Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Trace

You that give new life to this planet,
you that transcend logic, come.
I am only an arrow. Fill your bow with me
and let fly. Because of this love for you,
my bowl has fallen from the roof.
Put down a ladder and collect the pieces.

People ask, Which roof is your roof?
I answer, Wherever the soul came from
and wherever it goes back to at night,
my roof is in that direction.

From wherever spring arrives
to heal the ground, from wherever searching rises
in a human being. The looking itself is a trace
of what we are looking for.

But we have been more like the man
who sat on his donkey and asked the donkey where to go.

Be quiet now and wait. It may be the ocean one,
the one we want so to move into and become,
it may be that one wants us out here
on land a little longer
going our sundry roads to the shore.

*September 30 is Rumi's birthday, in 1207.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Childhood Friends (4)

Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe
Vincent Van Gogh

Put your vileness up to a mirror and weep.
Get that self-satisfaction flowing out of you.

Satan thought, I am better than Adam,
and that better than is still strongly in us.

Your streamwater may look clean,
but there is unstirred matter on the bottom.

Your guide can dig a side channel
that will drain that waste off.

Trust your wound to a teacher's surgery.
Flies collect on a wound. They cover it,
those flies of your self-protecting feelings,
your love for what you think is yours.

Let a teacher wave away the flies
and put a plaster on your wound.

Don't turn your head. Keep looking
at the bandaged place.

That is where the light enters you.
And don't believe for a moment
you are healing yourself.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Childhood Friends (3)

Women Mending Nets in the Dunes, Vincent Van Gogh

He took the mirror from his robe
where he was hiding it.

What is the mirror of being? Non-being?

Always bring a mirror of non-existence as a gift.
Any other present is foolish.

Let the poor man look deep into generosity.
Let bread see a hungry man.
Let kindling behold a spark from the flint.

An empty mirror and your worst destructive habits,
when they are held up to each other, that is when
the real making begins. That's when art and crafting are.

A tailor needs a torn garment to practice his expertise.
The trunks of trees must be cut and cut again,
so they can be used for fine carpentry.
Your doctor must have a broken leg to doctor.
Your defects are the ways that glory gets manifested.

Whoever sees clearly what is diseased in himself
begins to gallop on the way. There is nothing worse
than thinking you are well enough. More than anything, 
self-complacency blocks the workmanship.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Childhood Friends (2)

Starry Night over the Rhône, by Vincent Van Gogh

Then Joseph began questioning his friend,
What have you brought me? You know a traveler
should not arrive empty-handed at the door
of a friend like me. That is like going
to the grinding stone without your wheat.

God will ask at the resurrection, Did you bring me
a present? Did you think you wouldn't see me?

Joseph keeps teasing, Let's have it.
I want my gift.

The guest began, You cannot imagine
how I have looked for something for you.
Nothing seemed appropriate. You don't take gold
down into a goldmine, or a drop of water
to the Sea of Oman. Everything I thought of
was like bringing cumin seed to Kirmanshah
where cumin comes from. You have all seeds
in your barn. You even have my love
and my soul, so I cannot bring those.

I have brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Childhood Friends (1)

Peasant and Peasant Woman Planting Potatoes, by Vincent Van Gogh

A close childhood friend came once to visit Joseph.
They had shared all the secrets that children
tell each other when they are lying on their pillows
at night before they go to sleep. These two
were completely truthful with each other.

The friend asked, What was it like when you realized
that your brothers were jealous and what they planned to do?
I felt like a lion with a chain around his neck,
not degraded by the chain, and not complaining,
just waiting for my power to be recognized.

How about down in the well, and in prison,
how was it then? Like the moon when it is
getting smaller, yet knowing the fullness to come.
Like a seed pearl ground in the mortor for medicine
that knows it will now be the light in a human eye.

Like a wheat grain that breaks open in the ground,
then grows and gets harvested, then crushed
in the mill for flour, baked and then crushed again
between teeth to become a person's understanding.

