The Setting of the Stars

oludamini

The Setting of the

Stars

I swear by the setting of the stars

And truly it is a magnificent oath, if you but knew

Qur’an 56:75-76

The story of longing that became recorded in this book

is wholly without fault, for Hafez taught it to me.


© 2016 Oludamini

All Rights Reserved


Istiādha

In your lap I seek refuge, from all of my pain

From all of life’s pleasures, and all of its games

From all that I’ve lost, and all I have gained

From all of my efforts, and all of their strains

From Heaven’s bright gardens, and from Hell’s dark

flames

From space and from time, and all they contain

From everything that either waxes or wanes

From everything that’s been touched by my stain

From all words and all names and all need to explain

and from you, all else is just vanity, feigned

1


The Setting of the Stars

The stars all fell into your heart’s well

glistening out through your night eyes

The stars all whirl around you wondering

at your sheer moonlight disguise

The stars are set like diamond droplets

in the dark sky of your hair

The stars all set and fade like dewdrops

when your sun-like face appears

The stars are setting down behind

the red horizons of your lips

And I can’t stop myself staring

into that beautiful eclipse

And I swear all I want from life:

for you to take mine with that kiss

2


My whole world grows wan and dim without you

and yet it all fades in the light within you

Like a mirror that holds the Heavens in view

it seems God has gathered the cosmos in You

Like mountaintop meadows, adorned with pearl dew

I see the whole world reflected in You

Or rather it’s your eyes I see all this through

But no, it’s rather, in them, I see you

How strange, O my Shaykh, that I’m your pupil

and yet, in my eyes, you are mine too

My eyelids, your beds, and your comforters too

but my eyes have no place to rest but in You

O you with the moon’s face, and bright sun’s own hue

Let me be stained, soaked and dyed all in You

A dead man walking, my own life is through

I’ve been washed and wrapped and buried in You

Though Solomon’s wealth is legend, it’s true

The mines of my mind lie buried in You

This winter’s been long, but the spring blooms anew

for all seasons combine in the sun within You

There’s a hole in my soul, that I lost my heart through

Thank God that I finally found it in You

3


Variation on Hafez’s Ghazal #1

Hey son, pour me another one

for love is sweet, and my life’s done

Fill up a cup with wine’s warm light

my heart feels like it weighs a ton

Love starts out like a melody

but ends in tears, dry, without sound

How can kids lying on the beach

know what it’s like for we who’ve drowned?

How can those who’ve yet to begin

know what it’s like to face your end?

To sleep upon a bed of waves

beneath a sheet woven of wind

In love, there’s nothing to hold on

to, save love’s self—no star, no friend

so when you catch a whiff of Love

or your heart beats from its far drum

just drop the world, leave it behind

forget yourself and come.

4


Baye Niasse

A garden of light in a desert of flame

because of your love, the earth burns the same

Who knew human clay could hold such fire

The breath of your words makes love’s flames leap higher

If not for the flood that flowed from your pen

that flowed from Kosi, out to the world’s end

If not for the flood that poured from your eyes

and ran rivers to the beloved’s side

we’d all be burnt up by your lightning sighs

but still this love burns us out from inside

If not for this passion you lit in our hearts

we’d all be lost, drowned in your brilliant dark

O where have you gone, Baye, and what have you seen?

And what have you tasted, behind all our dreams?

and what of the rest of us caught in between

the sunset’s last gasp and sunrise’s first gleams?

When the Messenger comes, who’s his bright shadow?

Who’s that who comes floating behind him like snow?

Who’s back there, black, gleaming,

just like his eyelashes?

Baye Niasse is, Baye Niasse is,

Baye Niasse is, Baye Niasse is…

5


6


Solomon’s Pool

When you looked at my polished heart’s shine

you just saw your own reflected in mine

And baring your legs, you hiked up your soul

to wade in my water, so clear and so cold

But I’m too jealous to let you baptize

your body in anything else but my eyes

So you’ll walk on water, just like the Messiah

and dance across skies, like sunset’s smooth fires

You sounded the depths, and to your surprise

found it but a trick to uncover your thighs

The clothes that you bought, all the things that you thought

in my mirror’s undertow, are all swept aside

And so now you walk with my heart underfoot

we’re all alone, lift up your head, love, and look

Let me lift off that veil, since it’s just you and I

it’s cold out there darling, come into my eyes…

7


The lawh of the lovers

is covered with signs

its ink always running,

edges scorched by sighs

watered by poor eyes

that never run dry

it sprouts out new branches

that bloom as they die

It carves its name in

lovers who pass by

and inscribes their names

into sunset skies

The lawh of the lovers

is covered with signs

And no one can tell

what’s hidden inside.

