H e a r t S o n s & H e a r t D a u g h t e r s of A l l e n G i n s b e r g
N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 1 4 : A r c h i v e s E d i t i o n
On Two lines by Gabirol
"Be smart with your love," my friend chided,
"Find solid ground for the circle it clears."
You could make a case that Shelomo Ibn Gabirol (1021 to 1058) suffered the early
incarnation of the soul that tore just as violently through the life of Arthur Rimbaud. In
the brief bio that introduces Gabirol's selection in The Dream of the Poem, Hebrew
Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492 (Princeton University Press), Peter
Cole, the anthology's editor and translator, describes a man who was writing
"accomplished poems by 16, important ones by 19." The portrait Cole paints is of a
physically ugly man who lived in constant pain due to an unknown illness and who did
not suffer fools.
Though he wrote philosophical treatises and many other poems, I have found myself
stuck on the lines above since I first encountered Cole's translations on a trip to
Andalucia a couple of years ago. The image of love clearing a circle conjures up two
aspects of love; the sexual ritual of clearing space to make love and secondly, the clearing
of space for a home, and by extension, a family.
That in itself would make the lines worth remembering, but the image also addresses the
power of love in an individual, the singular focus of it, so strong that it creates a circle of
clarity within the confusions and distractions of life. That emotional focus that is so
overpowering when we first fall in love; maybe it's that focus that is so captivating.
It's believed that Gabirol's family may have been dislodged from Cordoba when the
fundamentalist Berbers razed the city for being too effete. Cordoba, the smashed hive
from which all the honey bees scattered to enlighten other Andalucian cities that include
such lost glories as Seville, Cadiz and Grenada. Though they are all beautiful in their own
way, Cordoba feels the most essential. The Great Mosque, squats in the middle of it all,
its interior arches telescoping deeper into the darkness. To think that Maimonides was a
boy strolling past the town's blinding white homes and narrow lanes. After the
destruction, all of that creativity that had gathered to the court of the Ummayids was
banished to wander town to town.
March 5, 2009
[Reprinted from Unacknowledged Legislations, unacknowledgedlegislations.blogsopt.com, by permission of the author. Originally published in NHS 2009, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs09/James_Ruggia.htm.]