Daily readings of the 13th Century Persian poet as translated by Coleman Barks
Friday, April 30, 2010
When Living Itself
If the beloved is everywhere,
the lover is a veil,
but when living itself becomes
the Friend, lovers disappear.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Question (2)
You should wish to have a hundred thousand sets
of mothwings, so you could burn them away, one set a night.
The moth sees light and goes into fire. You should see fire
and go to the light. Fire is what of God is world-consuming.
Somehow each gives the appearance of the other.
To these eyes you have now, what looks like water burns.
What looks like fire is a great relief to be inside.
You have seen a magician make a bowl of rice
seem a dish of tiny, live worms. Before an assembly, with one
breath he made the floor swarm with scropions
that were not there. How much more amazing God's tricks.
Generation after generation lies down defeated, they think,
but they are like a woman underneath a man, circling him.
One molecule-mote-second of considering
this reversal of comfort and pain
is better than any attending ritual.
That splinter of intelligence is substance.
The fire and water themselves?
Accidental, done with mirrors.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The Question (1)
One dervish to another, What was your vision
of God's presence? I haven't seen anything,
but for the sake of conversation, I will tell you a story.
The presence is there in front of me.
A fire on the left, a lovely stream on the right.
One group walks toward the fire,
Another toward the sweet flowing water.
No one knows which are blessed and which not.
Whoever walks into the fire appears suddenly
in the stream. A head goes underwater
and that head pokes out of the fire.
Most people guard against going into the fire
and so end up in it. Those who love the water
of pleasure and make it their devotion
are cheated with this reversal. The trickery goes further.
The voice of the fire tells the truth, saying
I am not fire. I am fountainhead.
Come into me and don't mind the sparks.
If you are a friend of the presence,
fire is your water.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The Sight of a Soul
One of the marvels of the world
is the sight of a soul sitting in prison
with the key in its hand.
Covered with dust,
with a cleansing waterfall an inch away.
A young man rolls from side to side,
though the bed is comfortable
and a pillow holds his head.
He has a living master, yet he wants more,
and there is more.
If a prisoner had not lived outside,
he would not detest the dungeon.
Desiring knows there is a satisfaction
beyond this. Straying maps the path.
A secret freedom opens
through a crevice you can barely see.
The awareness a wine drinker wants
cannot be tasted in wine, but that failure
brings his deep thirst closer.
Monday, April 26, 2010
We seem to be sitting still,
but we are actually moving,
and the fantasies of phenomena
are sliding through us,
like ideas through curtains.
They go to the well of deep love
inside each of us.
They fill their jars there
and they leave.
There is a source they come from,
and a fountain inside here.
Be generous and grateful.
Confess when you're not.
We cannot know
what the divine intelligence has in mind.
Who am I,
standing in the midst of this
Sunday, April 25, 2010
The Way That Moves as You Move
Some commentary on the quatrain:
As you start on the way, the way appears.
When you cease to be, real being comes.
This is how you slip through
to your non-spatial home.
Think of how you came into this world.
Can you explain how that was? No? The same way
that you came is the way you will leave.
You wander landscapes in your dreams.
How did you get there? Close your eyes and surrender,
and find yourself in the city of God.
But you are still looking for admiration.
You love how your customers look at you.
You love to sit at the head of the assembly.
You close your eyes and see people applauding,
as surely as an owl shuts and sees the forest.
You live in an admiration-world,
but what do you offer your admirers?
If you had true spirit-gifts to give,
you would not think of customers.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Now I lay me down
to stay awake.
Pray the Lord my soul to take
into your wakefulness,
so that I can get this one bit
of wisdom clear.
Grace comes to forgive
and then forgive again.
Friday, April 23, 2010
How You Are with Me
God spoke to Moses,
You are the one I have chosen,
and I love you.
Moses replies, I feel the generosity,
but say what it is in me
that causes your love.
God explains, You have seen a little child with its mother.
It does not know anyone else exists.
The mother praises or scolds,
a little slap perhaps,
but still the child reaches
to be held by her.
there is only one direction
that the child turns.
