The Journey that Does Not End
Hibiscus blooms turn and fold up only a day after they open.
A thought emerges, then leaves without a trail.
Dreams are forgotten before they appear.
Our skin will sag, our energy dissipate.
Words will be hard to hear, our vision will give way—
until it will be simpler not to breathe at all.
Life, after all, is transitory
But there is a mystery—something ever green,
a cycle occurring again and again.
He traveled to America, in 1912, and travels again each year,
April to December—three seasons, then a dormancy.
(No doubt He is packing for the next trip, preparing to greet
another round of swooning admirers and curious onlookers.)
But what if it was never just a physical journey, what if the lesson
is not in the where and when and who and why
but in a mystery folded and unfolded
like a linen napkin at an elegant dinner party
where there is always a new bottle of sparking elixir,
fresh grapes upon pyramids of luscious fruits—
But I have fallen into tangibles
When I am TRYING to describe the eternal.
“I am always a traveler to America,” He said,
“and am assuredly associating with spiritual and illumined friends.”
There’s the rub.
How to be spiritual
How to be illumined
How to be a constant friend.
When His ship arrives or is always arriving
When the train pulls into the station in D.C., Boston, or Philadelphia
When the motorcar creeps between Dublin and Eliot
When a young Mohawk boy falls off a fence in surprise,
catching a glimpse of a wave and a turban,
When an illiterate miner hears His words in Persian and understands them in English
When a determined poor man rides under and above the trains to meet Him
When a wealthy woman fetes him at her country estate
When a portrait painter depicts His servitude to God
and a disciple begs to be recreated
When He heals the maladies of those who seek Him
and dispels the cobwebs of superstition
When He meets men of science
and women intent on getting the right to vote
When children encircle Him, fascinated
When the black, brown, yellow, red, and white races
are all embraced in His flower garden
When gingko leaves flourish and fall
When the moon of His life reflects the sun of his Father’s
When stars dance with delight—
I want to be there:
standing with Him at Niagara,
dining in the garden at Glenwood Springs,
envisioning the future on Monsalvat. . . .
And all we have to do to entice Him to come again and again
into the journey of ourselves:
Be a constant friend.
—Anne Gordon Perry
This is the passage from Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (102) that inspired the poem.
“Whenever an illumined assembly of the friends of God is gathered, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, although bodily absent, is yet present in spirit and in soul. I am always a traveler to America and am assuredly associating with spiritual and illumined friends. Distance is annihilated and prevents not the close and intimate association of two souls that are closely attached in heart even though they may be in two different countries. I am therefore thy close companion, attuned and in harmony with thy soul.”
Anne Gordon Perry is the lead faculty for the Wilmette Institute course The Ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. She holds a doctorate in Aesthetic Studies, teaches at the Art Institute of Dallas, and has been a writer and practicing artist for many years. Her published essays include “Women in Art” (Journal of Bahá’í Studies); “The Dilemma of the Artist: Thoughts on the Development of Bahá’í Aesthetics” (The Creative Circle); and “Where Spirit and Art Intersect” (in a book of same title, published by George Ronald). Anne is the major author/editor of Green Acre on the Piscataqua and the editor of ORISON arts journal. With her husband, Tim Perry, she has produced a feature-length film, Luminous Journey: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912.