Monday, January 31, 2011

Two Kinds of Intelligence

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.

With such intelligence you rise in the world.
You get ranked ahead or behind others
in regard to your competence in retaining
information. You stroll with this intelligence
in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always
more marks on your preserving tablets.

There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid,
and it does not move from outside to inside
through the conduits of plumbing-learning.

This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Dumb Experiment

Break open your personal self
to taste the story of the nutmeat soul.

These voices come from that rattling
against the outer shell.

The nut and the oil inside
have voices that can only be heard
with another kind of listening.

If it weren't for the sweetness of the nut,
the inner talking, who would ever shake a walnut?

We listen to words
so we can silently
reach into the other.

Let the ear and mouth get quiet,
so this taste can come to the lip.

Too long we have been saying poetry,
talking discourses, explaining the mystery outloud.

Let us try a dumb experiment.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Uthman's Silence

The story is told of Uthman, who when he became caliph
mounted quickly the steps of Muhammad's pulpit,
where Abu Bakr, out of respect for the prophet,
seated himself on the second step.

There were three steps. Omar sat on the third step.
Uthman climbed to the top. When asked why, he replied,
If I sat on the third step, people would say
I was like Omar. If on the second step,
He's like Abu Bakr.

But up here where the chosen one sat, no one will think
to compare me with that king of the spirit.

And sometimes when he had climbed
to the preaching place, that sweet one Uthman,
would not say anything. He stayed silent
until midafternoon. No one asked him
for a sermon, and no one left the mosque.

In the silence many began to see with Uthman's light.
This is how a living master opens the inner eye.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Many Wines

Glowing Night, by Oscar Bluemner

God has given us a dark wine so potent
that, we leave the two worlds.

God made Majnun love Layla so much
that just her dog would cause confusion in him.

There are thousands of wines
that can take over our minds.

Don't think all ecstasies are the same.
Jesus was lost in his love for God.
His donkey was drunk with barley.

Every object, every being,
is a jar full of delight.
Be a connoisseur, and taste with caution.

Any wine will get you high.
Judge like a king, and choose the purest,
not the ones adulterated with fear,
or some urgency about "what's needed."

Drink the wine that moves you
as a camel moves when it's been untied,
and is just ambling about.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Visions of Daquqi (4)

Old Cities, Msyir Mohammed

One of the seven answers, Names, sometimes
the names slip away,
but it is not forgetfulness.
It is our being so absorbed.

Then they all say to me,
Would you lead us in prayer?

Yes. But wait awhile.
I am still in some temporal confusion
that will be solved by companionship with you.

Through companionship with the ground
a grapevine grows. It opens
into the earth's darkness and flies.

It becomes selfless in the presence
of its origin and learns what it really is.

They nod, as though to say, Whenever you are ready.
That nodding was a flame in my heart.
I was freed from hourly time,
from sequence and relation.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Visions of Daquqi (3)

Lanes, Ahmed Nussaif

The caravans had no food, yet food was dropping
all about them. If someone had said,
Look, over here, they would have thought him insane.

How can this happen. Am I dreaming?
I walk up to the trees. I eat the fruit.
I may as well believe.

Then the seven trees become one and then seven again.
At every second they are both one and seven.
Then they are seven men seated in meditation
for the sake of the one reality.

I come close and wave. They call,
O Daquqi, the glory and the crown.

How do they know my name?
They have never seen me until now.
Immediately they know my thought
and smile at each other.

Honored one, is this still hidden from you?
How can anything be hidden from one so dissolved in God?
I think inwardly, If this is the spirit-reality,
how is it we are speaking words and saying names?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Visions of Daquqi (2)

Kliem of the South, Ahmed Nussaif

What are those candles that no one seems to see?
In the presence of such lights
people were looking for lamps to buy.

Then the seven became one,
in the middle of the sky's rim.
Then that fanned out to seven again.

There were connections between candles
that cannot be said. I saw, but I cannot say.
They became seven men and then seven trees,
so dense with leaves and fruit no limbs were visible.

Flashes of light
spurted from each fruit like juice.

And most marvelous of all was that hundreds
of thousands of people were passing beside the trees,
risking their lives, sacrificing everything,
to find some scrap of shade. No one saw
the trees with their tremendous shade.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Visions of Daquqi (1)

Husam, tell about the visions of Daquqi,
who said, I have traveled east and west
not knowing which way I was going,
following the moon, lost inside God.

Someone asked, Why do you go barefooted
over the stones and thorns.

What, he answered. What.

A bewildered lover does not walk on feet.
He or she walks on love. There are no "long"
or "short" trips for those. No time.

The body learned from spirit how to travel.
A saint's body moves in the unconditioned way,
though it seems to be in conditionedness.

