For One Democratic State
in the whole of Palestine (Israel)


FOR One Man, One Vote




(Foreword to Rain of Grace by SIAM)


Sometimes, somewhere, one is graced to come to great abundance.


It can be flowers. I rode from Valencia to Cordova by an old mountainous road skirting Sierra Morena across barren La Mancha, and found myself in a narrow dale drained by a meager creek. A vast field of poppies spanned the blood-red banks, painting the earth by dense colours of flame and royalty, and on the opposite slope, a blinding-white chapel of Our Lady withstood relentless assaults of their crimson waves. I waded this living bonfire and felt its intense heat on my flushed face through shut eyelids. Such a great explosion of flower power is grace.


It can be fire. In the fiery land of Kamchatka, a narrow mountainous peninsula wading the cold waters of the North Pacific, I saw a volcano in full blast of its furnaces. Deep and rich crimson liquid engulfed the mountain and ran down the steep slopes of Avacha, its colours constantly changing from purple to golden brown, from glowing embers of forgotten forest bonfire to ferocious blaze of sun-like lava, the stuff stars are made of. It was The Mount of Fire as dreamt by mystics in their midnight visions.


It can be femininity, another great element of life unmentioned by Heraclites. In the very last day of May, I came to an age-old tiny and tranquil Ukrainian town with the ancient church of Our Lady of Intercession looking into a slow river from their high bank, and was swept off my feet by the flash flood of young maidens, fresh and sixteen, graduates at school-leaving ball in the park under open warm blue sky, with white bands and garlands of flowers in their golden hair, in white ceremonial aprons on top of dark and mercilessly short skirts leaving open their graceful knees above high white socks and dark sleeveless tops flashing tender arms and elbows, with their blue eyes a-gleaming in the shade of black poplars.


It can be rain. It falls on the parched land of the Negev and fills its open ravines, overflows every hole or depression, and by hundreds of small streams it runs over the stretching roots of huge old jujube trees and brings to life sleeping grass; it sustains laughing jackals and desert foxes and leopards, it brings life back to life after long summer sleep. It buzzes like a hive of angry bees, and turns the ever arid south of Palestine into vast celebration of greenery. This miracle of turning desert into living land is sheer grace.


The poetry of SIAM belongs to the same category of primeval elements. It is akin to fire, water, flowers, and blossoming femininity in their great abundance. It is the Mount of Fire and the Desert Rain. SIAM is a miraculous rainmaker in the tradition of West Africa, and the rain he calls for is indeed the rain of grace. His appearance in our Philistine age in the mundane Indianapolis, Indiana is a miracle undeserved by us; but then grace usually is undeserved.


SIAM belongs to the tradition of spiritual poetry, one that begins with the Psalms and leads through deep Sufi mysticism of Rumi and all-American cosmic spirit of Walt Whitman. His poetry is a natural phenomenon as much as a work of art, and reminds us of the sacred roots of the divine vocation.


In his psalm of the world he writes:


There is not enough Mercy in the world,

not enough gentle reciprocity,

the reciprocal miracle of being

a simple good human being,


not enough smiles in the world

to outweigh the frowns of the world,

not much Holy dance or intimate romance

left in the soul of the soul of the world –

not enough grace to save face in the world


And he endeavors to save the world with grace and love:


you have been water in a dry & barren desert,

an oasis for wearied traveler in search of

the golden city –


my ruddered ship upon a turbulent fatherless sea

who has taught me how to catch the great fish

which surround me,


you have become the salt in my tears,


His name SIAM reminds us of the Sinaitic ‘I AM who I AM’, in his own words: “SIAM is like unto IAM – the continuous eternal verb to be; it is the ever new me of being and becoming”.


This IAM constantly changes, it is riverrun of Finnegans Wake:


I don’t think there are enough hours in the day for me to

write about me because most assuredly, I am a work in



SIAM stands also for his assumed name, Shaikh Ibrahim Al-Jahizz M'Backe, but this great mystic and poet was born a plain Michael Smith in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father was a Greenville, Mississippi native who in his later years also became an Indiana man, Milton "Cowboy" Smith, a US Army veteran, in whose veins English, Arab, African and Native American blood was blended into a unique and explosive Afro-American cocktail. Like Diogenes or Tolstoy, Milton Smith left his middle class home and lived under the bridge “on 16th Street and North-western Avenue” in his adopted Indianapolis “because he didn't, at 71, like anyone telling him how to live his life”, wrote SIAM and added: “Had he been white, they would have venerated him as they did Henry David Thoreau when he withdrew to live in the Walden Pond Woods alone”. He wrote about his father:


Strike the mind and the body will eventually fall,

Your tears became the Mississippi River,

And your soul flowed there,

Your soul flowed there.


