Some Notes On Baba Neem Karoli Maharaj-ji
His massive body lolled about a palanquin,
nearly naked with only a white sheet slipping
on and off his huge frame and sagging flesh.
I was not planning for God to look like this.
Sometimes he was wrapped in many thick layers
of heavy wool sweaters and blankets, his furry
face protruding as though it rose from within
the volcanic core of a mountain. People say
they tried to give him things, wanted to do
anything they could for him. But he had
no use for money, gifts, flattery, publicity.
His sayings were few: “Feed people. Love.”
Rabbis and mullahs might very well be displeased
at the lack of detail contained in his short list
of two commandments. He chanted the name
of Rama with short, explosive, abrasive bursts.
Sometimes he appeared clean-shaven and freshly
washed. Other times random splotches of red
and white paint covered his head, and his mouth
cracked open with a messy smile and a wide tongue.
They say he wanted our liberation, nothing more.
He never wrote a book, never pushed to publish.
There were few ceremonies, no ostentation,
no self-consciousness. He could swallow a bottle
of acid and not feel the slightest effect.
He never advertised. The world came to him.
There were no sex scandals, no corruption charges.
Businessmen and politicians sought his counsel,
although he never sought the limelight. His students
were all more famous than he ever wanted to be.
One bit of practical advise he gave: “If you loan
money to a saint, don’t expect to get it back.”
He fed millions of people, but asked for nothing.
A word of warning for those that approached him:
“You can leave me. I won’t leave you. Once I
catch hold of you. I don’t let go.” If only
my mothers had felt the same. If only my lovers
had told me this. On cold nights I picture him
and am embarrassed at all my truthless knowledge.
Mel C. Thompson is a product of the San Francisco open mic scene and was first published in their underground zine “Bullhorn” in 1990. In the 90s his poetry was also published in such magazines as The Chiron Review, The Bay Area Guardian, Wordwrights and The Haight Ashbury Literary Review. He featured extensively in such venues as the Paradise Lounge, Café Babar and the Chameleon Club. Currently he is anthologized in Beatitude Golden Anniversary Issue, 1959-2009, The Best of The Texas Poetry Calendar and Poets From Hell (New American Underground Poetry). In 2008-2010 he has been published frequently online at such sites as “nthposition.com,” “sunkenlines.com” and “languageandculture.net,” and also appeared in print in The World Poets Journal (China), Jackknife Express (Canada) and Over The Transom (San Francisco). He has been recently featured at The Berkeley Poetry Festival, The San Francisco Beat Museum, The Frank Bette Center For The Arts and the San Francisco Park Branch Library. Publication is pending in The California Quarterly.