Lost in love, like the songs the planters sing
the night after they sow the seed.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Basket of Fresh Bread (2)

There is a basket of fresh bread on your head,
yet you go door to door asking for crusts.

Knock on the inner door. No other.
Sloshing knee-deep in clear streamwater,
you keep wanting a drink from other people's waterbags.

Water is everywhere around you,
but you see only barriers that keep you from water.

A horse is moving beneath the rider's thighs,
yet still he asks, Where is my horse?
Right there, under you. Yes, this is a horse,
but where's the horse? Can't you see? Yes,
I can see, but whoever saw such a horse?

Mad with thirst, he cannot drink from the stream
running so close by his face.

He is like a pearl on the deep bottom
wondering, inside the shell, Where is the ocean?

His mental questionings form the barrier.
His physical eyesight bandages his knowing.
Self-consciousness plugs his ears.
Stay bewildered in God and only that.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Basket of Fresh Bread (1)

If you want to learn theory,
talk with the theoreticians. That way is oral.

When you learn a craft, practice it.
That learning comes through the hands.

If you want dervishhood, spiritual poverty,
and emptiness, you must be friends with a sheikh.
Talking about it, reading books, and doing practices
do not help. Soul receives from soul that knowing.

The mystery of spiritual emptiness
may be living in a pilgrim's heart,
but the knowing of it might not yet be his.

Wait for the illuminating openness,
as though your chest were filling with light.

Do not look for it outside yourself.
There is a milk fountain inside of you.
Do not walk around with an empty bucket.

You have a channel into the ocean,
yet you ask for water from a little pool.
Beg for the love-expansion.
The Qur'an says, And he is with you. (57:4)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Far Mosque

The place that Solomon made to worship in,
called the Far Mosque, is not built of earth
and water and stone, but of intention and wisdom
and mystical conversation and compassionate action.

Every part of it is intelligent and responsive
to every other. The carpet bows to the broom.
The door knocker and the door swing together
like musicians. This heart sanctuary
does exist, though it cannot be described.

Solomon goes there every morning
and gives guidance with words,
with musical harmonies, and in actions,
which are the deepest teaching.
A prince is just a conceit,
until he does something with his generosity.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Deliberation (2)

Constant slow movement teaches us
to keep working like a small creek
that stays clear, that does not stagnate,
but finds a way through numerous
details, deliberately.

Deliberation is born of joy
like a bird from an egg.

Birds do not resemble eggs.
Think how different the hatching out is.

A white leathery snake egg, a sparrow's egg,
a quince seed, an apple seed.
Very different things look similar at one stage.

These leaves, our bodily personalities,
seem identical, but the globe
of soul fruit we make, 
each is elaborately

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Deliberation (1)

Orthodox priest, by Bennett Hart

A friend remarks to the prophet, Why is it
I always make bad business deals?
It's like a spell. I become distracted
by business talk and get led into wrong decisions.

Muhammad replies, Stipulate with every transaction
that you need three days to make sure.

Deliberation is one of the qualities of God.
Throw a dog a bit of something.
He sniffs to see if he wants it.

Be that careful. Sniff with your wisdom-nose.
Get clear. Then decide.

The universe came into being gradually
over six days. God could have just commanded: BE.

Little by little a person reaches forty and fifty
and sixty and feels more complete.

God could have thrown full-blown prophets
flying through the cosmos in an instant.

Jesus said one word, and a dead man sat up,
but creation usually unfolds like calm breakers.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who Makes These Changes?

Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer
and find myself chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
and end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
and fall in.

I should be suspicious
of what I want.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


We have come again to that knee of seacoast
no ocean can reach.

Tie together all human intellects.
They will not stretch to here.

The sky bears its neck so beautifully,
but gets no kiss. Only a taste.

This is the food that everyone wants,
wandering in the wilderness.
Please give us your manna and quail.

