Monday, May 31, 2010

The Nothing of Roselight

Death comes, and what we thought
we needed loses importance.

The living shiver, focused
on a muscular dark hand,
rather than the glowing cup it holds
or the toast being proposed.

In that same way love enters
your life, and the I, the ego,
a corrupt, self-absorbed king,
dies during the night.

Let him go.
Breathe cold new air,
the nothing of roselight.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Your First Eyes

A lover has four streams inside,
of water, wine, honey, and milk.

Find those in yourself and pay no attention
to what so-and-so says about such-and-such.

The rose does not care
if someone calls it a thorn, or a jasmine.

Ordinary eyes categorize human beings.
That one is a Zoroastrian. This one a Muslim.

Walk instead with the other vision given you,
your first eyes. Bow to the essence
in a human being. Do not be content
with judging people good and bad.
Grow out of that.

The great blessing is that Shams
has poured a strength into the ground
that lets us wait and trust the waiting.

Painting found here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Healing Presence

 A Beggar with a Wooden Leg, by Rembrandt van Rijn

I go to the one who can cure me and say,
I have a hundred things wrong. Can you combine them to one?

I thought you were dead. I was, but I caught your fragrance
again, and came back to life.

Gently, his hand on my chest.
Which tribe are you from? This tribe.

He begins to treat my illness.
If I am angry and aggressive, he gives me wine.
I quit fighting. I take off my clothes.
I lie down. I sing in the circle of singers.
I roar and break cups, even big jars.
Some people worship golden calves.
I am the mangy calf who worships love.

The healing presence has called me from the hole I hid in.
My soul, if I am agile or stumbling, confused
or in my true being, it is all you.

Sometimes the sleek arrow.
Other times a worn leather thumbguard.
You bring me where everything circles.
Now you put the lid back on the wine vat, pure quiet.

Etching found here

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Grape

If you would say I don't exist,
I would be grateful.

When this longing makes me disreputable,
then I have a little self-respect.

A vine begins to become wine
when you say, Pressure is necessary
to burst open.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Certain Sunfish

If you put on shoes that are too tight and walk out
across an empty plain, you will not feel the freedom
of the place unless you take off your shoes.
Your shoe-constriction has you confined.
At night before sleeping you take off the right shoes,
and your soul releases into a place it knows.
Dream and glide deeper.

Physical existence is so cramped. We grow old and bentover
like embryos. Nine months passes; it is time to be born.
The lamb wants to graze green daylight.
There are ways of being born twice, of coming
to where you fly, not individually like birds,
but as the sun moves with its bride, sincerity.

Loaves of bread remind us of sunlight,
but when we are inside that orb, we lose interest
in building ovens, in millwork and the preparation
of fields before the planting.

Fish love the ocean. Snakes move like earth-fish
inside a mountain, well away from seawater.
Certain sunfish, though, turn snakes
into ocean-lovers.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


painting by Louis Comfort Tiffany: Algerian Shops

Don't avoid discipline.
You have learned ways to make a living
for your body. Now learn to support
your soul. You wear fine clothing.
How do you dress your spirit?

This world is a playground
where children pretend to have shops.

Sometimes when they wrestle,
it may look like sex,
but none of it is real.

They exchange imaginary money.
Night comes, and they go home tired
with nothing in their hands.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Met One Traveling

In the evening between sleep and waking
I met one traveling. He was the light of consciousness.
His body was soul, his pure wisdom apparent
in his beautiful face.

He praises me for a while, then scolds.
You sit on the seven-sky throne, in prison.
The sign of Gemini has set a table for you,
yet you stick your head down a drainhole again.

Essence is not nourished with food and sleep.
Do no one any harm in this timefield
of short crops where what you sow comes up very quickly.
You try to accomplish things, to win,
to reach goals. This is not the true situation.
Put the whole world in ambition's stomach,
it will never be enough.

Assume you get everything you want.
Assume you have it now. What's the point?
The next moment you die.

Friend, the youth you have lived is ending.
You sleep a dreamless sleep
with no sense what morning you could wake inside.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Flowers open

Flowers open every night
across the sky, a breathing peace,
and sudden flame catching.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

These Lights

Inside water, a waterwheel turns.
A star circulates with the moon.

We live in the night ocean wondering,
What are these lights?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Having Nothing

Whatever comes, comes from a need,
a sore distress, a hurting want.

Mary's pain made the baby Jesus.
Her womb opened its lips
and spoke the Word.

