Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rumi - "When I see you and how you are..."

When I see you and how you are,
I close my eyes to the other.
For your Solomon's seal I become wax
throughout my body. I wait to be light.
I give up opinions on all matters.
I become the reed flute for your breath.

You were inside my hand.
I kept reaching around for something.
I was inside your hand, but I kept asking questions
of those who know very little.

I must have been incredibly simple or drunk or insane
to sneak into my own house and steal money,
to climb over the fence and take my own vegetables.
But no more. I've gotten free of that ignorant fist
that was pinching and twisting my secret self.

The universe and the light of the stars come through me.
I am the crescent moon put up
over the gate to the festival.

This version of Rumi's poem is by Coleman Barks from,
"These Branching Moments: Forty Odes by Rumi."
Published by Copper Beech Press, 1988

This is one of my favorite poems by the 13th century Persian poet and mystic Jalal ad-Din Rumi. I was interested to read today, on a website devoted to Rumi's poems, that many of the translations of Rumi's poems that we read in the West are really interpretations, rather than direct word-for-word translations.  If you're interested to see how divergent the interpretations can be, on this blog you can read three distinctly different versions of the above poem. 

The part I connect to most in this poem is towards the end, where Rumi writes,
I must have been incredibly simple or drunk or insane
to sneak into my own house and steal money
It is such a  comical way of describing  human behaviour; we act in ways that we think will better our own cause, but what we're really doing is harming ourselves. When I read this I realised that when I'm lost in anger or self-criticism I'm not improving my life, but breaking-in to it - "pinching and twisting" my secret-self.  

I love the imagery of the last few lines - the stars, the universe, the crescent moon, and the festival.  They invoke such a sense of joy and mystery. It feels to me that the time I spend in mindfulness meditation - just compassionately observing the ways I've been "incredibly simple or drunk or insane" - is slowly but steadily leading to a sense that the stars are shining through me, and through a transparent universe. 


  1. I have MS and was looking for a quick reference to this Rumi poem and found your website! What a great name for a blog! I attend Tara's lectures in Bethesda, Maryland. She is fantastic.

    Happy to be sharing!

    Silver Spring, MD.

  2. HI Kathy,

    Thanks for posting - it's always so lovely to hear from readers. I'm so pleased for you that you are able to go to Tara's lectures. Attending one of her talks is a dream of mine! I'd just finished listening to one of her podcasts when I got your e-mail :)

    take care,


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