8


9


What's in a name?

A ripple on a river of ink

reflecting a constellation above

A wave upon an ocean of breath

mirroring the sun's dazzling love

My words are inky-black, hot coals

blow on them, bloom flames of all hues

my thoughts are foggy, clouded mirrors

breathe on them, kiss them, wipe them clear

then look upon your secret truths.

10


to read a poem is to free a bird...

Within bold rhythm's bars and rhymes

wait wingèd words, like souls, to fly

in through your eyes, one at a time

and lift your body from inside

pupils dilate, locks melt like ice

and birds in murmuration rise

like swarms of smoke into the sky

they rise and dip and float and dive

as free as light, wild as the wise

11


When I tried to write

the way you make me feel

The pen broke through the paper

like fruit shedding its peel

When I tried to sing

a song about our love

my voice cracked, broken from

weights mountains can’t dream of

When my hand touched the guitar

the strings snapped like exploding stars

When I tried to speak

about my love to you

My words were washed away

by tears like morning dew

then burned up to ash

by sighs hotter than noon

When I tried to write

my love, the paper tore

the pen broke in my hand

‘cause my heart had broke in yours

12


Your black-hearted eye

brought drought to my mind

Where words once had flowed

now thought-beds run dry

All poetry’s flown

south to warmer climes

The only rain left in my head’s from my eyes

My tree has drunk deep of earth’s life and sun’s death

and drunk, its cheeks flush in the shades of sun’s flesh

dropping, like cares, its aeons of sunsets

and wafting haikus on the weight of sun’s breath

and fastening earth’s glories around the sun’s neck

13


14


Laylah Mubarakah

Your jealousy hid your beauty

from me in everything

So that I found my only rest

in running after Thee

Every pleasure lost its taste

and each joy, its colour

So that I found my happy place

bound up in your collar

So hide me from your jealously

or wrap me up in your Mercy

to hide me from your Majesty

or please, if you won’t set me free

At least allow me to reside

in the apple of your eye

I’m jealous too, I want to hide

all your light inside my mind

But I can’t hide from you, it seems

and nor can you from me

How can you hide the blazing sun

within skies so empty?

Where can you hide your vast ocean

save in the waves of my blue sea?

Let’s play again this hide and seek:…

15



I’ll be you and you be me

Ready or not, then, here I come

so much faster than 1, 2, 3…

Ahh but there you go again

quicker than my eye can see

But ah its so much nicer to

just chill and let it be

I may be you, but you’re not me

and yet, somehow, I am me

We’re outfits of this coy Beauty

and this love’s something more than “we”

I’m so jealous, I hide our love

away from my own jealously

And so it’s out there all secret

hidden for every one to see

16


I've never seen my love wear clothes

she wraps herself in her hair's light

that flutters in winds as she flows

in brilliance darker than the night

My mind melts to sweat on her skin

like snowflakes o'er a dancing flame

each drop, a world's enfolded in,

glides, glistening round her beauty's frame

Her clothing is her nakedness

-but when we kiss, we close our eyes

and nakedness is her clothing

-As truth is only told by lies

All that I gain, I forefeit

my disguises, all self-portraits

All I've tried to hide is opened

seeds' secrets are spilled by orchids

My love is wholly without shame

and I likewise am shameless

Because we are each other's clothes

we're naked still, yet blameless

17


Your two lips bind beauty’s Qur’an

your eyelashes are long koans

there’re sutras written on your skin

each breath and every gasp a hymn

your heartbeat is a sacred drum

where all sounds go, where life comes from

your hands are two golden icons

that cast my bones’ divination

my soul’s the sky, and you’re the sun

between our breaths and our poems

(between them, though our hearts are one)

are meadows where the gazelles run

18


Have you ever felt a waterfall come crashing through your heart?