Daquqi said, One day I was going along
looking to see in people the shining of the Friend.
I came to the shore at twilight and saw
seven candles. I hurried along the beach
toward them. I was amazed. My amazement was amazed.
Waves of bewilderment broke over my head.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Farther and Farther from Zero

Winged Figure, Abbott Handerson Thayer

Suddenly, I fall from the pavillion
into a place where I see the ugliness,
hypocrisy, rouge on a sunken face,
a thorn lodged in a kidney, the blind crone
holding a laurel wreath for the winner,
her black ribbons in shreds,
her eyes dark with purple,
a gold anklet on her shriveled leg.

The puppet show looks charming,
but go behind the screen and see who runs it.

Wash your hands and face of this charade.
Anyone who wants these prizes
flares up quickly like a wood chip.

There is one who can help,
who turns the wheel from nonexistence
to a sweet-breathing emptiness.

Words are ways we add up the breath,
counting stress and syllable
with our exacting musical knack
that takes us farther and farther from zero.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Price of Kissing

The Kiss, Gustav Klimt

I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.

Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let's buy it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Night Full of Talking

Landscape, by Fred Williams Lysterfield

A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held-back secrets. Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Sunrise Ruby

In the early morning hour,
just before dawn, lover and beloved awake
and take a drink of water.

She asks, Do you love me or yourself more?
Really, tell me the absolute truth.

He says, There is nothing left of me.
I am like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
to sunlight. The ruby and the sunrise are one.
Be courageous and discipline yourself.

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don't think about getting off from work.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door.

Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who's there.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Into the Woods, Summer, by Howard Hodgkin
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hallaj said what he said and went to the origin
through the hole in the scaffold.
I cut a cap's worth of cloth from his robe,
and it swamped over me from head to foot.
Years ago, I broke a bunch of roses
from the top of his wall. A thorn from that
is still in my palm, working deeper.
A person comes to him naked. It's cold.
There's a fur coat floating in the river.
Jump in and get it, he says.
You dive in. You reach for the coat.
It reaches for you.
It's a live bear that has fallen in upstream,
drifting with the current.
How long does it take? Hallaj yells from the bank.
Don't wait, you answer. This coat
has decided to wear me home.

A little part of a story, a hint.
Do you need long sermons on Hallaj?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Old Woman and the Falcon

Textile sample, designer unknown, Metropolitan Museum of Art
When you give a noble falcon
to a fussy old woman who knows nothing of falconry,
she will clip its wings short, for its own good.

Young man, where has your mother been
that your toenails have gotten this long?
Those talons are how the falcon hunts its food.

The old woman fixes him tutmaj, dumpling stew.
He won't touch it. Too good to eat my tutmaj, huh?
She ladles some broth and holds it to his beak.
Her anger builds, and suddenly she pours
the ladle of hot soup over his head.

Tears come from those beautiful falcon eyes.
He remembers his former life, the king's love-whistle,
the great circling over the ocean,
the distances that condense so quickly to a point.

Falcon tears are food for a true human being,
perfume for Gabriel.

Your soul is the king's falcon,
who says, This old woman's rage
does not touch my glory or my discipline.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Love Moves Away

Pale sunlight,
pale the wall.

Love moves away.
The light changes.

I need more grace
than I thought.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Let the Beauty We Love

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bu'l-Hasan and the Snow

After Bestami died, it happened as he said
that Bu'l-Hasan became the sheikh for his community.

Every day Bu'l-Hasan would go to Bestami's tomb
to receive instruction. He had been told to do this
in a dream by Bestami himself.

Every dawn he goes and stands
facing the tomb until midmorning.

Either the spirit of Bestami comes and talks to him
or in silence the questions he has are answered.

One day a deep snow has fallen overnight.
The graves are indistinguishable.
Bu'l-Hasan feels lost.

Then he hears his sheikh's voice.
The world is made of snow.
It falls and melts and falls again.

Do not be concerned with the snow.
Come toward the sound of my voice.
Move always in this direction.

From that day Bu'l-Hasan began to experience
the enlightened state
he had only heard and read about before.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Mill

 Mill Dam in Traunstein, William Stanley Haseltine

The heart is a wheatgrain. We are the mill
where this body is a millstone
and thought, the moving river.

The body asks the river why it runs on so.
The river says, Ask the miller who made
the millrace that directs my falling
that turns your stone.

The miller says, You that love bread,
if this turning were not happening,
what would you dip in your broth?

So a lot of questioning goes on
around the milling of wheat,
but what really is this breadmaking work?

Now let silence ask about wheat and the river,
about the miller and the stone
and the taste of bread dipped in soup,
and this listening we do at the mill.

*The mill is one of Rumi's images for the process whereby individual grains get crushed to make something less separate, more communally useful (bread). Thought (the riverwater) and the body (the millstone) are part of this work, as are the miller (creative intelligence) and the customer (desire), who wants a piece of bread for his soup. (Note by Coleman Barks)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Gift of Water

Someone who does not know the Tigris River exists
brings the caliph who lives near the river
a jar of fresh water. The caliph accepts, thanks him,
and gives in return a jar filled with gold coins.

Since this man has come through the desert,
he should return by water. Taken out by another door,
the man steps into a waiting boat and sees
the wide freshwater of the Tigris. He bows his head,
What wonderful kindness that he took my gift.

