November 7, 2019

ِA loom seen in a dream

Weaving means travel. The preacher Abu Sa‘id [al-Khargushi] said: "Who dreams of spinning and weaving something to its completion will die." Al-Kirmani said: "Who dreams of weaving a robe to completion will go on a long journey with a successful outcome. To dream of a robe left incomplete means the opposite. To dream of weaving a robe and cutting it in a way that mars its border means an abrupt end to some affair." Al-Salimi said: "The interpretation of weaving is anxiety and mental effort, but if the weaving is completed it means an end to all of that. To dream of a group of weavers in one's home means a legal battle against multiple contestants, possibly one's own relations."
        A dream of fabric has multiple interpretations. Who dreams of folding cloth or buying it or receiving it as a gift will go on a long journey. This is due to [homonymy: al-shuqqa means "fabric," but also "journey" as in] the Qur'anic verse (9:24): "But distant to them was the journey." Al-Kirmani said: "A dream of green fabric means safe travels. A dream of yellow fabric means travel with a bad outcome. White fabric means safety and health, and blue and black fabric mean travel that is dispraised." And according to some interpreters, a dream of receiving woven fabric as a gift from someone means that friendship will develop with that person.

From A Digest of Pronunciations on the Exegesis of Dreams
by pseudo-Ibn Sirin (on the margin)
Weaving in a dream is a sign of passing out of life, or the nearness of the end to one's allotted days. It may also signify a middling condition, or [alternating periods] of tension and relaxation in worldly matters. To dream of setting up a warp means to decide on travel, and to dream of weaving a robe means actual travel. If one dreams of cutting fabric after weaving it, then some case in which the dreamer is a contestant will come to an end, either in the dreamer's favor or contrary to it. Whether one dreams of weaving the robe from cotton, wool, the hair or down of goats, or silk or anything else, it all means the same. To dream of a folded robe means travel, and to unfurl a robe means that something absent will become present. To command that a robe be woven from goat's down signifies a matter of domestic help, possibly involving sexual intercourse.

From Perfuming Humankind with Dream Interpretation
by ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Nabulsi (in the frame)

November 1, 2019

November memories

Columbus, OH, 2015

October 4, 2019

Description of the spider

Since you are so taken with Penelope's loom - having found a good picture where it appears to lack none of its component parts, its warp tightly and handsomely stretched, its weft containing the bulging fibers - and you hear not only the whir of Penelope's shuttle, but her crying out the tears that Homer melts ice with as she unravels her web: consider the spider [in a picture] nearby, and whether it doesn't outweave Penelope and even the Seres ["Silklanders"], who work in strands so fine as to be nearly invisible.

These gates open onto an ill-kept household. You would say its owners have deserted it. The courtyard within is obviously abandoned. No longer held up by its pillars, the structure sags and is falling in. It is a home to spiders only, for the animal likes a tranquil setting to do its weaving. Look at the strands, and how the spider secretes its spinning and anchors it to the floor. The artist shows them climbing down the web and clambering back up, the "high-flying" spiders as Hesiod calls them, and flying is what the spiders do. They weave their homes in corners, some wide outspread, some concave hollows: the outspread webs are excellent summer quarters, whereas the hollow nests they weave are good in winter.

Nor do the artist's accomplishments end there. The exacting adumbration of the spider, the naturalness of its stippling, the rendition of its wild and shaggy fur - these are the productions of the awesome, truthful power of a good craftsman, who wove for us these slender cords. Look at the rectangular one girding the web's four corners. Like the cable of a loom, it supports a delicate net that whorls round in many orbits, its interstices tautly strung from the outermost circle to the smallest, knitted crosswise at intervals that match the distance between each circle. And all about the web, the weavers ply their trade, tightening up the threads that have fallen slack. As payment for their weaving, there is a feast of flies whenever one gets entangled in the webworks. Accordingly, the artist has not left out the spiders' prey. One is caught by the foot, and another by the tip of one wing, while a third is being eaten up headfirst. And struggle as they may to escape the web, they cannot shake it loose or cause it to come undone.

Philostratus the Elder, Images II.28

October 1, 2019

Sohrab Sepehri to his sister

New York is a dog's nut. These hot, humid days have left me helpless. In the apartment we go about like humanity's father, Adam, and for all our nudity nothing moves forward. Heat and humidity and grime have all joined hands. The roaches are sons of bitches. They take away all my comfort. When I go to the kitchen and turn on the light, off they run. They know who I am. "The dude's here," they say all at once, and run away. One jumps down from my plate, another from the saltbox, and as if at the count of "1..2..3!"  they scatter in an instant. I'm afraid they'll consume my paintings. And all my self respect has been taken away by the enveloping soot. (1971)

September 24, 2019

If in Philadelphia

September 5, 2019

The hair of another animal

Abu Dulaf al-Qasim ibn ‘Isa al-‘Ijli paid a call on the caliph al-Ma’mun, who said, "I must say, Qasim, how excellent is your poem that describes war and the delight it brings you, while you scant the delights of singing-girls!
     "Which poem do you have in mind, O Commander of the Faithful?" asked Abu Dulaf.
     "This one," said the caliph, reciting (meter: mutaqārib):

      Here's to drawing swords and crashing through ranks,
         and raising dust and smiting head-crowns...

