i moved recently and uncovered a book i read when i was a 20 year-old college student. when re-reading rumi, a 13th-century persian poet, i can see why so much of his writing resonated with me back then. below are some of the more beautiful passages i rediscovered and which continue to touch that black piece of coal in my chest i call a heart.
(i took these passages from The Essential Rumi, translations by coleman barks with john moyne, copyright 1995. apologies for not citing each passage by name.)
Respond to every call
that excites your spirit.
Ignore those that make you fearful
and sad, that degrade you
back toward disease and death.
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’m 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 like 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.
We have a huge barrel of wine, but no cups.
That’s fine with us. Every morning
we glow and in the evening we glow again.
They say there’s no future for us. They’re right.
Which is fine with us.
The wakened lover speaks directly to the beloved,
You are the sky my spirit circles in,
the love inside of love, the resurrection-place.
Let this window be your ear.
I have lost consciousness many times
with longing for your listening silence,
and your life-quickening smile.
You give attention to the smallest matters,
my suspicious doubts, and to the greatest.
You know my coins are counterfeit,
but you accept them anyway,
my impudence and my pretending!
I have five things to say,
five fingers to give
into your grace.
First, when I was apart from you,
this world did not exist,
nor any other.
Second, whatever I was looking for
was always you.
Third, why did I ever learn to count to three?
Fourth, my cornfield is burning!
Fifth, this finger stands for Rabia,
and this is for someone else.
Is there a difference?
Are these words or tears?
Is weeping speech?
What shall I do, my love?
So he speaks, and everyone around
begins to cry with him, laughing crazily,
moaning in the spreading union
of lover and beloved.
This is the true religion. All others
are thrown-away bandages beside it.
This is the sema of slavery and mastery
dancing together. This is not-being.
Neither words, nor any natural fact
can express this.
I know these dancers.
Day and night I sing their songs
in this phenomenal cage.
My soul, don’t try to answer now!
Find a friend, and hide.
But what can stay hidden?
Love’s secret is always lifting its head
out from under the covers,
”Here I am!”
Outside: the freezing desert night.
Another night inside gets warmer, illuminating me.
Though the earth be covered with
In here there is a green and gentle meadow.
When the continents are devastated -
cities, towns and everything between
scorched and blackened -
the only news is future full of grief -
while inside me there is no news at all.
This is our intimacy, my beloved friend:
anywhere you put your foot,
feel me in the firmness under it.
How is it, soul-mate, that
I see your world and don’t see you?
Listen to the whispers inside poems,
follow their intimate suggestions
and never leave their premises.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
“I am not a criminal. I am new to Cairo. I live in Baghdad.” He told the story of his dream and the buried treasure, and he was so believable in telling that the night patrolman began to cry. Always, the fragrance of truth has that effect. Passion can restore healing power, and prune the weary boughs to new life. The energy of passion is everything!