What do flowers know?

One of the flowers in my chain-link fence, Omaha. Dancers performing a Mozart Requiem Mass

One of the flowers in my chain-link fence, Omaha. Dancers performing a Mozart Requiem Mass

Upon the death of my neighbor in Omaha

 

A chain link fence
separates my dwelling from my neighbor
I barely knew her
we seldom spoke.

Last night my neighbor came on the evening news
they said she was a teacher
renowned for her gardening
loved by her students.

Reporters and cameras covered the street
fire trucks with
their rotating lights struggled
to penetrate the oppression
acrid smoke ensnared everything.

Tiny flowers on wispy vines
cling to the fence in such profusion
they almost hide its existence
they have strange hours
these evanescent flowers
that only remain open in the morning.

The flowers bloom for the first time each year
as the summer season is about to die
bloom explosively
early in the morning they appear
only before first light
they appear.

Lavender, magenta, rose red, and white
small fragile stars with five petals
flaunt their vivid colors.

The fence flowers are more profuse
than ever late this afternoon
this is strange
it never happened before.

Just before the sun reaches its zenith
the fence flowers
always quickly tighten into cones
become invisible in the dark vines.

Fire erupted in my neighbor’s house
as she slept unaware
smoke choked the life out of her
just before first light.

No one knew until it was too late
only the fence flowers witnessed it
bright, silent witnesses
lavender, magenta, rose red, and white.

When smoke enveloped the flowers
as they awakened
at first light
did they inhale the fragrance of a soul
with an inscrutable sense
as it fled its earthly body?

Do they tell me that a soul flower now blooms
where we cannot see it
illuminated in brilliance
in a faraway garden?

During the winter when the vines shrivel up
and fall to the dirt
you believe they can’t come back
they reunite with the earth
they’re dead
you see the end of them.

Yet now the flowers
glow brighter than ever.

 

“And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty.” (Baha’u’llah)

A Balloon in Syria

Colophon:

We hear our leaders plead for yet another foreign war.
They argue that tyrants committed atrocities against the children.
Urgently, forcefully they argue that they must deliver the message.
It will not be a war. It will be a message. A message to Syria.
They claim the message will spill very little blood.
The message will not harm the children.
They say the message will be decisive.
They won’t deliver the message to the tyrant.
It will only be a message from one bomb to a different bomb.
They say it is a message to end all messages.
Weren’t they all?

A Balloon for Syria

Unfinished digital and mixed media: Infrared film, 2 digital photographs, scanner, oil pastels on cardboard.

A Balloon in Syria

by Cary Enoch Reinstein

Imagine being a balloon.

Dear, happy balloon
you can float anywhere you can dream
a slender golden thread
tethers you safely to your point of origin
you can snap back to it in an instant
touch other balloons
all the colorful and free balloon souls
communicate with them
see and hear their thoughts
while they see and hear your thoughts
play and dance in the air
and you are not fragile
not like any artificial balloon
you will not burst
nor should you fear it
for a forest of balloons protects you.

Besides, if you do burst
nobody will ever notice anyhow
you’re too far away
too insignificant
nobody will even hear you pop.

When I was a new balloon
I glowed like a gemstone
full of light and promise
I was a balloon
for such a short time
then I became afraid
Do you know why?

 

I discovered that balloons tell lies
and they do burst.

The balloon was translucent like a jellyfish
it rose in stately slow motion
casting opalescent reflections
then the air began to burn
the balloon’s ascent quickly became more erratic
as it sought vainly to ride accommodating air currents
suddenly the balloon string snapped
pitching it toward the roughly textured wall
where it burst
and the reddish jelly within the balloon
streamed out like blood.

 

 

Entering the Qiblih, a Song to the Gardener

Lyrics to a song I wrote many years ago after my pilgrimage to the Qiblih.

