28/2016 12:35pm

A read this when it first came out and wanted to read it again. It's hard to choose "favorites" when it comes to blogs and poems that are so well written, but I think this qualifies as her best, or at least my favorite. The writing shows all the usual incredible talent, but this one resonates more with me for some reason. The poem is wonderful, and I hope it's being sent to magazines for publication.

05/31/2016 3:36pm

Your writing is truly an amazing gift that is well appreciated by those you honor with its creation and sharing. Your ability to awake and write until ‘there is nothing left inside me’ seems exemplified by what Rumi told us all: “Poems are rough notations for the music we are.” Over these many years, some might say that some of your best foundational work is consummated when you awake and these nuggets could be called “automatic” or even “auto-magical” since they represents the freest and most uncensored ‘you that you can be.’
This newly created poem reflects what Rumi axiomatically proclaimed: “Love rests on no foundation. It is an endless ocean, with no beginning or end.”
Having inadvertently actually taken the ashes of my father-in-law (in a shopping bag) on a lunch-time dining experience, I got a knowing chuckle here as to the double strawberry waffle cone and we know the dead never stop talking.
Rumi remains one of my favorite authors and from his memorial in Konya, Turkey which we visited some 15 years ago (put this on your “bucket list” alongside seeing whirling dervishes in action) it is written that “When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.” That could easily become a personal credo alongside this Rumi poem which sits on my home office wall:
Light upon Light
The sensuous eye is a horse,
The light of God is the rider:
without the rider the horse is useless.
The light of God rides the body’s eye.
The soul yearns for God.
God’s light enhances the senses.
This is the meaning of Light upon Light.
MATHNAWI II, 1286, 1290-93

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