Every part of you has a secret language.
Your hands and your feet say what you have done.

Every need brings in what's needed.
Pain bears its cure like a child.

Having nothing produces provisions.
Ask a difficult question,
and the marvelous answer appears.

Build a ship, and there will be water
to float it. The tender-throated infant cries,
 and milk drips from the mother's breast.
Be thirsty for the ultimate water.
Then be ready for what will come
pouring from the spring.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Nightingale's Way

A bird delegation comes to Solomon
complaining, Why is it
you never criticise the nightingale?

Because my way, the nightingale explains
for Solomon, is different.
Mid-March to mid-June I sing.

The other nine months,
while you continue chirping,
I am silent.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some Song or Something

Birdsong brings relief
to my longing.

I am just as ecstatic as they are,
but with nothing to say.

Please, universal soul, practice
some song, or something, through me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My First Love Story

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you,
not knowing how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They are in each other all along.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Pickaxe (2)

This is a rented house.
You do not own the deed.

You have a lease, and you have set up
a little shop where you barely make a living
sewing patches on torn clothing.

Yet only a few feet underneath
are two veins, pure red and bright gold carnelian.

Quick. Take the pickaxe and pry the foundation.
You have got to quit this seamstress work.

What does the patch-sewing mean, you ask.
Eating and drinking. The heavy cloak
of the body is always getting torn.

You patch it with food
and other restless ego-satisfactions.

Rip up one board from the floor
and look into the basement.
You may see two glints in the dirt.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Pickaxe (1)

Lawrence Alma-Tadema's Spring

Some commentary on I was a hidden treasure,
and I desired to be known.

Tear down this house.
A hundred thousand new houses can be built
from the transparent yellow carnelian
buried beneath it, and the only way to get to that
is to do the work of demolition,
and then the digging beneath the foundation.

With that value in hand all the new construction
will be done without effort. And anyway, sooner or later,
the house will fall on its own.

The jewel treasure will be uncovered,
but it will not be yours then.
The buried wealth is your pay
for doing the demolition,
the pick and shovel work.

If you wait and just let it happen,
you will bite your hand and say,
I did not do as I knew I should have.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Lord of Beauty

The lord of beauty enters the soul
as a man walks into an orchard in spring.

Come into me that way again.
Like a fresh idea in an artist's mind,
you fashion things before they come into being.

You sweep the floor like the man
who keeps the doorway.

When you brush a form clean,
it becomes what it truly is.

You guard your silence perfectly
like a waterbag that does not leak.

You live where Shams lives,
because your heart-donkey
was strong enough to take you there.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Uses of Fear

A donkey turning a millstone is not trying
to press oil from sesame seed. He is fleeing the blow
that was just struck and hoping to avoid the next.

For the same reason, the ox takes a load
of baggage wherever you want him to.
Shopkeepers work for themselves,
not for the flow of communal exchange.

We look to ease our pain, and this keeps civilization
moving along. Fear is the architect here.
Fear keeps us working near the ark.

Some human beings are safe havens.
Be companions with them. Others may seem to be friends,
but they are really consuming your essence
like donkeys lapping sherbet. Detach from them,
and feel your flexibility returning.
The inner moisture that lets you bend
into a basket handle is a quickening inside
that no one is ever afraid of.

Sometimes though, it is fear, a contracting,
that brings you into the presence.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Music Master

You that love lovers,
this is your home. Welcome.

In the midst of making form,
love made this form that melts form,
with love for the door
and soul for the vestibule.

Watch the dust grains
moving in the light near the window.

Their dance is our dance.

We rarely hear the inward music,
but we are all dancing to it nevertheless,
directed by the one who teaches us,
the pure joy of the sun,
our music master.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Truest Devotion

Moses ran after the shepherd.
He followed the bewildered footprints,
in one place moving straight like a castle
across a chessboard.
Then sideways, like a bishop.
Now surging, like a wave cresting.
Now sliding down
like a fish, with always his feet
making geomancy
symbols in the sand,
recording his wandering state.

Moses finally caught up with him.
I was wrong. God has revealed to me
that there are no rules for worship.

Say whatever and however your loving tells you to.
Your sweet blasphemy is the truest devotion.
Through you a whole world is freed.

Loosen your tongue
and don't worry what comes out.
It is all the light of the spirit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Listen to presences inside poems.
Let them take you where they will.