Tree from The Lovely Phones Album on Enoch's Vision Gallery

Oh Gardener i accept Your wisdom
i do i really do accept it i do
no matter how much it hurts
i know You transplanted the sapling
to a radiant garden
i know it will thrive there forever
it was sickly and weak in this one

i can’t judge the Gardener’s doings
and i never even try
for i shall never be able
to create infinite gardens from nothingness
only the Gardener can do that

i think that if i were a garden
i would be a poor one
because i haven’t had any success so far
but i have crazy longings to grow

if You’re not too busy
and one day You notice me
which isn’t easy
because i’m not very significant
i beg now while in Your qiblih
would it just be possible
if it’s not a lot of trouble
for me to nourish another sapling
maybe a healthy one this time
if You notice me and take pity

please oh please
a healthy one or maybe two
who know about You
and are grateful
and i know i’m not much
and might never be
but please oh please
one more chance to love someone
and not be alone
please oh please
one more chance to nurture a tree

In the Baha’i Faith the Qiblih (point of adoration) is the location that Baha’is should face when saying their daily obligatory prayers, and is fixed at the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, near Akka, in present day Israel.

From the death of that beloved youth due to his separation from you the utmost sorrow and grief has been occasioned, for he flew away in the flower of his age and the bloom of his youth, to the heavenly nest.

 

But as he has been freed from this sorrow-stricken shelter and has turned his face toward the everlasting nest of the Kingdom and has been delivered from a dark and narrow world and has hastened to the sanctified realm of Light, therein lies the consolation of our hearts.

 

The inscrutable divine wisdom underlies such heart-rending occurrences. It is as if a kind gardener transfers a fresh and tender shrub from a narrow place to a vast region. This transference is not the cause of the withering, the waning or the destruction of that shrub, nay rather it makes it grow and thrive, acquire freshness and delicacy and attain verdure and fruition. This hidden secret is well-known to the gardener, while those souls who are unaware of this bounty suppose that the gardener in his anger and wrath has uprooted the shrub. But to those who are aware this concealed fact is manifest and this predestined decree considered a favor. Do not feel grieved and disconsolate therefore at the ascension of that bird of faithfulness, nay under all circumstances pray and beg for that youth forgiveness and elevation of station.

 

I hope that you will attain to the utmost patience, composure and resignation, and I supplicate and entreat at the Threshold of Oneness and beg pardon and forgiveness. My hope from the infinite bounties of God is that He may cause this dove of the garden of faith to abide on the branch of the Supreme Concourse that it may sing in the best of tunes the praises and the excellencies of the Lord of names and attributes. (‘Abdu’l-Baha)

Death in the Suburbs

Death drove a truck

Last night during rush hour
I saw Death
drive a little red truck
Death’s disguise was perfect
I felt safe
he wasn’t looking in his rear-view mirror at me
Death was following someone else
the experience was very matter-of-fact
Death himself looked ordinary.

Except for his black cowl
Death looked just like a fresh-faced kid.

He was really Death
the genuine article.

Imagine Death being a kid
nobody else noticed Death
driving down 124th street.

That amazed me.

I suppose they’d have panicked if they did
so their defenses kicked in
but I didn’t panic.

He was really Death
other people have dulled senses
they’re insensitive
too disinterested
to see the threat.

His name was Death
he drove a cheap pickup truck
he looked like a kid.

The only thing strange
about seeing Death
driving down 124th street
was his little truck
every other time that I saw him
Death drove a Camaro.

“There are intangible realities which float near us, formless and without words;
realities which no one has thought out, and which are excluded for lack of interpreters.” (Natalie Clifford Barney)

Rush Hour. (finger painting on wet film)

Rush Hour. (finger painting on wet film)

‘Abdu’l-Baha with Flowers

In 1972 I took a close-up Kodachrome photo of a painting of ‘Abdu’l-Baha that hung in the home of Margaret Gallagher, a Baha’i Auxiliary Board Member in Hayward, California. Then I went out to her garden, noticed bright red flowers with sunlight streaming through them and double-exposed them on the same frame. Several years later I made a high-resolution scan from a color negative copy of my original 35mm slide. The original had been irretrievably damaged by a flood.

