Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Soul's Friend

Listen to your essential self, the Friend.
When you feel longing, be patient,
and also prudent, moderate with eating and drinking.

Be like a mountain in the wind.
Do you notice how little it moves?

There are sweet illusions that arrive
to lure you away. Make some excuse to them.
I have indigestion, or I need to meet my cousin.

You fish, the baited hook may be fifty
or even sixty gold pieces, but is it really worth
your freedom in the ocean?

When traveling, stay close to your bag.
I am the bag that holds what you love.
You can be separated from me.

Live carefully in the joy of this friendship.
Don't think, But those others love me too.

Some invitations sound like the fowler's whistle
to the quail, friendly,
but not quite how you remember
the call of your soul's Friend.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Source of Joy

Henri Matisse, Le repos de la danseuse

No one knows
what makes the soul wake up so happy.

Maybe a dawn breeze has blown the veil
from the face of God.

A thousand new moons appear.
Roses open laughing.

Hearts become perfect rubies
like those from Badakshan.

The body turns entirely spirit.
Leaves become branches in this wind.

Why is it now so easy to surrender,
even for those already surrendered?

There is no answer to any of this.
No one knows the source of joy.

A poet breathes into a reed flute,
and the tip of every hair makes music.

Shams sails down clods of dirt from the roof,
and we take jobs as doorkeepers for him.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Cleared Site

The presence rolling through again
clears the shelves and shuts down shops.

Friend of the soul, enemy of the soul,
why do you want mine?

Bring tribute from the village.
But the village is gone in your flood.

That cleared site is what I want.
Live in the opening where there is no door
to hide behind. Be your absence.
In that state everything is essential.

The rest of this must be said in silence
because of the enormous difference
between light and the words
that try to say light.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Frog Deep in the Presence

Since you have left, death draws us in.
A fish quivers on rough sand until its soul leaves.

For those of us still living, the grave
feels like an escape-hole back to the ocean.

This is no small thing, the pulling of a part
back into the whole. Muhammad used to weep
for his native land. To children who do not know
where they are from, Istanbul and Yemen
are similar. They want their nurses.

When I close my mouth, this poetry stops,
but a frog deep in the presence
cannot keep his mouth closed.
He breathes and the sound comes.

A mystic cannot hide his breathing light-burst.
I reach this point, and the pen breaks,
as Sinai once split open
for the generosity it was given.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Face

So the frowning teacher came and left.
He is very consistent with that vinegar face.

But maybe he shows that to us and smiles with others.
Such a beautiful teacher, but so sour.
He is a pure standard for tartness.

Consider how your face is a source of light.
If you enter a grieving room
with the Friend in your eyes,
light will bloom there
according to the laws of sweet and sour.

Locked in a cell, you grow bitter, but out walking
in morning sunlight with friends,
how does that taste?

There are exceptions. Joseph caught the rose
fragrance down in his abandoned wellhole.

In this quietness now
I feel someone seated on my right
like a kindness that will never leave.

Monday, July 26, 2010


There is a hidden sweetness in the stomach's emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music comes.
But if brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song
comes out of the fire.

The fog clears and new energy
makes you run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier, and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.

When you are full of food and drink, an ugly metal
status sits where your spirit should. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon's ring. Don't give it
to some illusion and lose your power, but even if you have,
if you have lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers, appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.

A table descends to your tents, Jesus' table.
Expect to see it when you fast, this table spread
with other food, better than the broth of cabbages.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


The way of love is not
a subtle argument.

The door there
is devastation.

Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn that?

They fall, and falling,
they are given wings.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mirror and Face

Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, Johannes Vermeer

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both.

We are the sweet cold water
and the jar that pours.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Betrayal into Trust

When school and mosque and minaret
get torn down, then dervishes
can begin their community.

Not until faithfulness
turns to betrayal
and betrayal into trust
can any human being
become part of the truth.

The image above was taken at a Rumi reading
in November 2007, by Coleman Barks,
who is seated just to the left of the dervishes.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Neither This nor That

I may be clapping my hands,
but I do not belong to a crowd of clappers.
I am neither this nor that. I am not part of a group
that loves flute music, or one that loves gambling,
or one that loves drinking wine.

Those who live in time, descended from Adam,
made of earth and water, I am not part of that.

Do not listen to what I say as though these words
came from an inside and went to an outside.

Your faces are very beautiful, but they are wooden cages.
You had better run from me. My words are fire.

I have nothing to do with being famous,
or with making grand judgments or feeling shame.

I borrow nothing. I do not want anything
from anybody. I flow through all human beings.
Love is my only companion.

When union happens, my speech goes inward,
toward Shams. At that meeting
the secrets of language are no longer secret.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's Afternoon

 Speak quietly
and say nothing that is not true.

