Sufi Music

    for Nusrat Ali Khan

Robert Schuler

a hand-

full of bass and cymbal notes

pilled silence out of muddy snow

lavender circus tents of crocuses rise

high winds batter the dusty windows and timbers

as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sings

“Sweet Pain”

and Michael Brook’s guitar strings ring

like bells through the airy metallic

space spinning out of a synthesizer

we are riding a throbbing humming lunging bass beat

sinewed to the thunder of back-beating drums

over a haunting cello drone


settled like peasants on a prayer mat

the chorus chants in praise

praying for grace     and infinite mercy

laddering upwards

laddering down

wandering among stars     touching sand

they are not lost in the desert                    they know

where all of the wells are

suddenly the bass bolts and bounces

and the long singing sinews of your spine

twist through crystal whistling space

shattered by drum tattoos

Nusrat sweeps us ahead with his lyrical Sufi-scat

his passionate triple-Coltrane-tongued mantra

we love the madness of the gods

and goddesses who rise and dance

bronze in the hazy feverish winds

wild above

all of the drum crashes


this is the moan of love

questing after the beloved

this is ecstasy        it is exhausting