Follow those private hints,
and never leave the premises.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Constant Conversation

Who is luckiest in this whole orchestra? The reed.
Its mouth touches your lips to learn music.
All reeds, sugarcane especially, think only
of this chance. They sway in the canebrake,
free in the many ways they dance.

Without you the instruments would die.
One sits close beside you. Another takes a long kiss.
The tambourine begs, Touch my skin, so I can be myself.
Let me feel you enter each limb bone by bone,
that what died last night can be whole today.

Why live some soberer way and feel you ebbing out?
I won't do it.
Either give me enough wine or leave me alone,
now that I know how it is
to be with you in a constant conversation.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Whatever You Really See

A human being is essentially
a spirit-eye.

Whatever you really see,
you are that.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Wandering Kings

The King of Tabuk went on like this,
praising Imra'u 'l-Qays, and talking theology
and philosophy. Imra'u 'l-Qays kept silent.
Then suddenly he leaned and whispered something
in the second king's ear, and that second
that second king became a wanderer too.
They walked out of town hand in hand.
No royal belts, no thrones.
This is what love does and continues to do.

It tastes like honey to adults and milk to children.
Love is the last thirty-pound bale.
When you load it on, the boat tips over.

So they wandered around China like birds pecking
at bits of grain. They rarely spoke because
of the dangerous seriousness of the secret they knew.

That love-secret spoken pleasantly, or in irritation,
severs a hundred thousand heads in one swing.

A love-lion grazes in the soul's pasture,
while the scimitar of this secret approaches.
It is a killing better than any living.
All that world-power wants, really, is this weakness.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Vigil

Lovers cannot sleep
when they feel the privacy
of the beloved all around them.

Someone who is thirsty
may sleep for a little while,
but he or she will dream of water,
a full jar beside a creek,
or the spirit-water you get
from another person.

All night, listen to the conversation.
Stay up. This moment is all there is.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Daring Enough to Finish

Face that lights my face,
you spin intelligence into these particles
I am. Your wind shivers my tree.

You make my dance daring enough to finish.
No more timidity. Let fruit fall,
and wind turn my roots up in the air,
done with patient waiting.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Old Poet's Waking

The old man's heart woke,
no longer in love with treble and bass,
without weeping or laughter.

In the true bewilderment of soul
he went out beyond any seeking, beyond words
and telling, drowned in the beauty,
drowned beyond deliverance.

Waves cover the old man.

Nothing more can be said of him.

He has shaken out his robe,
and there's nothing in it anymore.

There is a chase where a falcon
dives into the forest
and does not come back up.

Every moment, the sunlight
is totally empty and totally full.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cry Out

Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.
A nursing mother, all she does
is wait to hear her child.

Just a little beginning whimper
and she's there.

Cry out. Do not be stolid and silent
with your pain. Lament,
and let the milk of loving flow into you.

The hard rain and the wind
are ways the cloud has
to take care of us.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Most Alive Moment

The most alive moment comes
when those who love each other
meet each other's eyes
and in what flows between them then.

To see your face in a crowd of others,
or alone on a frightening street,
I weep for that.

Our tears improve the earth.
The time you scolded me,
your gratitude, your laughing,
always your qualities increase the soul.

Seeing you is a wine
that does not muddle or numb.

We sit inside the cypress shadow
where amazement and clear thought
twine their slow growth into us.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What Was Said to the Rose

What was said to the rose that made it open
was said to me here in my chest.

What was told the cypress
that made it strong and straight,
what was whispered the jasmine
so it is what it is,
whatever made sugarcane sweet,
whatever was said to the inhabitants
of the town of Chigil in Turkestan
that makes them so handsome,
whatever lets the pomegranate flower
blush like a human face,
that is being said to me now. I blush.

Whatever put eloquence in language,
that's happening here.

The great warehouse doors open,
and I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,
in love with the one
to whom every that belongs.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Response to Your Question

Why ask about behavior
when you are soul-essence
and a way of seeing into presence?
Plus you are with us. How could you worry?

You may as well free a few words
from your vocabulary why and how and impossible.
Open the mouth-cage and let those fly away.

We were all born by accident,
but still this wandering caravan
will make camp in perfection.

Forget the nonsense categories
of there and here.
Race and nation and religion.
Starting-point and destination.

You are soul and you are love,
not a sprite or an angel or a human being.
You are a Godman-womanGod-manGod-Godwoman.

No more questions now
as to what it is we are doing here.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Way You Make Love

The way you make love
is the way God will be with you.

This is Rumi's variation on the golden rule. 
~ Coleman Barks