Every object and being in the universe is a jar
overfilled with wisdom and beauty, a drop of the Tigris
that cannot be contained in any skin. Every jarful
spills and makes the earth more shining,
as though covered in satin.

If the man had seen even a tributary of the great river,
he would not have brought the innocence of his gift.
Those that stay and live by the Tigris grow so ecstatic
that they throw rocks at the jugs, and the jugs
become perfect. They shatter. The pieces dance,
and water . . . . Do you see?

Neither jar nor water nor stone, nothing.
You knock at the door of reality, shake
your thought-wings, loosen your shoulders, and open.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Night Ocean

Study of the Head & Shoulders, etc., by Jan Lievens

We are the night ocean filled
with glints of light. We are the space
between the fish and the moon,
while we sit here together.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Muhammad went to visit a sick friend.
Such kindness brings more kindness,
and there is no knowing the proliferation from there.

The man was about to die.
Muhammad put his face close and kissed him.

His friend began to revive.
Muhammad's visit re-created him.
He began to feel grateful for an illness
that brought such light.

And also for the backpain
that wakes him in the night.

No need to snore away like a buffalo
when this wonder is walking the world.

There are values in pain that are difficult
to see without the presence of a guest.

Don't complain about autumn.
Walk with grief like a good friend.
Listen to what he says.

Sometimes the cold and dark of a cave
give the opening we most want.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Piece of Wood

I reach for a piece of wood. It turns into a lute.
I do some meanness. It turns out helpful.
I say one must not travel during the holy month.
then I start out, and wonderful things happen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gnats Inside the Wind

Equivalent, by Alfred Stieglitz

Some gnats come from the grass to speak with Solomon.

O Solomon, you are the champion of the oppressed.
You give justice to the little guys, and they don't get
any littler than us. We are tiny metaphors
for frailty. Can you defend us?

Who has mistreated you?

Our complaint is against the wind.

Well, says Solomon, you have pretty voices,
you gnats, but remember, a judge cannot listen
to just one side. I must hear both litigants.

Of course, agree the gnats.

Summon the East Wind, calls out Solomon,
and the wind arrives almost immediately.

What happened to the gnat plaintiffs? gone.

Such is the way of every seeker who comes to complain
at the High Court. When the presence of God arrives,
where are the seekers? First there's dying,
then union, like gnats inside the wind.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

There is Something in Us

Imagine a man selling his donkey
to be with Jesus.

Now imagine him selling Jesus
to get a ride on a donkey.
This does happen.

Jesus can transform a drunk into gold.
If the drunk is already golden,
he can be changed into pure diamond.
If already that, he can become the circling
planets, Jupiter, Venus, the moon.

Never think that you are worthless.
God has paid an enormous amount for you,
and the gifts keep arriving.

There is something in us
that has nothing to do with night and day,
grapes that never saw a vineyard.


says the Qur'an. Enjoy Shams,
or if you cannot do that, at least
consider what honest people tell you.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Don't Let Your Throat Tighten

Ocean Swells, by Arthur B. Davies

Don't let your throat tighten
with fear. Take sips of breath
all day and night, before death
closes your mouth.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sometimes I Do

In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do,
and that light becomes this art.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you're bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Elegance of the Ermine

Midnight, and a messenger comes from a prayer niche,
someone as quiet as moonlight,
yet with a torch that burns our sleeping.

A king knocks on the doorkeeper's door
and laughing, leads everyone out to a table.

Our lips tremble at the cup, with the same trembling
as a drop of mercury.

The gentleness of the host is the same
as that that made the elegance of the ermine.

The dry and wet of a love affair,
those tears are identical to the taking in
and giving away of a waterwheel's turning.

The keys that open all gates
are strapped to love's chest.

When a bird is completely broken and still,
it gets removed from the snare.

This list of rude likenesses
does not come near saying
what happens in our lives.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Children Running Through

Bacchante and Infant Faun, by Frederick William MacMonnies

I used to be shy.
You made me sing.

I used to refuse things at table.
Now I shout for more wine.

In somber dignity, I used to sit
on my mat and pray.

Now children run through
and make faces at me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Single Brushstroke Down

Light dawns, and any talk of proof
resembles a blind man's cane at sunrise.

Remember the passage,
We are with you wherever you are.

Come back to that.
When did we ever leave it?

No matter we're in a prison of forgetting
or enjoying the banquet of wisdom,
we are always inside presence.

Drunkenly asleep, tenderly awake,
clouded with grief, laughing like lightning,
angry at war, quiet with gratitude, we are nothing
in this many-mooded world of weather
but a single brushstroke down,
speaking of presence.

*The word Allah in Arabic begins with a strong downward mark.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Just-Finishing Candle

Study Head of a Woman, by Jean Baptiste Greuze

A candle is made to become entirely flame.
In that annihilating moment
it has no shadow.

It is nothing but a tongue of light
describing a refuge.

Look at this
just-finishing candle stub
as someone who is finally safe
from virtue and vice,

the pride and the shame
we claim from those.