I don’t know why, but I seem to think of Rumi in July. In my second post, just over a year ago, I used his poem, “Story Water,” as a way of reminding myself of what I thought I was up to on this blog. https://thefirstgates.com/2010/07/01/story-water/
In “Story Water,” this 13th century Persian poet, whose language leaves you speechless, suggests that most of the time we cannot apprehend truth directly – we need stories and poems as intermediaries. They serve as messengers that both hide and reveal. Here are two more of my favorite poems by Rumi.
“Love Dogs” speaks of the dark nights that contemplatives of all faiths experience in the quest to move beyond other people’s truths to direct experience. Here it is in two forms – in the text, from the definitive translation by Coleman Barks, and read aloud by Barks to music – the way poetry was originally meant to be experienced.
“Love Dogs” by Rumi. Translated by Coleman Barks
One night a man was crying,
His lips grew sweet with the praising,
until a cynic said,
“So! I have heard you
calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer for that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage,
“Why did you stop praising?”
“Because I’ve never heard anything back.”
“This longing you express
is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs no one knows the names of.
Give your life to be one of them.
“The Seed Market,” defies almost any attempt to describe it. I can’t think of anything else in all of literature that paints such a sweeping truth in such simple, everyday language. Solemn and joyous at once, I read “The Seed Market” when I gave a eulogy at my father’s memorial service, and yet this poem never makes me sad. Quite the contrary.
“The Seed Market” by Rumi. Translated by Coleman Barks
Can you find another market like this?
with your one rose
you can buy hundreds of rose gardens?
for one seed
you get a whole wilderness?
For one weak breath,
the divine wind?
You’ve been fearful
of being absorbed in the ground,
or drawn up by the air.
Now, your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean,
where it came from.
It no longer has the form it had,
but it’s still water.
The essence is the same.
This giving up is not a repenting.
It’s a deep honoring of yourself.
When the ocean comes to you as a lover,
marry, at once, quickly,
for God’s sake!
Don’t postpone it!
Existence has no better gift.
No amount of searching
will find this.
A perfect falcon, for no reason,
has landed on your shoulder,
and become yours.