This one, however, was in a very old email that was telling the story of how this poem came to be. It was a curious tale, with no poetic justice. The tale does not end well.
I was heading down from the City to a gallery opening of a friend. My girlfriend at the time was driving about an equal distance up. The plan was to meet in the middle and attend the opening together.
While driving, these words in my head came to me unbidden. I turned the radio up so I could concentrate on NPR. But the words in my head got louder too. After about 30 or 40 miles of this, I got sick of the battle between words, gave up, pulled over to the side of the highway — and wrote the persistent little critters down.
Then they allowed me to go back on my way.
When I got to the gallery, she ran up to me.
"An amazing thing happened on my drive up," she said. "I heard this indescribable music in my head. I had to pull over and hum it into the recorder. That's why I'm running late."
Did I mention she was a musician?
So. I got the words. She got the music.
Eventually, we put them together and she recorded the whole bit. The words go:
i am abd-allah — slave of Godyou bring me grace — barakawhen i submit--when i surrender —sweet bondage — sends me to my kneeshead hits the ground, my prayers resoundAllah! when i submitsweet bondage — i can taste youin ritual splendor, so hard to give upNameless One! for the desertyou take my breath awaysend me reeling, in peace suspendedBeloved! between heaven and earthMother of the Stormy Nightthink that you can make it rightas the blade glides into sight?eyes grow dim, i see the lightAstarte! when i submit
The gallery opening was pretty feh after that. I'm not sure either of us really registered much of the show. The tape she made of words and music was breathtaking. She was working on an album at the time. Very exciting.
But it was her album. And the idea of giving credit for lyrics not her own just was too much for her to bear. She changed some of the words, kept others — and pit'om! a new song emerged for her album. Still very lovely. To tell the truth, I think my words scared her.
Still. For me this was a powerful moment of creative synchronicity. Such moments are rare enough on planet earth, and worth honoring and preserving.
And there it is in black and white — visible for anyone to see. A few hasty lines, scribbled on the side of the highway heading south. Longing to reach out and join with music emerging exactly the same way on the highway north. A miracle!
May all your Aprils be filled with poetry, music, and yes, collaboration.