and carve calligraphy like rivers running in the dark

Have you ever felt your body flood with love beyond all sense?

and wash away all shame and doubt, all regret and pretense

Have you ever felt beauty unbearable bloom deep inside?

that’s how I feel each time you lift your eyes up to meet mine

Heaven's your head on a pillow

resting right there next to mine

Paradise is seeing your eyes

in mine in yours with mine

Your eyes hold flecks of love's sun's gold

and my heart is its mine

and yet despite this all, thank God

I'm not veiled in my mind

19


Your scent crept in my house

like a thief before the dawn

I opened up my eyes

and the roof itself was gone

Your perfume stole my senses

and my heart, and all my mind

The full moon and the bright rain

were all that it left behind

Well, them, and deep down inside

this sweet and glowing pain

Oh how I wish that

you’d come back again

And just finish off

what your scent began

Come steal my life and

my loneliness too

God above knows I’m

so useless without you.

20


Your beauty is such

a strange alchemy

It poured silver tears

down my golden cheek

Your lightning smile wrung

sunlight from dark skies

And loosed floods of pearls

from my smoldering eyes

Your face is red sun

your hair, night mercury

You glance made gold light

of my leaden body

21


These bones are the wood

my soul is the fire

these words are the smoke

inhaled by desire

The stars are your eyes

reflected in sky

the sun rises when

your two lips meet mine

The moon’s a single shining pearl

hanging in your hair’s night sky

and when you turn around it’s like

the dawn, a flood of blinding light

22


Your name makes prison paradise

and turns poisons to points of light

and melts sweet streams from mountain ice

fragrant fountains of pure delight

The sun and moon are naught but moths

fluttering around your candle face

the stars are melting, candle-like

in vain envy to match your grace

23


My eyes are turning blue

from gazing at the sky

my heart is burning too

from longing for your eyes

I wish I were the wind

mingling with your sweet breath

at the borders of your mouth

where the sunrise meets the West

I wish I were the wind

running soft hands through your hair

curling round your waist

tracing the secrets hidden there

I wish I were the wind

carrying perfumes to you

so you could breathe me in

and sigh me out, scorching the moon

24


My heart's warm cries keep me alive

and if not for its rosy tears

my soul would wither, dead and dry

but while my Nile flows red as wine

my body lives ev'n as it dies

burning, melting, candle-like

lightning bouncing twixt earth and sky

reflections in each other's eyes

Pain is pain's disguise denied

with paradise hidden inside

embrace it, climb atop the skies

let go and kiss yourself goodbye

25


One night my lover said to me

Leave it be and flee with me

And if the world rebels and raises bloodthirsty armies

And if your arms should lose their strength and terror clutch your knees

If cold fears get hold of your soul with icy hands and squeeze

And when you're out of breath and time, and your eyes can barely see

Then flee to me, just leave it be

And if your friends' shadows should turn and become enemies

And if the moon and sun should burn and fall like dying leaves

And if the sky should become firm and block out all your dreams

And when day's music starts to fade, and dark comes silently

Come dance with me, just let it be

And if your thoughts should bite and sting like swarms of angry bees

And if you curse the light and want to burrow in your grief

And when your soul will fight and try to keep you far from me

Just set her free and come kiss me

Just leave it be, run off with me

And if the moon and sun should burn and fall like dying leaves

And if their ashes get blown out into stars by the breeze

And if the books return to trees and all the words should turn to leaves

And all the worlds should melt away and all the oceans freeze

You'll never find me anywhere but right here on my knees

26


The incense of my roasting heart

filled up the two horizons,

and drew lovers from all around

the hungry and enlightened

but its smoke blew them all away

like bees, love-stung and blinded

and none could stand the heat but you,

my heart, the flame inside it

27


Souls scatter and shatter

like light and its sparks

against the sharp edges

of your diamond heart

How could a bright face

so full of beauty

be so cold and free

of all sympathy

How strange that I’m lost in longing for you

while you always find your way into my dreams

For while I’m absent from your heart it seems

that you’ll be living inside mine always

When your love has burned the stars from the sky

My dust will dance up to be by your side

28


29


Caught in between…

