The Moonlight Sonnets


Transcript of The Moonlight Sonnets

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DALIA AND THE QANDAHAR MOON I wrote the following sonnets over a two-week period on a rooftop in the small city of Qandahar, in central Asia, in the autumn of 2011. The inspiration for these poems was my dear friend Dr. Dalia Samaan, one of the most extraordinary persons I have ever known. No words I have written have ever captured the extent of my love for her, nor are they likely to ever do so. These poems were written entirely by the exceptionally bright light of Qandahar’s Moon. Nowhere else have I ever seen a Moon bright enough to write by, and in no one else have I ever seen a soul like Dalia’s. The Moon and Dalia: God made them both.

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For Dalia

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I'm writing from beneath the Pleiades The morning mullah's call is in the air I wonder what she thinks and hears and sees In the sights and sounds and things I try to share This morning's cold, Chicago's colder still And she and I are both so all alone Yet by the Moon's weak light these pages fill Compliant words surrender to the poem A BMW a PhD But you're so sad and lonesome you could cry I have this moonlight, dear, and you have me God always gives enough to get us by

The east grows red, I'm getting near the end I finish up my poem and I send

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Those crickets don’t know what you mean to me They hide and chirp and while away the night You are a wonder they shall never see Poor ignorance on this cool Afghan night The dogs that bark to scare away a ghost Have food and drink and want for nothing more They never can know she of whom I boast And in that way they stay forever poor The UAV that circles overhead Sees everything and transmits back to base But it can’t know the wonders in my head For it has never ever seen your face This country’s poor not for what Afghans do This country’s poor for never knowing you

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How is it she can so persuade my heart? A word, a sigh, or just a single note Can, even though we are so far apart All misery or happiness promote The world is just putty in her hands Responding to her whim so bright or dark The mood across a thousand diff’rent lands Are fires of passion lit by her small spark Such flames such colors yellow orange-red Are flavors of elation, dread, or hope At the mercy of thoughts that flood my head The pivot of the world’s tied to her rope Your smile alone can make me great or small Without you I’m not anything at all

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God, I know you now, for I can see That light within her which you made to shine A mutual delight for you and me Your love and mine fixed on the same design All the world looks beautiful to you Who knows each secret glorious design I search for solace all my whole life through And nothing compared to her can I find Our eyes won’t see those secrets that you hide Such mysteries escape the human race But one sweet song with me you did confide Your art, her soul: and sculpted on her face Through her soul your art has sung to me God, I know you now for I can see

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I wish that I could be with you tonight I wish that I could look into your eyes I wish that I could dwell within that light And for a moment stop the turning skies It may be we will never meet again If fate won’t join what space and time divide I don’t know how this story of us ends; With us apart or living side by side. But whatever happens this I know The deep impressions which you left on me Through years and decades still on my heart show Look on my soul; your fingerprints you’ll see I’ll miss you all my life but it’s all right These mem’ries of your eyes serve as my light

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I see two stars affixed over my head One bright, one not, they make a pretty pair One near, one far, is how it works, I’ve read But distance such as nothing can compare What muted colors populate this roof Are quantum jumps too small to be conceived We know this from experiment and proof For math has ever always been believed Another force with action we can see But try our best might never comprehend Would be the love for you that works in me And pushes words and lyrics from my pen The stars, the colors, and my love for you Make mockery of measure through and through

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To sleep and dream would be so very sweet But I need to write while write I can The Moon gives light but little, and no heat A half-Moon’s glow will not the whole night span And so for you I keep me wide awake Though in my dreams I might see you as well Moon’s flight constrains what poetry I make Too much beauty within short time to tell Your life must be like nights of brilliant moon More virtues than in one mere life should fit ‘Fore writing all, the Moon would set too soon Your soul, this world knows only half of it Your riches overflow life’s lovely cup I strain to write it all while moon is up.

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Within the quiet time between the days I’m gently sung to sleep by thoughts of you Your shining soul, I’m awash in its rays I sink into the beauty of the true Caress me, Dalia, hold me in your heart And save me from this cold, dark, hostile roof Let spirit merge though bodies are apart We are love’s fabric, two hearts, warp and woof I close my eyes and journey to a land That I hope I will never have to leave I feel you move through me like flowing sand Come day, the sand runs out: fair cause to grieve The lullaby of Dalia stills my soul A sweet elixir that I drink down whole

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I can forget there is a war tonight The sounds of peace are all that reach my ears Shops, stars, and mountains are a peaceful sight The streets below are absent any tears Sweet Qandahar possesses a mystique In spite of more than thirty years of war It’s humble and it’s proud and it’s unique God kissed it when this world was not so sore The romance in the air of this strange place Is thin and hard to see when I compare It to the vision shining from your face That I have seen and with you tried to share Possessed with magic, street and sky and hill But you, my love, have much more magic still