It's afternoon. We need to be quiet
for a while. Speaking would be
such an orchard to walk in,
if we could do it without alphabet and sounds.

These stories and images and conversations
through which we try to show the inner life,
Husam and I,
they are like a donkey's head
that we carry from the skinning pit
to the kitchen. Let further changes come.

I give word-shape to this poetry.
Husam supplies the essence.

No, that's wrong. Both come from Husam,
Ziya-Haqq, the sun that is one
with earth and sky, one with intention and heart.
Husam, when my spirit completely recognizes yours,
they recall our being one.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

People Want You to Be Happy

People want you to be happy.
Don't keep serving them your pain.

If you could untie your wings
and free your soul of jealousy,

you and everyone around you
would fly up like doves.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Love for Certain Work

Traveling is as refreshing for some
as staying at home is for others.

Solitude in a mountain place
fills with companionship for this one,
and weariness for that one.

This person loves being in charge
of the workings of a community.

This other one loves the ways
heated iron can be shaped with a hammer.

Each has been given a strong desire
for certain work, a love for those motions,
and all motion is love.

The way sticks and pieces of dead grass and leaves
shift about in the wind
and with the directions of rain and puddle-water
on the ground, those motions
are all following the love
they have been given.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Looking into the Creek

The way the soul is with the senses
and the mind, is like a creek.

When desire-weeds grow thick,
your intelligence cannot flow,
and soul-creatures stay hidden.

But sometimes a flooding comes
that runs so strong
it clears the clogged stream,
as though with God's hand.

No longer weeping and frustrated,
your being grows as powerful
as your wantings were before.

Laughing and satisfied,
that masterful current
lets soul-creatures appear.

You look down,
and it's lucid dreaming.

The gates made of light
swing open. You see in.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Oldest Thirst There Is

Give us gladness that connects
with the Friend, a taste of the quick.

You that make a cypress strong
and jasmine jasmine.

Give us the inner listening
that is a way in itself
and the oldest thirst there is.

Do not measure it out with a cup.
I am a fish. You are the moon.

You cannot touch me, but your light
fills the ocean where I live.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Who Says Words with My Mouth

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere,
I am sure of that, and I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place, I'll be completely
sober. Meanwhile, I'm lke a bird from another continent, 
sitting in this aviary. The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip
of an answer, I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord,
and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

This poetry. I never know what I'm going to say.
I don't plan it. When I'm outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.

Shams Tabriz, if you would show your face
to me again, I could flee the imposition of this life.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fierce Courtesy

The connection to the Friend
is secret and very fragile.

The image of the Friendship
is in how you love,

the grace and the delicacy,
the subtle talking together
in full prostration, outside of time.

When you are there,
remember the fierce courtesy
of the one with you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You Are as You Are

Der Spaziergang, Marc Chagall

You do not resemble anyone.
You are not the bride or the groom.

You do not fit in a house with anyone.
You have left the closed-in corner
where you lived. Domestic animals
get ridden to work. Not you.

You are as you are,
an indescribable message on the air.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The sound of hoofbeats leaving a monastery
where all is timed and measured.
You are that rider.

Someone who does not care very much about things
and results, illness and loss, you are the soul
the soul that is always traveling.

Mind gathers bait. Personality
carries a grudge. You weave cloth
like the moon leaving no trace on the road.

There is a learning community where the names of God
are talked about and memorized, and there is
another residence where meanings live.

You are on the way from here to there.
Your graceful manner gives color and fragrance
as creekwater animates the landscape it moves through.

The absolute unknowable appears as spring and disappears
in fall. Signs come, not the essence signified.

How long will you be a shepherd singlefiling us
in and out of the human barn. Will I ever see you
as you secretly are in silence?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ramadan Silence

When the Ramadan banner flies,
soul restrains nature, so it can taste its own food.

The strength of horses and the intensity of fire,
these are the powers of sacrifice.

Fasting, we honor the guest. Clouds of courage
give rain, because it was in this month
that the Qur'an rained down,
light through an opening.

Grab the rope, and be lifted out
of the body's pit.

Announce to Egypt that Joseph of Canaan
has come. Jesus dismounts the donkey,
and the sacrament table descends.

Wash your hands. Wash your face.
Do not eat or speak as you normally do.
Other food and other words will come in the silence.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Essence of Ritual

Pray the prayer that is the essence
of every ritual. God, I have no hope.
I am torn to shreds. You are very first,
my last and only refuge.

Do not do daily prayers like a bird
pecking its head up and down.

Prayer is an egg.
Hatch out
the total helplessness inside.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Mystery of the Moment

To the mind there is such a thing as news,
whereas to the inner knowing, it is all
in the middle of its happening.