Food’s sweet in the mouth, and then satisfying

but stuck in the throat, it’s just pain and coughing

Seas have their pearls, and trees, their canopy

but on beach’s deserts, I’m caught in between

The wooded path beckons, the hearth’s welcoming

But a locked doorway’s stoop is no place to be

The knife’s sides are mirrors reflecting beauty

but woe to the piece that gets caught in between

Home has its comforts and as does journey’s end

hardships are for those of us caught in between

too warm for refreshment, but too cold for tea

no light from this fire of cold and wet leaves

I’m prone, paralyzed between sleep and dream

‘twixt waking death’s shroud and a life of sleeping

neither with or without you it seems I can be

the sun starts to shine, but it goes on raining

30


I’m just an upside-down shadow of yours…

My shadow has never been far from my feet

And you’ve been stuck in my head always

My heart is where you and your shadow meet

Who are you to cast shadows such as me?

And what is this light that brings it to be?

And where is the ground on which I am seen?

and who am I to ask so impudently?

I’ll just wait until noon makes one of these three.

31


How can you always slip away in silence from my sight

while you won't let anyone else join you inside my heart?

How come you spun me out into this separation's night

if you intend for my own end to be one with its start?

In separation, what is lost? In union, what is gained?

If our love burns right through the two, and our hearts share one

name?

If what is not should cease to be, and what is shall remain

Then why shadowy sufferings, and why, my love, these games?

And why all these diverse longings, and why this single pain?

And why so many questions, when their answer's all the same

And why all of these why's while your beauty's so rare, so plain

And why all these complaints and lies, if truth is just your face?

But "why" is talking's dying breath, just one more gasp till it gives out

And silence is the narrow pass connecting my heart to your mouth

32


The sunlight makes flowers of leaves

and pours beauty on everything

crack open sky’s robin’s egg blue

turn the world inside out,

let the sunlight yolk through

33


34


O wind of the dawn

Blow into my breast

Make the embers of my heart

Rise up from their death

O wind of the dawn

Blow into my breast

Sway my veins and let them shake

Love's birds out from their nests

O wind of the dawn

Blow into my breast

Make my blood ripple

your reflection with each breath

O wind of the dawn

my heart's caught in your grasp

your spirit's within

whirling round inside it trapped

You can't hold it in

and I can't give it back

whisper something in my ear

take my soul with each gasp

35


I heard, beyond sound, music

a beauty without limit

in her perfume's light sweetness

I found a bliss infinite

I tasted moonlight's cool lips

erasing all my limits

my senses all became one

on the tip of your tongue

36


We all long for her loveliness

on earth, in skies above

There is no other beauty

and nothing else to love

I said, “all my love is yours

all loves and for all time.”

She said, “it’s only fitting since

every beauty is mine.”

Love loves Love

and Love is One

that is all there is below

and all there is above

“If not for you I would not know love

If not for love I would not know you”

but shhhh now, I’m busy falling in love with you

O Majestic, my Beautiful

37


Index of First Lines

A garden of light in a desert of flame 5

Food’s sweet in the mouth, and then satisfying 30

Have you ever felt a waterfall 19

Heaven's your head on a pillow 19

Hey son, pour me another one 4

How can you always slip away in silence from my sight 32

How strange that I’m lost in longing for you 28

I heard, beyond sound, music 36

I wish I were the wind 24

In your lap I seek refuge, from all of my pain 1

I've never seen my love wear clothes 17

My eyes are turning blue 24

My heart's warm cries keep me alive 25

My shadow has never been far from my feet 31

My tree has drunk deep of earth’s life and sun’s death 13

My whole world grows wan and dim without you 3

O wind of the dawn 35

One night my lover said to me 26

Souls scatter and shatter 28

The lawh of the lovers 8

The incense of my roasting heart 27

The stars all fell into your heart’s well 2

The sun and moon are naught but moths 23

The sunlight makes flowers of leaves 33


These bones are the wood 22

We all long for her loveliness 37

When you looked at my polished heart’s shine 7

When I tried to write 12

Within bold rhythm's bars and rhymes 11

Your beauty is such 21

Your black-hearted eye 13

Your jealousy hid your beauty 15

Your name makes prison paradise 23

Your scent crept in my house 20

Your two lips bind beauty’s Qur’an 18

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