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Big iron comes to town on crushing wheels A fleet of battle wagons light the night Dismounted soldiers know just how it feels To force their will upon us wrong or right But truth eludes them in their hulking force For no mere arms of men can match that love Which set the Moon and stars upon their course And set my eyes on she who stands above In God I trust, and not in rings of steel For love of her, I’ve strength no army’s known They’re armed with guns, I’m armed with something real For in my soul a love divine has shone Their weapon systems count for several tons My love for her outweighs all of their guns

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So hard to rest when you are discontent I cannot smile while knowing that you cry I count no cost of time and treasure spent For you I’d sacrifice the Earth and sky If you’re not happy, what, then, is this world? A cruel and unjust prison of the soul And so against your torturers I’m hurled I’ll die if I don’t see you restored whole Without you this world’s not worth living in For you are good and godly, sweet and kind If I fail to defend that then I sin Through you God’s saving grace has on me shined Concern for her well-being guides my hand Beware, for Dalia’s where I make my stand

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A few clouds chance to dash before the Moon The wind restores discipline to their ranks Few stars presume to share in this night’s noon A great full Moon; none dare abut its flanks Reflection of the desert is this sky Its very dearth of features beauty stark Pride of place can one landmark occupy When one bright light can dominate the dark Just as a mountain dominates the plain (A metaphor for God, this desert art!) Or else one tree that thrives without the rain And you, too: brilliant light within my heart The sky’s a desert with a Moon so bright My life is dominated by your light

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Dear Lord please watch over her all her days Let nothing harm a hair upon her head Please guide her in your laws and in your ways And shield her from anxiety and dread Dear Lord I want to be your servant too Please set my heart upon your divine will Please work through me in all I say and do And help my restless soul to settle still Lord let us both be pleasing to your sight Let us both work towards your kingdom come We seek to be as children in your light And return to the paradise we’re from Lord let your love shine brighter than the Sun And in all things may your will Lord be done

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I never have known anyone like you A woman so smart, beautiful, and kind I’ve been around the world a time or two No earthly pearl has so impressed my mind In Africa I saw from peak to peak At Al-Asad I scudded cross the sky Near Haight-Ashbury I lived for a week Over the Seine I caught a gypsy’s lie But nowhere in this lifetime have I known A woman who could so inspire me To smithereens my inhibitions blown Two dozen sonnets strain to honor thee You are more memorable than this bright roof Those other, lesser memories are my proof

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All night long and all throughout the day There is one image fixed on by my mind If Jesus is the truth and life and way Then Dalia is what his way has me find If I a pilgrim, she my relic fair If I a grail, then she the blood of kings If I a host, for her the feast prepare If I an arrow, she the axes’ rings So long as upon her my mind is set The world is fair and calm and good and sweet No bitterness can catch now in my net And I have harnessed horses fast and fleet If I an artist, she the perfect line She is the object of a love divine

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The poems stack like bricks to build my case No single sonnet can alone say all Just as no single point can claim a space No single brick a castle or a hall I must carve many bricks if you’re to see How blessed of God’s creatures that you are And all the things that you have meant to me What a multi-sided miracle you are With bricks of words I build for love a tower Iambic arches lift you to the skies Adorned with mitered rhymes and gargoyles dour Mortared by that love by which my heart flies The praises in my poems all are true This tower’s strong and solid through and through

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Minimalist design God gave the sky The stars just random points of steady light To spoil a canvas, too much paint apply Good judgment here; I think He got it right One star ahead: what planet does it keep? What alien is looking out at me? Has he someone whom he loves more than sleep? What of God’s beauty’s there for him to see? Let me tell you of Dalia, distant friend As great as these vast stars which we two share A soul I want to be with till the end A beauty to which nothing can compare The universe is beautiful, it’s true This universe ain’t got nothing on you

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I love these strange new worlds you take me to Where all’s familiar, yet turned upside-down Beneath the clouds, a clear, smooth blackish-blue I’m looking up—or am I looking down? A flight to London at dawn you will see The ocean blackish-blue beneath the clouds Just like the stories you once stirred in me Analogues my imagination crowds The ocean and the vacant full Moon’s sky Are both the same where Dalia is concerned And no one else can so make my thoughts fly For my sweet muse I have for ten years yearned Imagination needs you for its work You are my lantern cutting through the murk

