Friday, November 20, 2015

The Thorn of Existence

Reason said: "Stop there!
   In surrender there are only thorns!"
Love replied: "O Reason!
   It is you who are full of thorns!"
Be still, and pluck the thorn
   of existence from your heart,
that you may come to see
   the rose gardens that lie within.

- Jalaluddin Rumi, Ghazal 132, ll. 7-8

[my translation]

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Religion is a language.

It can be prose,
   it can be poetry.
It can be truth,
   it can be fiction.
It can reveal,
   and can deceive.
It can hurt, kill,
   revive, and heal.
For language
   reveals the one
who speaks it,
   and religion
resembles the one
   who lives it.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Shamsuddin Hafiz, Ghazal 152

An exhalation of Your Beauty
   shone forth in pre-eternity;
then Love manifested itself,
   and set the whole world on fire.
Your Face appeared; the Angel
   saw it, but was without love.
Moved by jealousy, he caught fire
   and struck Adam’s heart.
From that flame, reason lit its lamp;
   a bolt of jealousy flashed
   and threw the world into chaos.
The pretentious one sought
   to witness the Mystery unveiled;
the hand of the Unseen came
   and struck the undeserving heart.
Others won a favorable destiny
   and a life of plenty;
my woeful heart received
   for its part the sorrow of love.
My exalted soul yearned
   for a glimpse of Your Chin;
my hand reached up and stroked
   the curls of Your Hair.
Hafiz wrote The Book of Your Love’s Joy
   on the day he cut off all ties
   that bring gladness to the heart.

[my translation]

Sunday, December 28, 2014

From Fariduddin ‘Attar’s Book of Secrets

O friend, if you awaken from your sleep
   you will savor the most marvelous joys;
though immersed in sorrow and pain,
   this I surely know: we will find joy, at last.
As there are thorns, there are also flowers.
   As there is illness, there is also a cure.
The cure has not yet become manifest;
   when the time has come, it will be revealed.
And our tale goes even further than this:
   though pain is our lot in this world,
that World – where we will find its cure –
   no tale may describe, no lot may apportion.
Without any lingering doubt I know
   that beyond this world we will find felicity.
For every affliction we have endured here,
   for every moment of pain and sorrow,
in that World we will receive a joy in return.
   Come! Let us not tarry on the way;
to know nothing of the World beyond
   this earthly realm we live in is a tragedy.
Why, O dervish, is your heart heavy,
   when such sublime joys lie ahead of you? 
The delights conferred in that World
   surpass all other joys in their exalted purity.
If today you found one atom of that joy,
   you would burn with yearning for the next.
The Eternal World is a realm of felicity
   of which this entire earthly realm is a sign.
There, is found the station of Prophets;
   the heart and faith, the soul and beatitude
are found there; all spirits reside there;
   and in that assembly, all houris are confidants.
If you aspire to that place I have described,
   detach yourself from ‘I’, and there you are.
If in this world you die to your self,
   you will touch the doorstep of that World.

[my translation]

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


We who seek the Treasure
that can’t be found,
have we not once known
its place of splendor?
We who yearn for the heart’s breath
and the eye’s spark,
blinking a myriad eternal Nows –
ceaselessly giving life
to a forever dying world –
have we not drunk
from the source of that creek,
yes, the one that flows
from that mountain of a Dream?
We who seek the Treasure
that can’t be lost,
who yearn for its undying Memory,
for its Day without setting,
how would we bear
(dwelling in this narrow human nest)
to find this Treasure’s place?
How would this Bird ever conceive
of stretching its wings
to fly homewards to itself?
For this Bird was created
(on the Morning
of Eternity’s First Day)
with the joy of outbound wings,
that it may seek in sorrow
the one Treasure
that lies beyond all seeking.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ḥāfiẓ, Ghazal 46, ll. 1-7

A rose on the breast, wine at hand,
   a Beloved to my heart’s desire;
On a day such as this the Sultan
   of the world is but a slave to me.
Bring no candle to tonight’s gathering,
   for in this assembly of ours
   the Beloved’s face is a full moon!
Though wine is licit in our creed,
   it is illicit without Your face,
   O Cypress whose arms are roses!
I am all ears for the reed’s song,
   all ears for the harp’s melody.
I am all eyes for Your ruby lips,
   all eyes for the passing of the cup!
Spread no perfume in our assembly
   for each moment brings us
   the scent of the Beloved’s curls.
Speak not of the flavor of candy
   and sugar, for to me nothing
   tastes sweeter than Your lips.
Since the treasure of Your sorrow
   came to reside in my ruined heart,
I have always been found here,
   sitting in this tavern’s dusty corner.

[my translation]

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Beloved’s Veil

I have loved Her
   through many veils,
until one morning
   She said to me:
“You will not know
   the sweetest joy
of sorrow for Me
   until the day you
can love Me as if
   you cannot lose Me.
Believe me, love.
   I can never be lost.”

“And yet, Love,
   how many times
have I lost You
   through the veils
I have so adored
   in place of You.
I can neither lose
   nor possess You.
And so in my love
   for lovely veils
I have so often
   lost trace of You.
Not because You
   had left me,
but only because
   had left You.”