As I told you recently in my article "Leila and Me", there was a time following a relationship with a Persian man when I went under. And I showed you the poem I came back with. About two months before that I had written a poem called "Thirty Birds". It was a very different journey. It also dealt with going under, but it was an ascent, rather than a descent, into light.
He was a self-styled Sufi, the man in question, and as you no doubt know the title "Thirty Birds" comes from Attar's Simorgh in "The Conference of the Birds." Attar's seventh and final stage of the Sufi's journey, fanaa (extinction) is often translated into English as the Valley of Death. It is an erroneous translation but it fit the experience revealed in this poem.
This poem was revealed to me. Let us not argue from whence, whether from the sub- or super-consciousness, and simply accept that, as with the Leila poem, I had no conscious choice or will in its making, only in the editing.
It revealed itself with Attar's journey as the central metaphor, but it also revealed the presence of Ahriman/Angra Manyu, Ahura Mazda's opponent. I envisioned him somehow very strongly as Khomeini engaged in a battle with the "songgirl", Forough, for the soul of Iran and the world.
Yet the poem also revealed intense Christian symbols: steeples and bells, a saying of Jesus, also as in Attar the top of the mountain. And it is fitting because in reality the spirituality of Iran is a complex synthesis of many religions. including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Turkic shamanism with Mazdaism and Islam.
I just learned that Balkh, where Rumi came from, was until the advent of Islam for a thousand years a great center of Buddhism. And I wonder how much that age-old substratum influenced his vision.
The relationship between Ashura and the Christian flagellantis has been a recent topic of conversation on this website. And under the Sassanids, despite their oppressions, the fertile genius of the Iranian imagination gave birth to ever newer religions, to Mazdakism and to Manichaeism. Later, of course, came the Bahai.
The true religion of Iran, Iran's true spirituality, has all names and no name.
Suffering in Shiism, as in others of the religions which form Iran's spirituality, is seen as an essential part of purification. But the purification achieved through suffering should lead to a catharsis and a new dawn. That is to say, to joy.
You said at the end I would find myself
That every journey is about ourselves
I trusted your hand and in silence
We walked across valleys filled with birds
and the seventh one was the valley of death
In Death Valley you rested your head on my breasts
as the clouds caress the mountains with erosion.
And then I saw you recede in the distance
and then I saw nothing but Death
I never intended to wake
but I woke
and somehow I was on top of the mountain
something had pulled me up
and I looked
and I saw steeples
and I heard
birds birds hundreds of birds
flapping their wings
bathed in light
I heard everything
the screams of delight
the pain of the dying
the crystalline beauty of the bells
and angriman was there
and his jackdaws
and the songgirl he hurled
into the wall
and the crashing of the glass
and the wretched earth
and the poor ye shall have with you always
and then there were only thirty birds
the mountain the mind and memory and erosion.
I saw a young child alone by a road
I remembered her name.
She had once been me.
I felt her recoil from a slap on the face.
I knew who she was.
We have all been abandoned
we have all been slapped
the mountain on which I stood
had been struck
the birds too
had all been struck
by the love he could not give
and my mother by the love
she gave too much
and terror and
fear of the road
and the idiot angriman
and you who had left me
and my father
and my mother and
one bird only
and I knew
I had reached
the end of my journey
and the motherfather
and I wept.
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