We are here again with the beloved. This air,
a shout. These meadowsounds, an astonishing myth.

We have come into the presence of the one
who was never apart from us. When someone chews
sugarcane, he is wanting this sweetness.

Inside this globe the soul roars like thunder.
And now silence, my strict tutor.

I will not try to talk about Shams.
Language cannot touch that presence.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Too Happy, You Could Not Sleep Last Night

I am the slave who frees the master.
I teach the teacher.

I am essence born freshly every day.
I built the ancient civilizations.

I brush medicine on fading eyesight.
I relight intelligence.

In grief, I am pitchblack darkness.
On a feast day, the children's excitement.

I am the ground who fills the sky's brain
with fiery lightning-love, air, wind.

You could not sleep last night,
too happy with how I was remembering you.
No one is to blame that sometimes
I am a scandal, or obviously unfair.

The surface is rusting over.
I had better go into silence.

I am breathing too close
to this mirror's face.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sheba's Hesitation

Imagine that you are Sheba trying to decide
whether or not to go to Solomon.

You are haggling about how much to pay
for shoeing a donkey, when you could be seated
with one who is always in union with God,
who carries a beautiful garden inside himself.

You could be moving in a great circuit
without wings, nourished without eating,
sovereign without a throne.

No longer subject to fortune,
you could be luck itself,
if you would rise from sleep,
leave the market-arguing, and learn
that your own essence is your wealth. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Different Loads

Siesta, by Vincent van Gogh

Do not feed both sides of yourself equally.
The spirit and the body carry different loads
and require different attentions.

Too often we put saddlebags on Jesus,
and let the donkey run loose in the pasture.

Do not make the body do what the spirit does best,
and don't put a big load on the spirit
that the body could carry easily.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sublime Generosity (2)

He said, You are the sheikh, the guide.
But I am not a teacher. I have no power.

He said, You already have wings.
I cannot give you wings.

But I wanted his wings.
I felt like some flightless chicken.

Then new events said to me,
Don't move. A sublime generosity
is coming toward you.

And old love said, Stay with me.
I said, I will.

You are the fountain of the sun's light.
I am a willow shadow on the ground.
You make my raggedness silky.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sublime Generosity (1)

I was dead, then alive.
Weeping, then laughing.

The power of love came into me,
and I became fierce like a lion,
then tender like the evening star.

He said, You are not mad enough.
You don't belong in this house.

I went wild and had to be tied up.
He said, Still not wild enough to stay with us.

I broke through another layer into joyfulness.
He said, It is not enough. I died.

He said, You are a clever little man
full of fantasy and doubting.

I plucked out my feathers and became a fool.
He said, Now you are the candle for this assembly.

But I'm no candle. Look. I'm scattered smoke.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Only the Best

Agony, by Arshile Gorky

In the slaughterhouse of love
they kill only the best,
none of the weak or deformed.

Do not run away from this dying.
Whoever is not killed for love is dead meat.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

For Us This Day

My soul keeps whispering, Quickly,
be a wandering dervish,
a salamander sitting in its homefire.

Walk about watching the burning
turn to roses. As this love-secret
we are both blasphemy and the core of Islam.

Do not wait. The open plain is better
than any closing door. Ravens love ruins
and cemetery trees. They cannot help but fly there.

But for us this day is friends sitting together
with silence shining in our faces.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


La danse, Henri Matisse

Dance, when you're broken open.
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you are perfectly free.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Origin of the World

Human beings seem to derive
from this planet, but essentially
we are the origin of the world.

A tiny gnat's outward form
flies about in pain and wanting,
while the gnat's inward nature
includes the entire galactic
whirling of the universe.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

No Better Love

Andromeda, Eugene Delacroix

No better love than love with no object.
No more satisfying work
than work with no purpose.