The original painter’s name was Samimi. Download a document in Adobe PDF format for more information about the painter. The right half of the image consists of the flowers I added when I took the photograph. The photograph was a close-up of the painting. The entire painting shows a 3/4 length view of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

When I was on pilgrimage in 1974, I brought 200 copies of the photo with me at the request of Hand of the Cause A. Q. Faizi. He gave them away during his many teaching trips around the world. Though he asked me to sign the backs of the photos I preferred to remain anonymous. Among my treasures are some hand-illuminated letters that Mr. Faizi wrote me in the 1970’s including a comment on the image of ‘Abdu’l-Baha with Flowers. You can find the letters online at the Bahai-Library site in an unpublished book of his letters edited by Shirley Macias.

I offer this image to everyone for free with certain conditions. I don’t accept payment for copies for any reason. You may freely distribute it as long as you don’t change it in any way and you attribute the source (www.enochsvision.com, Cary Enoch Reinstein). You may not exploit or sell it for any amount of money or any reason. You may not publish this image on any website or social network without my prior permission in writing. However, please feel free to link to this page.

There is an important reason why I want to protect this image. It’s simply because I’ve seen so many low quality or badly faded copies of the image over the many years that it’s been circulating. I’ve also seen people try to make a profit from poor quality copies. Except for minor printing costs if you don’t print it yourself, you should not have to pay for it. The picture is essentially just a derivative image (and a serendipitous one at that) that became very popular over a long time and acquired some distinctly odd and wildly inaccurate lore along the way. Some of it is pretty amusing. This assures that you’ll get the best quality for personal printing because it’s from the original source. This image, though it will always be free of charge, is not in the public domain. You can read the terms of use in the downloaded files. Do not change or edit the accompanying text documents. If you find an error then please feel free to contact me about it.

There are many quality printing sites where you can make your own prints both online and in retail stores. Download a 10MB Zip file containing three different size copies suitable for printing at high quality on standard  photographic papers. The Zipped collection also has expanded commentary on the image including permitted usage statements as well as guidance on portraits of ‘Abdu’l-Baha from the Baha’i World Center. They explain yet another reason why not to sell or exploit it in any way since real photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Baha are preferable.

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Ministry of Flowers

“‘Abdu’l-Baha’s personal wants were few. He worked late and early. Two simple meals a day sufficed Him. His wardrobe consisted of a very few garments of inexpensive material. He could not bear to live in luxury while others were in want. He had a great love for children, for flowers, and for the beauties of nature. …”
In Galilee, p. 51.

“The ‘ministry of flowers’ was a feature of the life at ‘Akka, of which every pilgrim brought away fragrant memories. Mrs. Lucas writes: — ‘When the Master inhales the odor of flowers, it is wonderful to see him. It seems as though the perfume of the hyacinths were telling him something as he buries his face in the flowers. It is like the effort of the ear to hear a beautiful harmony, a concentrated attention!'”
A Brief Account of My Visit to ‘Akka, pp. 25-26.

“He loved to present beautiful and sweet-smelling flowers to His numerous visitors.”
Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era

 

Visionary Park

Dystopian Playland on Harmony

In a yet to be published part of Whispers I wrote “Where do the others live, the ones who sent us here? The ones who exiled us to the earth?”


One restless night, I dreamed about a dystopian planet named Harmony. All the poets, writers, artists, and seers of Harmony had been banished. Eventually they all died out and nobody grew up to replace them.

After a very short time, that alien world with a desperate name withered and almost died.