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How many times will I be born again? How many times will I breathe in new life? Once when our savior I did comprehend And now anew I see past this world’s strife Today I’m young: a boy with graying hairs And life is full of promise and delight My love’s object, the subject of my prayers Has spun it all around, made day from night I’m forty now, though I feel just fourteen And now I’ve a whole lifetime yet to go Sweet life itself is what you really mean And a new world more good than I can know Thank you, my love, for saving everything Thank you for all the happiness you bring

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Don’t think this book is something I give you As though it were some act you might repay I am the channel that the words flow through Received them I, then sent them on their way It’s you who gave, make no mistake with that These verses that you hold don’t come from me You are their source, their honey milk and fat A mirror; in these words yourself please see So rich with graces, whole books you inspire You give birth to every word that I write You are the Shakti, the fuel of the fire These sonnets are the products of your light These poems came not from my private stack They came from you; I’m merely giving back

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A man is not built like a buffalo Man’s flesh and blood is small and light and thin A little wisp of matter with a glow Mont Blanc outweighs all human bone and skin But no sonnet could any mountain write It is that glow which makes us what we’re worth No law or logic can constrain that light One human soul outweighs all of the Earth From seven billion I write of just one Whose soul’s virtues God shined upon her face Like no one else she makes me come undone One Dalia outweighs all the human race As soul outweighs all material weight Your spirit in proportion’s just as great

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Though I take care not to exaggerate One may think my claims are too grandiose No one else sees the vision I relate Compared to that, my big claims don’t come close I’m feeling small and tired now tonight I just want to sit quiet and unseen The words exhaust; persuading you’s a fight Rest with me; let’s forget that you’re a queen Leave off the song and dwell in hushed repose Hide from the sturm und drang and just be still A silent dark safe place where no one knows Be small and rest; drain what the poems fill Most reasons why I love you may be grand For now I wish I could just hold your hand

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I choke back tears for I am overcome I came up here to write, but I just cry This now, the Holy Spirit it is from My chest will burst, my sobbing fills the sky I have to be with you… and that is all My life is yours; I give you everything Say what you may, I must obey God’s call Though tremble I at what fate you might bring Be merciful, and try to see my plight God burdens me with such a heartsick pain This hurts too deep to be but of the right Tonight my tears become the desert’s rain Tonight, my love, I give my life to you You are the cause of everything I do

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So steady is the Moon these past four days To glancing eye it appears to be full So steady are God’s laws and means and ways The world’s consistency is wonderful What if you’d gone before we’d chance to meet? A flimsy world could not know love at all But every day the Sun and Moon we greet God gives us time to rise after our fall So here’s the Moon, my dear, and here is you The marbled mirror’s led me to the light Held static long enough to link us two God’s steadfast love holds all the world upright It took me forty years to find such love God held it steady for me from above

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There is a secret place where these two merge The one becomes the other; other, one No difference ‘twixt them where the two converge So sweet the joy at that point of union There’s love of God and love of Dalia, too Each quite distinct and different in their way But follow her to the place it takes you And meet with Him while in ecstasy’s sway Enter a sphere of unadultered bliss Where pleasure crashes like a waterfall Where supernovas combine in a kiss The love for God and Dalia here is all My loves for each are twined and will not part To such a love I surrender my heart

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I love you and I know you love me back We each thank God the other’s in our life If not for you my world would be so black Except for me, you’re overcome by strife We each are saved by something that God made And so a three-way love: God, you, and me I ponder this while in the lunar shade Besides us, He’s made every rock and tree Let us embrace this world that’s fallen down For love of Him, let’s help Him to restore Let’s reaffix the jewels upon this crown And so give back to Him whom we adore Thanks be to God: I’m so in love with you I want to show that thanks in what I do

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Your eyes of gold deserve at least one song What must I do to look in them anew? You say they’re only brown but you are wrong Photos restore what mem’ries let slip through They call the eyes the window to the soul So true for you if true it ever was A piece of golden sunlight your mom stole And somehow put in you all which sun does You are so bright and warm and brilliant-hot No lesser eyes could be worthy of you Please let those eyes look once more upon Scott And burn me if a single word untrue Of course no other color could they be God gave you solar gold by which to see

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The Moon lives fast; its life 28 days Inside that life I all these poems wrote That’s not enough to get in all the ways That my love manifests in thought and quote We live so long, and poems longer still Both you and I have seen so many Moons We will see many more if it’s God’s will Together, though; let’s be a pair of spoons We are so far apart in space and time Need miracles if we’re to reunite But for that look no further than my rhyme How else could I write poems by moonlight? God’s miracles are within us, my love What we two share was fashioned up above

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