listening to Coleman Barks[i]
recite a poem by
Jalal ad-Din Rumi[ii] about sacrifice
and the heaviness of karma.
so many attachments
we hold in our breasts.
how could we ever be forthright,
with such heavy burdens to bear?
metaphorically speaking he said;
“say Bismillah[iii], in the name of God,
as the priest does with a knife when
he offers an animal at the altar.
Bismillah your old self
and find your real name.”
at this same exact moment
on my way to work,
I have lost who I am.
what is it that this life really means,
out of the confusion,
comes the clarity
and now I understand completely,
Jalal ad-Din Rumi said Bismillah
for me in this place,
yet at that time.
realizing now that time and space
have no meaning.
just now, the ageless
blue sierra mountains
are sentinels of time immemorial,
whose vibrant peaks
in this bless’d morning air
are cloaked and hidden
in dense grey clouds;
yet, the sky above the pacific ocean
is transparent and neon blue,
dancing with the souls of
the tens of billions who went before.
a single thread of clouds connects
between the mountains and the ocean,
while seagulls float effortlessly
on the morning air.
Jalal ad-Din Rumi is alive in my heart
as smoke rises from a distant chimney
a smile appears upon my lips.
December 22, 1997
[i] Coleman Barks: an American poet and renowned translator of Rumi poetry and other mystic poets of
. Barks has published several volumes of Rumi’s poetry since 1976, including The Hand of Poetry, Five Mystic Poets of Persia in 1993, The Essential Rumi in 1995 and The Book of Love in 2003. Coleman Barks himself does not speak Persian, and bases his translations entirely off of other English translations of Rumi. In addition, while the original Persian poetry of Rumi is heavily rhymed and metered, Barks has used primarily free verse. This has led some to criticize Barks’ works as essentially original creations, while others laud his efforts at providing the essence of Rumi’s poetry in an accessible format. Persia
[ii] Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Persian: مولانا جلال الدين محمد رومي , Turkish: Mevlânâ Celâleddin Mehmed Rumi) (1207 — 1273 CE), also known as Muhammad Balkhī (Persian: محمد بلخى ), was a 13th century Persian poet, jurist, theologian and teacher of Sufism. Rumi was born in
Balkh (then a city of the Greater Khorasan province of Persia, now part of Afghanistan) and died in Konya (in present-day ). His birthplace and native tongue indicate a Persian/Iranian heritage. He also wrote his poetry in Persian and his works are widely read in Turkey Iran and where the language is spoken. He lived most of his life and produced his works under the Seljuk Empire and his descendants today are Turkish citizens and live in modern day Afghanistan . Rumi’s importance transcends national and ethnic borders. He has had a significant influence on both Turkish and Persian literature throughout the centuries. His poems have been translated into many of the world’s languages and have appeared in various formats. He was also the founder of the Mevlevi order, better known as the “Whirling Dervishes”, who believe in performing their worship in the form of dance and music ceremony called the sema. Turkey
[iii] Bismilla: (Arabic بسملة) is an Arabic-language noun which is used as the collective name of the whole of the recurring Islamic phrase bismi-llāhi ar-rahmāni ar-rahīmi (listen). This phrase constitutes the first verse of the first “sura” (or chapter) of the Qur’an, and is used in a number of contexts by Muslims. It is recited several times as part of Muslim daily prayers, and it is usually the first phrase in the preamble of the constitutions of Islamic countries.