You never met Mark Twain or Henry David Thoreau,

Richard Wright, Chester Himes, or James Baldwin,

Frederick Douglass, or Ralph Waldo Emerson either,

Yet they all foretold of your coming,


A stone that was cut from a mountain without hands,

A Cowboy shaped from broken glass,

A living breathing documentary of Frantz Fanon’s

“Black Skin White Masks”,

You were the original “Invisible Man”,

Ralph Ellison’s adopted Native Son

Of basement lights so bright,

And a Cowboy who danced gracefully

Yet painfully with broken bones.


Rustled into a life of hustle and bustle and

Got two women pregnant at the same time,

Damn Man, you was good!

You had enough to go around!


His son inherited from him his independence of spirit and unquenchable thirst for divine grace. Life of the poet, now in his fifties, reads like a manual for a soul-searching quest of an American Guenon. He won an Academy of American Poets’ Award; graduated from Aenon Bible College, attended Ohio State University, and completed his Master’s of Theological Studies Degree from the Harvard Divinity School in 1976. He lived on honey and sunflower seeds.


He fasted forty days for the hungry people of the Planet Earth and another forty days for its homeless, and explained:


Why am I fasting? I am fasting because Jesus said, "some things goeth not out, except by fasting and prayer." And homelessness is certainly something that needeth to go out.


He read his poems in the Kings Chamber of The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt:


What shall i do beneath the pyramid of my mind,

What shall i do beneath the pyramid of my heart,

What shall i do beneath the pyramid of my soul;


Why, i shall ride the wings of a silver sphinx.


He lived for two years with the Benedictine Monks of Saint Maur. There SIAM came under spell of St. John of the Cross, the great Judeo-Hispanic mystic and a friend of St. Teresa of Avila, and blessed...


O guiding night!

O night more lovely than the dawn!

O night that has united

The Lover with His beloved,

Transforming the beloved in her Lover.


He searched for the African roots of his spirituality in West Africa, walked across Nigeria to Senegal and wrote:


I heard the river call your name Illu Gan Gan, as you

danced, walked & leaped into the heart of the world,

the soul of the core of the world - you / the breaker,

the maker, the Nigerian shaker, the ebony rain dancer

of Yoruba Land – you / Oladumare’s son of life & light,

You / the keeper, the healer, the protector of all his

sons & daughters of sons –


You / breathing! heaving! sweating! chanting!

& the earth stood still in ominous silence at your

awesome Holy anointing:


Eventually SIAM had found his spiritual home in teachings of the Senegalese Saint Touba, the founder of the Mourid Mystical Order of Al-Islam, from the Holy City of Touba. The son and heir to Saint Touba, Serigne Saliou, initiated SIAM into the lofty secrets of this esoteric teaching. Esoteric Islam is first and foremost Sufi, and SIAM’s poetry has the straight forward elusiveness, the robust delicacy that is the sure quality of the great medieval Sufi poet Rumi.


what color is this tasting upon your tongue do you see?

what smell of divine fragrance do you now hear spoken in your ear?


Now and then, SIAM spends time in Touba and comes back to Indianapolis to his family including his two children, Ali and Rabia, and his beloved student disciples. His first and most devoted one is named MomJara, after Saint Touba’s mother who is venerated in Senegal for her spiritual power. SIAM wrote: “MomJara is the name synonymous with intense prayer and sacred devotional practices; she is the symbolic crucible out of which Divine Transformation can and has surely occurred. MomJara is the Queen, produced of Divine Grace, the Holy Consort of the Spiritual Science [Tasawwuf] behind the poet's vision and the poet's life force”. But MomJara is also great for barbecuing chicken wings her 5’ 9’’ Shaikh is fond of.


One of his latest and most forceful poems is called “In Jerusalem”. It is the explicit connection of the Jerusalem of Prophets and of Edward Said, of the age-old appeal of people of Israel and of Palestinian struggle for dignity:


Here in the Jerusalem, the City of Peace, i die;

i die when the Sun is once again in Sagittarius,

and the Moon is eclipsed in the sign of Pisces,

while finding release, and relief, of affectatious

reflections in the eyes of my brothers’ souls,

as theirs meet mine for comfort and consolation,

thousands of them now waiting for relief

across the seas, to give me their Salams,

and other greetings of Peace.


In this poem, SIAM is calling on every one to have more mercy, to promote peace, to coexist on this planet that God created for all the children of Adam.


Even this poem is calling for humanity to ascend to higher spiritual degrees within us all. In short, SIAM’s poetry is a sign of life sent by the soul of America to the world, saying: America is still alive.


SIAM is the author of one book of contemporary verse, A Word For Black Emotion.


Israel Adam Shamir