After a very long time Harmony’s dominant species finally realized their terrible error so they tried to manufacture new artists and poets. Sadly, nobody could find any books on “How to Make an Artist” or “How to Make a Poet,” and definitely not “How to Make a Prophet.” Their people flew from Harmony out to the faraway stars but they found no thinkers they could understand. Too long ago Harmony’s rulers had exiled their visionaries to alien worlds that were long forgotten and out of their reach. At the time nobody thought much about it.

Harmony built effigies and habitats. Harmony made studio replicas. Harmony put desks covered with pens and notebook computers in a place of memory and reverence. It was a theme park complete with carousels, a roller coaster, and ice cream stands.

They named it Visionary Park.

People thronged to see the effigies of the long-gone creative souls but all they saw were wax statues. The walls were all bare. There was no art, no poetry, and there were no books. Nobody remembered what books were, what purpose they had, or what might have been in them. Nobody knew how to make new ones anymore.

So, it was too late. And not long thereafter everyone was gone. The planet Harmony became a desert. It was dead.

The End

Is this poetry or is it history? Remember the Stalinist Purges, the Maoist Cultural Revolution, the Cambodian Killing Fields, the Nazi book burnings, the Holocaust, the Inquisition, endless Jihads still raging today, the exiles of every Prophet and the martyrdoms of many, the persecutions of the Baha’is in Iran, and oh, so many more on a smaller scale, all in the name of maintaining the status quo and social harmony.

“Art at its most significant is a distant early warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen.” (Marshall McLuhan)

Whispers

Poetry. Dissociation. Exile.

The swirls of paint
the patterns of cloth
the random clouds
the fallen leaves
fragments floating
just out of sight

they ride the dust of sunbeams
and hide behind mirrors
to wait for me
in my exile.

They watch and wait
beyond my reach
hovering at the edges of my vision.

Disembodied
silent
unreachable
untouchable.

Song fragments well in my head
shards of poetry and insight echo
I try to grasp as they drift away
songs hold answers.

Fragments might re-form
might become whole again.

Amidst the static
ancient choirs float on ether
only a few finely-tuned
poets and musicians receive them
the clues to meaning are in the fragments.

Don’t let the melodies disappear
don’t forget the whispers
save the fragments.

Musicians jam with electric guitars
wailing poets write rock songs
their fragments must mean something
or nothing at all.

Whispers from and about nothing
accidental meanings clearing up mysteries
and making mysteries afresh.

Artists draw glyphs to stand for fragments
correspondences, metaphors,
patterns, avatars.

They don’t know their symbols’ origin
but the exiles, the poets, they know
musicians know
exiles know them and quiver
suddenly they cry
they cannot explain it
they cannot remember
cannot tell all they know
no-one knows every level of meaning.

Joni Mitchell sings we are stardust
we have to get back to the garden
an exile hears her song and softly starts to cry.

Is the way to understanding
found in the secret places
painted on a talisman
poured from a chalice
embodied in crystals
invoked by chants
or by charms
or a totem
or a rune
a stone
tablet
jewel
icon

Is it found in sacred places?

Look into the jewel
containing other worlds
other realities
is the answer alive?

does it seek me as I seek it
or does it simply wait?

would I recognize it
do rituals unveil it
do books describe it?

Everyone is whispering
all the time
except the Prophets.

No Prophet ever whispered.

Only Prophets know all secrets
speaking truth in symbols
placed behind numinous veils
embellished with ineffable beauty.

Night's Golden Spiral

 

Meanings of the Baha’i Ringstone Symbol

My prayer book cover illustrating the ringstone symbol

My prayer book cover illustrating the ringstone symbol

Common Religious Symbols

Seven common religious symbols in approximately chronological order.

