Monday, October 30, 2006

The Knots Untie

Sunlight offers Ghazal (Ode) 863, in a version by Coleman Barks, and in translation
by A.J. Arberry.

^ ^ ^ ^ ^

The Knots Untie

Fire is whispering a secret in smoke's
ear, "This aloe wood loves me because

I help it live out its purpose. With
me it becomes fragrance, and then

disappears altogether!" The knots
untie and open into absence, as you do

with me, my friend. Eaten by flame,
and smoked out into the sky! This is

most fortunate. What's unlucky is not
to change and disappear. The black soil

must crumble to give itself to plants.
Think how sperm and egg become a smiling

face and head. Bread must dissolve to
turn into thought. Gold and silver in

their raw forms aren't worth much. This
way leads through humiliation and contempt.

We've tried the fullness of presence. Now
it's time for desolation. Love is pulling

us out by the ears to school. Love wants
us clean of resentment and those impulses

that misguide our souls. We're asleep,
but Khidr keeps sprinkling water on our

faces. Love will tell us the rest of
what we need to know soon. Then we'll

be deeply asleep and profoundly awake
simultaneously like cave companions.

-- Version by Coleman Barks, with Nevit Ergin
"The Glance"
Viking-Penguin, 1999

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The fire the day before yesterday whispered secretly to
the smoke, "The aloes-wood cannot rest without me, and with
me it is happy.
It knows well my worth, and expresses thanks to me, for
the aloes-wood has perceived that in its passing away there is
The aloes-wood was knotted and tied from head to foot;
in the release of nonexistence these knots were resolved.
Hail and welcome to you, my flame-eating friend, my
passer-away and martyr and pride of all witnesses."
See how heaven and earth are pawns of existence; flee
into nonexistence from the blindness of the one and the blueness
of the other.
Every soul which flees away from poverty and nonexistence
is misfortune fleeing away from prosperity and good fortune.
Without expunging, no one profits from the tablet of non-
existence; make peace between me and expunging, O loving One!
Until yonder dark earth passed away from itself, I did not
begin to augment or escape from inertia.
So long as sperm was sperm and did not become obliterated from seminal fluid, it
attained not the cypress' stature nor the cheeks' beauty.
When bread and broth ferment in the intestines, they then become reason and soul,
the despair of the envious.
So long as black rock did not pass away from itself, it did not become gold and silver,
neither found its way into coins.
First comes lowliness and bondage, then afterwards there is kingship; in the ritual
prayer men first stand, and then sit.
For a lifetime you have made trial of your own being; once it
is also necessary to experience not-being.
The pomp and pride of poverty and passing-away is no empty boast; whenever
smoke appears it is not without a fire.
If our minds and desires belong not to love, how did love wantonly rob us of heart
and turban?
Love entered, and draws us along by the ear every morning to the school of those
who fulfil their covenants.
Love sets flowing the water of penitence from the eye of the
believer, to wash his breast clean of anger and stubborn denial.
You are fallen asleep and the water of Khidar splashes beside
you; leap up from slumber and seize the goblet of immortality.
Let love tell you the rest of it secretly from me; be one with the Companions of the
Cave, alike sleeping and waking.

-- Translation by A. J. Arberry
"Mystical Poems of Rumi 1"
The University of Chicago Press, 1968

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