If you could give up tricks and cleverness,
that would be the cleverist trick.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hunt Music

Musk and amber remind us
of the air at sunrise,
when any small motion feels part
of some elaborate making.

The body's harp gets handed
to the soul to play.

The strings: rage, jealousy,
all the wantings mix their energy-music.

Who tuned this instrument?
Where wind is a string
and also Shams' eyes

reflecting a gazelle as it turns
to stalk the hunting lioness.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Something Opens Our Wings

Something opens our wings. Something
makes boredom and hurt disappear.
Someone fills the cup in front of us.
We taste only sacredness.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Generations I Praise

Yesterday the beauty of early dawn
came over me, and I wondered
who my heart would reach toward.
Then this morning again
and you. Who am I?

Wind and fire and watery ground
move me mightily because they are pregnant
with God. These are the early morning 
generations I praise.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

That Quick

A lover looks at creekwater
and wants to be that quick to fall,
to kneel all the way down in full prostration.

A lover wants to die of his love
like a man with dropsy who knows
that water will kill him, but he cannot deny
his thirst. A lover loves death,
which is God's way of helping us evolve
from mineral to vegetable to animal,
each onward form incorporating the others.

The animal becomes Adam,
and the next stage will take us beyond
what we can imagine into the mystery
of We are all returning.

Do not fear death. Spill your jug into the river.
Your attributes will disappear,
but the essence moves on.

Your shame and fear are like felt layers
covering coldness. Throw them off
and rush naked into the joy of death.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Fish Way

The ocean way is the fish way
of the watersouls of fish who die becoming the sea.
Fish do not wait patiently for water.

In this world full of shape,
there you are with no form.

You have made a universe
from a drop of my blood.

Now I am confused.
I cannot tell world from drop.
My mouth and this wine glass are one lip.

I am Nobody, the fool shepherd.
Where is my flock? What shepherd?

When I talk of you, there are no words.
Where could I put you, who will not fit
in the secret world, or in this one?

All I know of spirit is this love.
Do not call me a believer.
Infidel is better.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Put This Design in Your Carpet (2)

 Carpet from Konya, the place where Rumi died,
in present day Turkey. Rumi celebrants call the day Rumi died
his "Wedding Day," when the veil was lifted
and he joined the Beloved.
Rumi's Wedding Day is celebrated around the world
on the anniversary of his death, December 17.

Any movement or sound is a profession of faith,
as the millstone grinding is explaining
how it believes in the river.
No metaphor can explain this,
but I cannot stop pointing to the beauty.

Every moment and place says,
Put this design in your carpet.

I want to be in such a passionate adoration
that my tent gets pitched against the sky.

Let the beloved come
and sit like a guard dog
in front of the tent.

When the ocean surges, 
don't let me just hear it.
Let is splash inside my chest.

My notes written during a 2007 Rumi reading by Coleman Barks
click on the image if you want to read more easily.
Please click & go to the link about the Rumi reading
to read more about what it's like to hear Barks read,
and dance in spirit while dervishes dance.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Put This Design in Your Carpet (1)

Spiritual experience is a modest woman
who looks lovingly at only one man.

It is a great river where ducks
live happily, and crows drown.

The visible bowl of form contains food
that is both nourishing and a source of heartburn.

There is an unseen presence we honor
that gives the gifts.

You are water. We are the millstone.
You are the wind. We are dust blown up into shapes.
You are spirit. We're the opening and closing
of our hands. You are the clarity.
We are this language that tries to say it.
You are joy. We are all the different kinds of laughing.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

We Three

My love wanders the rooms, melodious,
flute notes, plucked wires,
full of a wine the magi drank
on the way to Bethlehem.

We are three. The moon comes
from its quiet corner, puts a pitcher
of water down in the center.
The circle of surface flames.

One of us kneels to kiss the threshold-dust.

One drinks with wine-flames playing over his face.

One watches the gathering
and says to any cold onlookers,

This dance is the joy of existence.