"How does the rest go, Qasim?" asked the caliph. Abu Dulaf said:

   ...and going dressed in soot and waving banners!
         Fatalities you'll see on spearheads
      when through raised torches comes Fatality's Bride,
         baring the sharp extremity of her fang.
      On she comes on with a seductive gait,
         flanked by the bright vigor of her offspring.
      Ignorant she, who gives the ignorant away!
         When made to speak, her answer is nonverbal.
      When her hand is sought, she claims a dowry
         of heads that plop to earth amid mixed fighters.
      Her company brings more joys than singing-girls
         and a drink of fine old wine on a rainy day.
      The sword's edge is my father, and the flat side my best friend,
         I who am death's nearness and fortune's downturn.*

He then said, "This is the pleasure I take in the thick of your enemies, O Commander of the Faithful, and the power I exert amid your supporters, and the might I wield on your behalf. While other men delight in bouts of wine-drinking, bouts of war and conflict are what I choose."
    The caliph said: "If these verses describe your true nature, and the delight they describe is your true delight, then tell me, Qasim: What's left over for the sleeping beauty on whom you parted the curtain and swore by God?"
    "In which of my poems was that, O Commander of the Faithful?" asked Abu Dulaf.
    "This one," the caliph said (meter: khafīf):

      To the sleeper who makes my eye wakeful, I say: Sleep on,
         and be untroubled. In sleep be your delight.
      God knows my heart is ailing, because He knows
         the torment that I suffer at a look in your eyes.

    "An old conjurement of mine," said Abu Dulaf, "A mere trifle at the end of a sleepless night. The other verses express my mature opinion."
    "Qasim!" said the caliph. "This couplet was well authored, I must say" (meter: ṭawīl):

      It's your fault that I cast aspersion on the days we were together.
         For the nights of our togetherness, there is none to accuse.
      If lovers encounter each other only in memory
         of a thing that has passed,  away that thought will fade.

     "Bravo, Commander of the Faithful!" said Abu Dulaf. "How excellent is this couplet by [you who are] the master of the house of Hashim and the Abbasid sovereign!"
     The caliph said: "How does your acumen guide you to my authorship, to the exclusion of delusion and all doubt?"
    "Poetry, O Commander of the Faithful, is a carpet of wool," Abu Dulaf said. "And when pure wool has hair mixed in, and a weaving is made from it, the hair shines through and gleams like fire."

From the Meadows of Gold of al-Mas‘udi

*In al-Mubarrad's Kāmil a version of this poem is attributed to
  Ishaq ibn Khalaf al-Bahrani.

August 19, 2019

Another description of the locust

It is said [in al-Damiri's Life of Animals] that the locust unites the features of ten mighty creatures: the face of a stallion, the eye of an elephant, the neck of a bull, the horn of an oryx, the torso of a lion, the belly of a snake, the wings of the vulture, the forelegs of a camel, the feet of an ostrich and a scorpion's tail. Such was the theme of a poet who said (meter: ṭawīl):

   Thigh of a camel, shank of an ostrich,
      a vulture's paw and the breast of a biting lion.
   Its belly was a gift from the viper of the earth,
      and the noble horse gave up its face and nose.
   The elephant's eye is aped by its, and its
      horns are the wild cow's, do you follow?
   Its neck and its tail are a bull's and a scorpion's,
      and God is the One Who knows best.

Another poet has said (meter: kāmil):

   The times are rotten. The stench is general.
      Indeed, the majority of created beings are corrupt.
   Take the locust, which spares the money of the rich.
      All the wealth of the poor it can find, it engulfs.

From the Rare and Marvelous Tales of Devout Luminaries
of Times Gone By
of Shihab al-Din Ahmad al-Qalyubi

June 16, 2019

In memoriam Kevin Killian

Portrait of Kevin Killian, 2002
Linoleum block print, hand-tinted (2002), 8" x 10"
(Reprinted 2006)

June 7, 2019

Palms up ears down

                            A palm grove is slow
                                to give back to the planter.
                            But a happy return is assured
                                once the leaves start to show.
                            Time sustains the palm
                                when other stumps wither.
                            In a race against wheat,
                                the palm is the winner.

Ibn al-Rumi

Meter: majzu’ al-ramal

May 18, 2019

If in New York

Poetry Project
St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery
131 E. 10th Street

May 12, 2019

Sheep for sheep

Al-Asma‘i said: I was told by Khalaf al-Ahmar, who heard it from a man of the Banu Hirmaz, whose father told him:.

       Al-‘Ajjaj came to me and asked, "Would you accept a ewe lamb in exchange for another sheep that answers my description?"
     "What is your description?" I said.
     "Not much hair in the front, but lots of hair in back. From the front, you'd think it was a goat, but from behind you can tell it's a sheep."
       I searched my flocks, and found one sheep answering his description, which I gave to him, and took his ewe lamb in exchange. I wouldn't have done this for just anyone - but this was al-‘Ajjaj, who might bring fame to my flocks!

Al-Asma‘i, The Book of the Sheep

April 26, 2019

Women who loved women

Names of [books about] graceful women who were lovers:

   The Book of Rayhana and Qaranful (Basil and Clove)
   The Book of Ruqayya and Khadija
   The Book of Mu’yas and Dhakiya
   The Book of Sukayna and al-Rubab
   The Book of Ghatrifa and al-Dhalfa’
   The Book of Hind and the Daughter of al-Nu'man
   The Book of ‘Abda the Clever and ‘Abda the Fickle
   The Book of Lu’lu’ and Shatira
   The Book of Najda and Za‘um
   The Book of Salma and Su‘ad
   The Book of Sawab and Surur
   The Book of al-Dahma’ and Ni‘ma

(Ibn) al-Nadim, Fihrist VIII.1 (circa 987 CE). (Ibid.)