That is how
you are with me.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The light you give off
did not come from a pelvis.
Your features did not begin in semen.
Do not try to hide inside anger
radiance that cannot be hidden.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I, You, He, She, We
I, you, he, she, we.
In the garden of mystic lovers
these are not true distinctions.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Sheba's Throne (2)
Solomon saw that her heart was open to him
and that the throne would soon be left behind.
Let her bring it, he said.
It will soon become a lesson to her.
She can look at that throne
and see how far she has come.
In the same way God keeps the process
of generation constantly before us.
The smooth skin and the semen,
the wet of desire and the growing embryo.
When you see a pearl on the bottom,
you reach through the foam and the broken sticks
on the surface. When the sun comes up,
you forget about the problem of locating
the constellation of Scorpio.
Inside the splendor of union,
the attractions of duality seem poignant
and lovely, but much less interesting.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sheba's Throne (1)
When the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon,
she left behind her kingdom and her wealth,
the same way lovers leave their reputations.
Her servants meant nothing to her,
less than a rotten onion.
Her palaces and orchards, so many piles of dung.
She heard the inner meaning of LA:
She came to Solomon with nothing, except her throne.
As the writer's pen becomes a friend,
as the tool the workman uses day after day
becomes deeply familiar, so her filigreed throne
was her one attachment.
It was a large throne and difficult to transport,
because it could not be taken apart,
being as cunningly put together as the human body.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
A Small Green Island
There is a small green island
where one white cow lives alone, a meadow of an island.
The cow grazes till nightfull, full and fat,
but during the night she panics
and grows thin as a single hair.
What shall I eat tomorrow? There is nothing left.
By dawn the grass has grown up again, waist-high.
The cow starts eating and by dark
the meadow is clipped short.
She is full of strength and energy, but she panics
in the dark as before and grows abnormally thin overnight.
The cow does this over and over,
and this is all she does.
She never thinks, This meadow has never failed
to grow back. Why should I be afraid every night
that it won't. The cow is the bodily soul.
The island field is this world where that grows
lean with fear and fat with blessing, lean and fat.
White cow, don't make yourself miserable
with what's to come, or not to come.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Gamble everything for love,
if you are a true human being.
If not, Leave this gathering.
Half-heartedness does not reach
into majesty. You set out
to find God, but then you keep
stopping for long periods
at mean-spirited roadhouses.
Friday, April 16, 2010
The Buddhist Sufi
Last night my soul asked a question of existence.
Why are you upsidedown with flames in your belly?
Happy, unhappy, indigo-orange like the sky?
Why are you an off-balance wobbling millstone,
like the Buddhist Sufi, Ibrahim Balkhi,
who was king, beggar, buddha, and dervish?
Existence answers, All this was made
by the one who hides inside you.
You are like a beautiful new bride,
quick to anger, stubborn,
hot, naked, but still veiled.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
There are many guises for intelligence.
One part of you is gliding in a high windstream,
while your more ordinary notions
take little steps and peck at the ground.
Conventional knowledge is death to our souls,
and it is not really ours. It is laid on.
Yet we keep saying we find "rest" in these "beliefs."
We must become ignorant of what we have been taught
and be instead bewildered.
Run from what is profitable and comfortable.
Distrust anyone who praises you.
Give your investment money, and the interest
on the capital, to those who are actually destitute.
Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
I have tried prudent planning long enough.
From now on, I'll be mad.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
As fog rising off the sea
covers the sea,
so it is noble work to build
coherent philosophical discourses,
but they block the sun of truth.
See God's qualities as an ocean
and this world as foam
on the purity of that ocean.
Here is the mystery.
This intricate, astonishing world
is proof of God's existence,
even as it covers the beauty.
One flake from the wall of a goldmine
does not give much idea
what it is like
when the sun shines in
and turns the air
and the workers golden.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
An Evolving Course
We began as a mineral.
We emerged into plant life and into
the animal state, and then to being human.
And always we have forgotten our former states,
except in early spring,
when we dimly recall being green again.
