Port Washington song
By Robert Bohm

The crows’ ascent
begins in grass at the gravestone’s edge
as it flaps its wings, then in silence
flies above an untrimmed hedge.

A tiny Jeremiah, I sat in church with my parents
and listened to the howling of the choir.
Later in my room, hiding from god’s judgment,
I delighted in the company of my desires.

You will hear it in the crows’ voices,
you will see it in the destruction of what is,
you will taste it in many bitter choices,
you will smell it in the lilies where rotted flesh is.

In the distance, crows yell messages.
Amazed, I walk around the grave.
Death lives here, ruler of the ages.
He is the only God. We’re all his slaves.

Smooth as her old lentil jar’s glaze:
the path of one way of seeing to another.
Years ago, I arrived here in a drunken daze
and puked in the grass while others honored my mother.

When I awoke in the hospital, I remembered Blake
By Robert Bohm

Tiger’, tiger burning bright
in the night-black mouth of the troglodyte.
He lives his life in a cave in Eden
with Eve the ex-slave who fled God’s prison.

The lion’s in love but the lamb won’t play
in eternal noon on Salvation Day.
God angrily turns off all the lamps
and rapes the inmates in his concentration camps.

No moon tonight and no horizon,
nothing to distinguish sky from ocean.
Even false belief doesn’t survive long here.
Without distinctions, meaning disappears!

I learned young that like a spider web
in which a trapped beetle’s life ebbs,
a thing too intricately said
entangles, then kills, the unsaid.

The tube in my arm is my arm’s delight
as I lie in bed in the dead of night.
When the nurse arrives with my 4 a.m. meds,
jackals wait for her inside my head.

In 922 AD the sacrilegious Sufi sang, “Ana al-Haqq” (“I am God”)
By Robert Bohm

The dirt street was al-Hallaj’s drum,
he thumped it with his feet, refusing to succumb.

“Look, he’s dancing in his chains,”
local moralists complained.

Later, tortured with blades, head soon to be cut off,
he listened to his critics scoff

as his mind dissolved into the sky
which floated, blue with clouds, in Allah’s eye.

Now, each time Allah’s love for us makes Him grieve,
al-Hallaj looks down and weeps for the naïve

who think the discipline required for salvation
is obedience to rules, not insane imagination.

A disciple prays in al-Hallaj’s shadow
By Robert Bohm

Like a science without an underlying logic,
al-Hallaj hung from the gallows,
hands and feet cut off, establishing how intrinsic
blood and gore are to the soul.

I crawled onto the wooden platform
beneath where his body, a sack of garbage, swung.
This was the end of things. Desert stones were darkened
by the shadow of a buzzard’s flapping wings.

Yet in spite of the ugliness, I crawled
on hands and knees across the platform, slurping
the grisly stew al-Hallaj had blessed me with.
“This is how to live!” I thought.

In the morning when they lopped off his head,
then flung his limbless torso in the fire,
I swirled in circles
and chanted syllables only Allah admired.

Now, nourished by al-Hallaj’s bones and sinews,
and with a mind so broken the unknown enters it,
his words echo in my head like the wind pounding
the rocky crags atop Cheekha Dar mountain:

“Fools wedded to themselves begat tax collectors.
Nomads in the desert, we leave behind no wells.
Like a coin dropped in a sandstorm, the past is lost.
Blind as she-camels, we roam without locating home.”

A blasphemer in love with what he hates
and spattered with al-Hallaj’s blood and urine,
I pray in the gallows’ shadow
to whatever Allah creates or ruins —

I want to be your voice,
I want to be the sound of thunder,
I want to be the hypocrite’s despair,
I want to teach the killed to subdue their murderers.

A pile of filth, I curl up in a corner of my house.
Both hope and hopelessness have lost appeal.
With a nod to God, I crawl away toward nothing.
Laughing, God decrees, “Finally, your salvation’s guaranteed!”