Hafez – Become A Lover

Don’t tell the mysteries of drunkenness and love
To a pedant. Let him pass away on his own,
With his ignorance and self-centerdness still inside.

If you feel weak, feeble, and powerless, well,
So does the breeze. Being sick on the Path is a hundred
Times better than a healthy mind in a healthy body.

As long as you see yourself as learned and intellectual,
You’ll lodge with the idiots; moreover, if you
Can stop seeing yourself at all, you will be free.

If you are living in your dear one’s castle, don’t even think
About the heavens above; because if you do
You’ll drop like a stone to the filth-covered street.

Become a lover; if you don’t, one day the affairs of the world
Will come to an end, and you’ll never have had even
one glimpse of the purpose of the workings of space and time.

On the spiritual road, being uncooked and raw
Is a mark of unbelief; it’s best to move along the path
Of fortune with nimbleness and springy knees.

In a nook safe from blame, how can we stay
Secluded when your dark eye reminds us
Always of the joy and mysteries of drunkenness?

Long ago I had a premonition of these riots
That have now occurred, when with a proud turn
Of the head you refused to sit quietly with us.

Although the thorn hurts your spirit, the rose asks pardon
For this wound; the sourness of wine is more easily tolerated
When one remembers the sweet flavor of drunkenness.

Hafez, your love is going to turn you over to the rough hand
Of the hurricane. Why did you imagine that, like a lightning
Bolt, you could free yourself from this storm?

— Hafez, The Angels Knocking on the Tavern Door, translated by Robert Bly and Leonard Lewisohn

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For your sake poets sequester themselves, Rainer Maria Rilke

“For your sake poets sequester themselves,
gather images to churn the mind,
journey forth, ripening with metaphor,
and all their lives they are so alone…
And painters paint their pictures only
that the world, so transient as you made it,
can be given back to you,
to last forever.

All becomes eternal. See: In the Mona Lisa
some woman has long since ripened like wine,
and the enduring feminine is held there
through all the ages.

Those who create are like you.
They long for the eternal.
They say, Stone, be forever!
And that means: be yours.

And lovers also gather your inheritance.
They are the poets of one brief hour.
They kiss an expressionless mouth into a smile
as if creating it anew, more beautiful.

Awakening desire, they make a place
where pain can enter;
that’s how growing happens.
They bring suffering along with their laughter,
and longings that had slept and now awaken
to weep in a stranger’s arms.

They let the riddles pile up and then they die
the way animals die, without making sense of it.
But maybe in those who come after,
their green life will ripen;
it’s then that you will inherit the love
to which they gave themselves so blindly, as in a sleep.

Thus the overflow from things
pours into you.
Just as a fountain’s higher basins
spill down like strands of loosened hair
into the lowest vessel,
so streams the fullness into you,
when things and thoughts cannot contain it.”

— Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Tsuchii Bansui – Moon over the ruined castle

Spring in its tall towers, flower-viewing banquets,
The wine-cup passed and glinting in the light
Streaming through pine branches a thousand ages:
That moonlight of the past – where is it now?

Autumn: the white hoarfrost across the camp,
Counting the wild geese, crying as they flew:
Light of the past flashing on row on row
Of planted swords: that light – where is it now?

Now, over the ruined castle the midnight moon,
Its light unchanged; for whom does it shine?
In the hedge, only the laurel left behind:
In the pines, only the wind of the storm still sings.

High in the heavens the light remains unchanged.
Glory and decay are the mark of this shifting earth.
Is it to copy them now, brighter yet,
Over the ruined castle the midnight moon?

— Tsuchii Bansui – Moon over the ruined castle

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

— David Wagoner, 1976, found in David Whyte, The House of Belonging

Coleman Barks – On The Turn

The “turn,” the moving meditation done by Mevlevi dervishes, originated with Rumi. The story goes that he was walking in the gold-smithing section of Konya when he heard a beautiful music in their hammering. He began turning in harmony with it, an ecstatic dance of surrender and yet with great centered discipline. He arrived at a place where ego dissolves and a resonance with universal soul comes in. Dervish literally means “doorway.” When what is communicated moves from presence to presence, darshan occurs, with language inside the seeing. When the gravitational pull gets even stronger, the two become one turning that is molecular and galactic and a spiritual remembering of the presence at the center of the universe. Turning is an image of how the dervish becomes an empty place where human and divine can meet. To approach the whole the part must become mad, by conventional standards at least. These ecstatic holy people, called matzubs in the sufi tradition, redefine this sort of madness as true health.

When he saw the dervishes in Cairo in 1910, Rainer Maria Rilke, the great spiritual poet of this century, said they turn was a form of kneeling. “It is so truly the mystery of kneeling of the deeply kneeling man. With Rumi the scale is shifted, for in following the peculiar weight and strength in his knees, he belongs to that world in which height is depth. This is the night of radiant depth unfolded.” December 17 is celebrated each year as Rumi’s Wedding Night, the night he died in 1273 and reached full union.

— Coleman Barks, Rumi, Selected Poems (Penguin Classics)

John O’Donohue – When Death Visits

Death is a lonely visitor. After it visits your home, nothing is ever the same again. There is an empty place at the table; there is an absence in the house. Having someone close to you die is an incredibly strange and desolate experience. Something breaks within you then that will never come together again. Gone is the person whom you loved, whose face and hands and body you knew so well. This body, for the first time, is completely empty. This is very frightening and strange. After the death many questions come into your mind concerning where the person has gone, what they see and feel now. The death of a loved one is bitterly lonely. When you really love someone, you would be willing to die in their place. Yet no one can take another’s place when that time comes. Each one of us has to go alone. It is so strange that when someone dies, they literally disappear. Human experience includes all kinds of continuity and discontinuity, closeness and distance. In death, experience reaches the ultimate frontier. The deceased literally falls out of the visible world of form and presence. At birth you appear out of nowhere, at death you disappear to nowhere. . . . The terrible moment of loneliness in grief comes when you realize that you will never see the deceased again. The absence of their life, the absence of their voice, face, and presence become something that, as Sylvia Plath says, begins to grow beside you like a tree.
—  John O’Donohue