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Occult power of the alphabet—
How it combines
And recombines into words
That resurrect the beloved
Every time.
________Breaking open
The dry bones of each
The secret of life
That must be hidden inside.


Fate not just a pair of scissors
Waiting at the end to cut the thread,
But there at the beginning,
Spinning the same thread out:
That bright filament of song
Whitman said connects us all—

Spinning out that string of words
With which we wed the world,
With which we espouse the beloved.

Spinning out the poem of our vow.


Nazim Hikmet begins a poem
With the phrase: “Another thing
I didn’t know I loved.”
He writes in a tone of amazement.

He’s a Turkish poet in exile.
He’s on a train in winter,
Leaving Prague and headed
Toward an uncertain future.
The poem he’s writing is a list
Of things he suddenly knows
Are precious.
________He doesn’t know
Where he’s going—old man
At the start of a long, cold ride.
The list he recites is also long.

As long as he keeps making that list,
He’s traveling toward the beloved.


Being being nothing
But breath

And the fog it makes
On the window pane,

Which is a page
In the Book

On which
You write your name.


Steeling your heart,
Yet what’s the use?

Already it’s stolen.
Already the beloved
Has captured the castle.

How defend yourself
Against rapture?
How protect yourself
When the world
And all the words
In the Book
Conspire against you?

Better to surrender.
The beloved’s beauty
Has pierced your heart,

And that’s its purpose—
That’s the point of it.


Snow on the mountain
This January morning,
Though the sky’s blue.
Must have fallen
Last night.

More gray hairs
On my head
Every month.
My moustache
Almost completely
White now.
Too many funerals;
Not enough weddings.
Not enough birth

I hope the beloved
Isn’t losing ground.


There’s a mystery here:
The poet wrote her poem
To save her own life,
And now it’s saving mine.


When the beloved died
You were silent.
Not for hours, but for years.

Did you think the world
Would speak for you?
Did you think
That if you sat quietly
The beloved would return?

O Book of the beloved—
Right there on the shelf!
Reach up. Read it aloud.
Don’t die yourself.


If somewhere in us
Love lurks,
The beloved
Will find it.

If hope hides
In the smallest
The beloved
Will pry it out.

Demands it.
Won’t take no
For an answer.

His poem
Luring it
To the surface.
Her song
Calling it forth.


So many to choose from
But only some can summon.
So many poems in the books,
But most are just words.

If only the beloved would tell us
How to find her, reveal
Where he’s hidden himself.
Must I spend years searching?

Why not? Why not?
Easily found, easily forgot.


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The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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