For Ilhan Sami Comak
My friend wakes embers in a heap of ash.
She adds wood,
leans in to feed the fire with her breath.
A flaming pyramid grows,
warming us on this cold night in Brooklyn
as we read your words aloud,
Buds grumble and thirst for growth.
I look at you, scatter my own ashes.
I go out, add suns to sunlight, walk on seeds.
Add suns to sunlight.
I praise the embraces of women that
reach right into my cell.
We praise the sky that inhabits you.
We praise the suns that rise in you.
Around this fire, a friend pours us her potion,
the juice of cherries, laced with lavender and mugwort,
an herb that unspools dreams.
You’ll have vivid dreams, she says.
I love the bird because we are brothers in hunger…
Let us go blazing to the seas…
Your dreams will tumble forth in vivid colors.
Drink this down.
What would you want to say to him or give him in a poem? I ask.
My friend feeding the fire says, tell him we are listening, we hear him.
My friend pouring dreams says, give him a meadow.
Let’s visit one in vivid dreams, let’s stand shoulder to shoulder with the rain in
the uprising scent of soil
as the drenched earth exhales and trees
shake the storm from their manes.
Shoulder to shoulder, as the sun dries the land
as a dog gives the meadow another pulse, vanishing and reappearing
from behind the table set for ten,
from behind friends silently lit with lightning.
Silently lit with lightning, we flash like spring clouds
as drummers play, as melons are sprinkled with mint, walnuts cracked,
warm bread cut in squares, and cup of that cherry red reappears in a friend’s hand.
Let us drink dreams inside our dreams.
We praise the sky that inhabits the mind.
We praise poems that are ladders.
We praise words that walk through walls to touch your brow, Ilhan.
A light rain falls, a soft whisper of rain,
as if a poet signed the sky.
The walls in him thinned to a silk scrim.
Til they rise to thin down again,
Ilhan, when the sky plants seeds in your eyes,
the ones who listen, see blue.
Poem by Haleh Liza Gafori 12/1/20
Italicized lines are by Ilhan Sami Comak,
and translated by Caroline Stockford
Haleh Liza Gafori is a vocalist, poet, composer, and translator.
Her book of translations of Rumi’s poetryis forthcoming on New York
Review Books NYRB/Classics, to be released in June of 2021.
Haleh's own poems have been published by Columbia University Press
and Rattapallax Press and she has taught workshops on Rumi's poetry
and mystical themes that recur throughout his work at the Taos Poetry
Festival, Dartmouth University, Wanderlust, and University of Cincinnati.
Most recently, with the support of the Queens Council on the Arts,
Haleh collaborated on a multimedia piece called Ask Hafez in which
she translated and composed songs featuring the poetry of the 14th century poet.
Haleh has performed in various musical projects over the years,
playing such venues as Lincoln Center, the David Byrne curated
series at Carnegie Hall, and the Bonnaroo Festival.
She lives and works in Brooklyn.