To doubters, this is a pain.
To believers, it's gospel.
To the lover and the visionary,
it is life as it's being lived.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The City of Saba (2)

The people of Saba feel bored
with just the mention of prophecy.

They have no desire of any kind. Maybe some
idle curiosity about miracles, but that's it.

This over-richness is a subtle disease.
Those who have it are blind to what's wrong,
and deaf to anyone who points it out.

The city of Saba cannot be understood
from within itself, but there is a cure,
as individual medicine, not a social remedy.

Sit quietly and listen for a voice
that will say, Be more silent.

As that happens, your soul starts to revive.
Give up talking, and your positions of power.
Give up the excessive money.

Turn toward the teachers and the prophets
who do not live in Saba. They will help you
grow sweet again, and fragrant and wild and fresh,
and thankful for any small event.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The City of Saba (1)

Addis Ababa Road, by Alex Morrall
In the city of Saba there is a glut of wealth. 
Everyone has more than enough.
Even the bathstokers wear gold belts.

Huge grape clusters hang down on every street
and brush the faces of the citizens.
No one has to do anything.

You can balance an empty basket on your head,
and it will fill by itself
with overripe fruit dropping into it.

Stray dogs stray in lanes
full of thrown-out scraps with barely a notice.

The lean desert wolf gets indigestion
from the rich food. Everyone is
satiated with all the extra.

There are no robbers. There is no energy
for crime, or for gratitude.
And no one wonders about the unseen world.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Birdsong from Inside the Egg

There is an excess
in spiritual searching
that is profound ignorance.

Let that ignorance be our teacher.
The Friend breathes into one
who has no breath.

A deep silence revives the listening
and the speaking of those two
who meet on the riverbank.

Like the ground turning green in a spring wind,
like birdsong beginning inside the egg.

Like this universe coming into existence,
the lover wakes, and whirls
in a dancing joy,

then kneels down
in praise.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Now I return to the text,

And He is with you,
wherever you are.
(Qur'an 57:4)

But when have I ever left it?

Ignorance is God's prison.
Knowing is God's palace.

We sleep in God's unconsciousness.
We wake in God's open hand.

We weep God's rain.
We laugh God's lightning.

Fighting and peacefulness
both take place within God.

Who are we then
in this complicated world-tangle,
that is really just the single straight line
down at the beginning of ALLAH?

We are emptiness.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Tree of Awe

How does part of the world leave the world?
How can wetness leave water?

Don't try to put out a fire by throwing on
more fire. Don't wash a wound with blood.

No matter how fast you run, your shadow
more than keeps up. Sometimes it's in front.
Only full, overhead sun diminishes your shadow.

But that shadow has been serving you.
What hurts you blesses you.

Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.

I can explain this, but it would break the glass cover
on your heart, and there is no fixing that.

You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

When from that tree, feathers and wings
sprout on your soul, be quieter than a dove.
Don't open your mouth for even a cooooo.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

One Song

Every war and every conflict
between human beings has happened
because of some disagreement about names.

It is such an unnecessary foolishness,
because just beyond the arguing
there is a long table of companionship
set and waiting for us to sit down.

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured into a huge basin.
All religions, all this singing, one song.

The differences are just illusion and vanity.
Sunlight looks a little different
on this wall than it does on that wall
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still one light.

We have borrowed these clothes,
these time-and-space personalities,
from a light, and when we praise,
we are pouring them back in.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Joseph is back.
And if you don't feel in yourself
the freshness of Joseph,
be Jacob.

Weep, and then smile.
Do not pretend to know something
you have not experienced.

There is a necessary dying,
and then Jesus is breathing again.

Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.

You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different. Surrender.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Treasure's Nearness

A man searching for spirit-treasure
cannot find it, so he is praying.

A voice inside says, You were given
the intuition to shoot an arrow
and then to dig where it landed,
but you shot with all your archery skill.

You were told to draw the bow
with only a fraction of your ability.

What you are looking for
is nearer than the big vein
on your neck. Let the arrow drop.

Do not exhaust yourself
like the philosophers who strain to shoot
the high arcs of their thought-arrows.

The more skill you use,
the farther you will be
from what your deepest love wants.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Stingy Aloeswood

Fear and hurt are lassoes
drawing you through a door.

Lord, Lord, you say weeping.
Green herbs sprout where those tears fall.

Dawn comes; blindness drains away.
Each day is eternity.

Do not avoid your suffering.
Plunge it into the Nile.

Purify your stubbornness.
Drown it. Burn it.

Your body is a stingy piece of aloeswood
that will not let go its healing power
until you put it in the fire.

Now Shams leans near to remind me,
That's enough sourness. No more vinegar.