Designed by `Abdu’l-Bahá, the Baha’i ringstone symbol, as its name implies, is the most common symbol found on rings worn by Bahá’ís, but it is also used on necklaces, book covers, and paintings. It consists of two stars (haykal) interspersed with a stylized Bahá’. The lower line is said to represent humanity, the upper line God, and the middle line represents the special station of Manifestation of God; the vertical line is the Primal Will or Holy Spirit proceeding from God through the Manifestations to humanity. The position of Manifestation of God in this symbol is said to be the linking point to God. (cit. wikipedia)

Excerpt: This part of the symbol comprises three levels, each level indicated by a number. Together they represent the underlying belief which is the basis of all the religions of God. They are as follows:

  1. The World of God – The Creator
  2. The World of the Prophets or Manifestation – Cause, or Command
  3. The World of Man – Creation.

“The followers of all religions believe that man, left to himself, can never recognize God and attain His presence; nor is man able to fathom the mystery and purpose of his own creation. God, in His unlimited bounty has singled out His Chosen Ones and will continue to do so, sending them to man at different times and ages in order to grant him penetrating insight and to enable him to have a glimpse of the unfading glories of the innumerable worlds beyond.

“The Prophets accept descent from their realms on high and suffer the abasement of living in human temples, walking amongst men and speaking their languages. The Manifestations are invariably denied, ridiculed, humiliated and even put to death. Were it not for their spiritual upliftment and leadership, man would have continued to live as a wild beast and would have been eternally doomed to deprivation and loss.

“These functions of the Prophets are clearly demonstrated in the design of the Greatest Name by having the world of the Prophets (shown in horizontal line) repeated in vertical line, thus joining the world of the Creator to that of His creation.”
A.Q. Faizi, Explanation of the Symbol of the Greatest Name

“Since the true bá, which is the universal reality, passes down through the three grades from the highest summit to the lowest centre and shines forth in each grade, it is the unifier and revealer of all the worlds. On the horizon of ancient grandeur, two brilliant stars are shining and luminous: one star is on the right, the other on the left. And this great mystery is the two shapes that have been drawn upon the left and right of the Greatest Name on the ringstone symbol. The mystery concerns the manifestation of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb. Although the two shapes on right and left are in the form of a star, they refer nevertheless to the Temple of Man, which consists of a head and arms and two legs.” (Read the Tablet on the Birth of the Greatest Name II written by Baha’u’llah)

Is my personal interpretation illustrated below valid? It is clear that some of the corresponding shapes may be coincidental though they still have some significance. I see the concept of Progressive Revelation illustrated in the symbol.

Thus it is recorded: “Every knowledge hath seventy meanings, of which one only is known amongst the people. And when the Qá’im shall arise, He shall reveal unto men all that which remaineth.” He also saith: “We speak one word, and by it we intend one and seventy meanings; each one of these meanings we can explain.” (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 255)

Far from being limited, Bahá’u’lláh asserts that “knowledge hath seventy meanings”, and that the “meaning” of the Word of God “can never be exhausted”. (The Universal House of Justice, 1995 Jan 31, Questions on Scholarship)

Ancient Hindu SymbolAn ancient Hindu symbol that symbolizes Peace and Harmony, Lord Ganesh has it on his right hand. Differs from other uses of swastika by the four dots inside each of the four arms. Also, it is always drawn with the four inner arms at 0, 90, 180 and 270 degrees on the compass, unlike other inscriptions where the inner arms are in the form of an ‘X’. The swastika was traditionally used in India by Buddhists and Hindus as a good luck sign. In East Asia, the swastika is often used as a general symbol of Buddhism.

Lotus with 7 Petals A seven petaled Lotus. Eight petaled lotuses are also common.

8 points of the symbol's design overlayed with lotus petal symbols. Illustrating the eight points of the symbol’s design overlayed with lotus petal symbols.

Lotus Flower A Lotus Flower

Star of david Hebrew Star of David

Zoroastrian Guardian Angel Zoroastrian Faravahar (guardian angel)

Buddhist Symbol The eight-spoked Dharmacakra. The eight spokes represent the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism.

Buddhist Symbol Widened Widening the Dharmacakra makes its ‘fit’ more clear.

