Coleman Barks

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I become like a pen

Ghazal 2530 from the Diwan-e Shams, in a version by Coleman Barks, in translation by Annemarie Schimmel, and in translation by A.J. Arberry:
I become a pen in the Friend’s hand,
tonight writing “say,” tomorrow “ray.”
He trims the pen for fine calligraphy.
The pen says, “I am here, but who am I?”
He blackens the pen’s face.
He wipes it in his hair. He holds it upside down.
Now he begins to use it.
On one sheet he cancels everything.
On another he adds a dangerous conjunction.
The writing depends entirely on the scribe,
who knows how to split the head of the pen.
Galen knows what a patient needs.
The pen cannot speak for itself, or know what
to disapprove of in its own nature.
Whether I say “pen” or “flag”, it is with this wonderful
conscious unconsciousness: the mind unable to include
its own description, composing blindly.
Held in a hand, yet free.
— Version by Coleman Barks
(Based on the translation by A.J. Arberry)
“These Branching Moments”
Copper Beech Press, 1988 […]
February 27th, 2010|Personal, Poetry, Rumi, Sufi poetry, Sufism|3 Comments

Each Note

Advice doesn’t help lovers!
They’re not the kind of mountain stream
you can build a dam across.

An intellectual doesn’t know
what the drunk is feeling!

Don’t try to figure
what those lost inside love
will do next!

Someone in charge would give up all his power,
if he caught one whiff of the wine-musk
from the room where the lovers
are doing who-knows-what!

One of them […]

December 9th, 2007|Poetry, Rumi, Sufi poetry, Sufism, World Literature|4 Comments

when lilies sprout…

“The Shape of My Tongue”

This mirror inside me shows . . .
I can’t say what, but I can’t not know!

I run from body. I run from spirit.
I do not belong anywhere.

I’m not alive!
You smell the decay?

You talk about my craziness.
Listen rather to the honed-blade sanity I say.

This gourd head on top of a dervish robe,
do […]

November 11th, 2006|Poetry, Rumi, Sufi poetry, World Literature|2 Comments