Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing Translation and Commentraies by Coleman Barks

I have been dipping into this volume of Rumi’s more obscure love poetry at night in the quiet moments before I turned out the light. This volume was an anniversary present from my wife back in April. I decided to finish it tonight.

These poems are exquisite, profound, simple, lovely, enchanting, mysterious, warm, and full of surprises. I could probably list another dozen adjectives if I thought long and hard enough!

Barks has written 22 short essays or meditations on different aspects of love and then provided anywhere from 6 to 14 poems to illustrate the points. My favorite was Chapter Five, “Escaping into Silence.” He challenges the reader to “try a day of silence with someone. Just one day!” (32). One of the poems he uses here, “The Waterwheel,” is also one of my favorites.

“Stay together friends.
Don’t scatter and sleep.

Our friendship is made
of being awake.

The waterwheel accepts water
and turns and gives it away,

That way it stays in the garden,
whereas another roundness rolls
through a dry riverbed looking
for what it thinks it wants.

Stay here, quivering with each moment
like a drop of mercury.

This marriage be wine with halvah,
honey dissolving in milk.

This marriage be the leaves and fruit
of a date tree. This marriage

be women laughing together for days
on end. This marriage a sign

for us to study. This marriage
beauty. This marriage, a moon

in a light blue sky. This marriage,
this silence, fully mixed with spirit.”

On Saturday, January 3rd, we are going to try and go as long as we can without making any sounds. We will turn off all our phones, no TV or radio, no micro wave, no timers or drawers opening – just pure and complete silence as long as we can.

If you think you are in love, Rumi will confirm it. If you are not in love, Rumi will confirm it. If you want to know and understand love, Rumi is the vehicle, the candle, the gentle breeze that will lead you to understanding.

Here is one more poem from Chapter Four, “Sudden Wholeness” (30).

“A thousand half loves
must be forsaken to take
one whole heart home.”

--Chiron, 12/30/08

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