Christian Cross The Christian Cross.

Star and Crescent The star and crescent is a symbol consisting of a crescent with a star at the concave side. In its modern form, the star is usually shown with five points (though in earlier centuries a higher number of points was often used). The two signs together or the crescent only is often regarded as a symbol of Islam.

Barren Soil

According to the parable-which I accept– The Creator is the Divine Gardener. The Creator walks through the garden looking at the newest plants. When the Gardener sees a tiny sprout in a spot where the soil or light is poor, so it might not attain its full growth potential, He transplants it. He takes the sprout to a richer soil, a more sun-filled garden where it flourishes forever.

I never got it out of my head that I was poor soil. Some people even told me that. They might have meant that we are all poor soil but I took it personally. Never use a metaphor on a person with a percolating mind.

David was transplanted over 30 years ago and yet I still feel that I was poor soil. All the platitudes, all the stupid grins, all of that patter was grotesque but they were right. They convinced me. I was worthless. I didn’t deserve anything as beautiful as that innocent child in my life. That’s not my destiny. Poor soil. So I never recovered from grief.

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your vision
tell us your vision

I remember sitting
by his hospital bed
as his temperature dropped
his throat rattled
and little body shook
in pain

tell us
how he comes back to you

sometimes
he touches me gently
he does not feel pain any more
but I do

your vision
tell us your vision

I remember how
a door opened out of the air
in the hospital room where he died
‘Abdu’l-Bahá stepped through it
he only glanced at me
then he picked up
David’s body
cradled him gently
turned around
and closed the door

my son was transplanted to the garden
and I was left alone

there is no rescue
no transplanting for me
just the barren soil of this place

Old Time Radio

Little boy leans up against a Radio that stands taller than he does. Radio embraces him. An enormous 1940s-era Philco. Radio, its glowing tubes radiate yellowish light and considerable heat deep inside its cavern. Radio emits an unsavory odor that suggests small, creeping things became trapped inside, now decaying and undiscovered.


Radio’s array of well-worn knobs and dials covers the surface of its fake mahogany cabinet. The dial’s labels are too smudged to read. Little boy carefully turns the central dial to a familiar spot. He makes sure to keep the volume down so nobody else will hear it. A few bursts of loud static startle him, but happily they don’t awaken anyone. It’s long past little boy’s bedtime. Finally, with everything to his satisfaction, he snuggles up against Radio’s dark cavern. The terrifying alien music begins.

We… bring… you… SUSPENSE!

Little boy feels compelled because Radio commands, “You must not touch that dial.” Nobody knows what might happen if they touch the dial. The voice tells of a haunted armchair, possessed by an angry spirit. The spirit strangles people who sit in the chair–not all the people, only those who hurt it while it was still alive. Little boy promises that he will never sit in an armchair again.

Little boy sleeps, moans in his sleep, begins to dream. He doesn’t know that he moves through a dream. His entire world is no more than a chessboard the size of a house. It rocks gently from side to side against a background of the moon and a few dim stars.

Only three others live in little boy’s world. Three monsters, gray, silent, ominous monsters. Monsters motionless in the far corner of the chessboard. Their hideous and lumpy bodies are the texture of dark wet modeling clay.

Daddy Monster, the biggest and most menacing of the three, smokes a crooked cigar and spits. He looks like an elongated gorilla modeled from the glistening clay.

Mommy Monster is in a drugged stupor. She leers at him through her glowing red eyes and laughs shrilly.

Nameless Monster is small, dominated by the other two. Its forked tongue darts out as it hisses at him.

The monsters turn toward the little boy. They stagger blindly but reach him in a few seconds. Daddy monster shoves him roughly. Suddenly, all three begin to wrap their clay bodies around him until they blend into a shapeless suffocating mass. It rolls out of control toward the edge of the board and the dim stars of the abyss beyond.

He screams.

Three people in the little apartment wake up. Little boy will be punished.