That is how a young person turns
toward a teacher, how a baby leans
toward the breast, without knowing
the secret of its desire,
yet turning instinctively.
So humankind is a being led along
an evolving course through this migration
of intelligences, and though we seem
to be sleeping, there is an inner wakefulness
that directs the dream.
It will eventually startle us back
to the truth of who we are.
Monday, April 12, 2010
An Egypt That Does Not Exist
I want to say words that flame
as I say them, but I keep quiet
and don't try to make both worlds
fit in one mouthful.
I keep secret in myself
an Egypt that does not exist.
Is that good or bad? I don't know.
For years I gave away sexual love
with my eyes. Now I don't.
I am not in any one place.
I do not have a name for what I give away.
Whatever Shams gave,
that you can have from me.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Be Your Note
Remember the lips where wind-breath
originated, and let your note be clear.
Don't try to end it.
I'll show you how it's enough.
Go up on the roof at night
in this city of the soul.
Let everyone climb on their roofs
and sing their notes.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Last year I admired wines.
This year I am wandering inside the red world.
Last year I gazed at the fire.
This year I am burnt kabob.
Thirst drove me down to the water,
where I drank the moon's reflection.
Now I am a lion staring up
totally lost in love with the thing itself.
Do not ask questions about longing.
Look in my face.
Soul-drunk, body-ruined, these two
sit helpless in a wrecked wagon.
Neither knows how to fix it.
And my heart, I would say it is more
like a donkey sunk in a mudhole,
strugglings and miring deeper.
But listen to me. For one moment
quit being sad. Hear blessings
dropping their blossoms
around you. God.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Let Yourself Be Drawn
You miss the garden,
because you want a small fig from a random tree.
You do not meet the beautiful woman.
You are joking with an old crone.
It makes me cry how she detains you,
stinking-mouthed with a hundred talons,
putting her head over the roof edge to call down,
tasteless fig, fold over fold, empty
as a dry-rotten garlic.
She has you tight by the belt,
even though there is no flower
and no milk inside her body.
Death will open your eyes
to what her face is: leather spine
of a black lizard. No more advice.
Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
There is no one with intelligence
in our town except that man over there
playing with the children.
He has keen, fiery insight
and vast dignity like the nightsky,
but he conceals it in childsplay.
Today I have been married to that man 32 years. ~ Ruth
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
This is not a day for asking questions,
not a day on any calendar.
This day is conscious of itself.
This day is a lover, bread and gentleness.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
I want to be where
your bare foot walks,
because maybe before you step,
you will look at the ground.
I want that blessing.
Monday, April 5, 2010
When the captain sees the girl,
he immediately falls in love with her
like the Caliph.
Don't laugh at this.
His loving is also part of infinite love,
without which the world does not evolve.
Forms move from inorganic to vegatation
to selves endowed with spirit
through the urgency of every love
that wants to come to perfection.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Late by myself, in the boat of myself,
no light and no land anywhere,
I try to stay just above the surface,
yet I am already under
and living within the ocean.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
On Resurrection Day
On Resurrection Day your body testifies against you.
Your hand says, I stole money.
Your lips, I said meanness.
Your feet, I went where I shouldn't.
Your genitals, me too.
They will make your praying sound hypocritical.
Let the body's doings speak openly now,
without your saying a word
as a student's walking behind a teacher
says, This one knows more clearly
than I the way.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Friend, our closeness is this.
Anywhere you put your foot
feel me in the firmness under you.
How is it with this love,
I see your world and not you?
Thursday, April 1, 2010
The Diver's Clothes
You are sitting here with us,
but you are also out walking in a field at dawn.
You are yourself the animal we hunt
when you come with us on the hunt.
You are in your body
like a plant is solid in the ground,
yet you are wind.
You are the diver's clothes
lying empty on the beach.
You are the fish.
In the ocean are many bright strands
and many dark strands like veins that are seen
when a wing is lifted up.
Your hidden self is blood in those,
those veins that are lute strings
that make ocean music,
not the sad edge of surf,
but the sound of no shore.