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 Viet Nam Generation Journal & Newsletter

V3, N4 (January 1992)

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Poetry by Julia Ross

The Castle of Shariat*

This is the Castle of Shariat--
Where the manifestation of that Light
Has solidified into an imposing husk,
Impenetrable, unassailable, respectable, dead.
The magic is gone.
There is no light behind the costly, stained-glass windows.
But in this castle one can earn a good wage
Selling the mismatched teeth and broken bones
That no longer fit together
Into anything resembling a living man.
We juggle relics here,
Trying to fathom outmoded words, obsolescent concepts,
Whose meaning has gone as the Oceans receded,
Leaving only the rubbish of barren ideas
And the slime of dogmatic emotions.
But we have certificates of propriety here,
And we collect our paychecks on time.
For real love, one is paid nothing.

This is the Castle of Shariat--
The crystallization of layers of history
Frosting over the moment in time
When the Eternal Word was spoken
"...And there was silence in heaven for about half an hour."
We excavate the debris of civilization
And call it learning.
But the depth of our ignorance is glacial.
Darkness and the unknown are our bread and wine.
And we eat well, huddled in groups by the cold hearth,
Singing hymns,
Telling ourselves that we will remake the world
By feeding the hungry
So that we may show them the Truth.
But only the body is nourished here,
And the only god truly worshipped
Is the god of food.
For real truth, one must live by the light within.

This is the castle of Shariat--
The calcined excrescence from the foam
Of one Great Wave
That swept onto these shores from the Ocean,
Crashing into consciousness
With a chaotic, revolutionary Order,
Unthinkable possibilities,
Wild imaginings, dreams and portents,
And the Knowledge of experience
Not sanctioned by the authorities.
That Wave saved those who would be saved then
And left this encrusted anchor of history
For those who would be saved Someday.
But for us who await the new Great Wave,
There is only the Silence of its approach,
As we learn to let go of the safely real
To be dragged out to drown in the Ocean.


*Note: Shariat is a Sufi term meaning conformity to established codes, rituals, and ceremonies. Tariquat is the opposite, the inner path, the path of the Sufi and all esoteric mystical paths, especially the path of love.

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