Ahmed ben Adhem, Leigh Hunt
Who Says Words With My Mouth?, Rumi
Some Kiss We Want, Rumi
The Sunrise Ruby, Rumi
My Beautiful One, Safwan ibn Idris
The Valley of Almería, Ibn Safr al-Murini
Out Beyond Ideas, Rumi
Wake Up Your Heart, Rabia al-Adawiyya
I Know the Way You Can Get, Hafez
The Time of the Night Prayer, Rumi
Rubaiat of Omar Khayyam (excerpts)
Moses and the Shepherd, Rumi
Blood, Naomi Shihab Nye*
Jerusalem, Naomi Shihab Nye
Kindness, Naomi Shihab Nye

* * *

Different Ways To Pray, Naomi Shihab Nye
The Real Revolution Happens in our Hearts, Rumi
I Was Dead. I Came Alive, Rumi
Come Let’s Speak of Our Souls, Rumi
The Prophet, Kahil Gibran
The City of Saba, Rumi
On Solomon, Rumi

 
 
* Naomi Shihab Nye was born in the United States in 1952 to an American mother and a Palestinian father who had grown up in the Old City of Jerusalem and came to America after his family lost their home there in the 1948 war. I have no idea what her religious beliefs, if any, are, but I think that is irrelevant. Her poems are included in this presentation because she is a wonderful poet who sometimes speaks about, in or the voice of, the Palestinian part of her background. Her poems can be found in 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East published by Greenwiller Books (2002).


 
 
 

Ahmed ben Adhem
by Leigh Hunt

Abou ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight of his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel, writing in a book of gold –
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said:
“What writest thou?”
The vision raised its head,
And, with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”

“And is mine one?” said Abou,
“Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel.
Abou spoke, more low,
But cheerily still, and said, “I pray thee, then
Write me as one who loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again, with a great awakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

 
 
 

Who Says Words With My Mouth?*
by Rumi (circa 1250)
(translated by Coleman Barks)

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

This poetry. I never know what I’m going to say.
I don’t plan it.
When I’m outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.

 
 
 
* Used with the kind permission of Coleman Barks. This poem and other Rumi poems can be found in The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks (Harper Collins 2004) and Rumi The Book of Love, Translations and Commentary by Coleman Barks (Harper Collins 2003).
 
 
 

Some Kiss We Want*
by Rumi
(translated by Coleman Barks)

There is some kiss we want
with our whole lives, the touch

of spirit on the body. Seawater
begs the pearl to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling!

At night, I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its
face against mine.

Breathe into me. Close
the language-door and open the love-window.
The moon won’t use the door,
only the window.

 
 
* Used with the kind permission of Coleman Barks. This poem and other Rumi poems can be found in Rumi The Book of Love, Translations and Commentary by Coleman Barks (Harper Collins 2003).

 
 
 

The Sunrise Ruby* by Rumi
(translated by Coleman Barks)

In the early morning hour,
just before dawn, lover and beloved wake
and take a drink of water.

She asks, “Do you love me, or yourself, more?
Really, tell the absolute truth.”

He says, “There’s nothing left of me.
I’m like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
to sunlight.”

The ruby and the sunrise are one.
Be courageous and discipline yourself.

Completely become hearing and ear,
and wear this sun-ruby as an earring.

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.

Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.

Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window,
And look out to see who’s there.

 
 
* Used with the kind permission of Coleman Barks. This poem and other Rumi poems can be found in The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks (Harper Collins 2004) and Rumi The Book of Love, Translations and Commentary by Coleman Barks (Harper Collins 2003).

 
 
 

My Beautiful One*
by Safwan ibn Idris (12th Century)
(translated by Cola Franzen)

How beautiful she is!
And imagine that beauty
is only one of her qualities.
There is nothing more bewitching
than her movements.

She is more enchanting than the moon.
If you asked the real moon,
“What would you like to be?”
it is certain to reply,
“One of her halos.”

When she looks at the real moon
it’s as if she were looking
at her own face in a mirror.

The beauty spot on the page
of her cheek
punctuates the nuns written there
by the curls of her hair.

Once I went out with her when the
shelter of night and her cape
let me mingle the fire of my breath
with the fire of her flaming cheeks.

I clasped her as a miser clasps
his treasure, and bound her tightly
with the cords of my arms
lest she escape like a gazelle.

But my chastity did not permit me
to kiss her mouth
and my heart remained huddled
over its embers.

* Used with the kind permission of its translator, Cola Franzen. This poem and other Arabic poems from al-Andalus can be found in Poems of Arab Andalusia, by Cola Franzen (City Lights Publisher, 1990), copyright Cola Franzen.

 
 
 

The Valley of Almeria*
by Ibn Safr al-Murini (12th Century)
(translated by Cola Franzen)

Valley of Almería!
God grant that I never see
myself deprived of you!
When I look on you I tremble
as an Indian sword trembles
at the moment of tempering.

See how excited the river is?
Listen to its murmured applause
sounding beneath the dancing trees
that arch over it
wearing garlands of blossoms.

The branches sweep their sleeves
over the silvered surface of the river
then lift them up
scattering pearls.

And you, friend, here beside me,
enjoy this time, for there are delights
in this paradise not to be found
in the eternal one.

* Used with the kind permission of its translator, Cola Franzen. This poem and other Arabic poems from al-Andalus can be found in Poems of Arab Andalusia, by Cola Franzen (City Lights Publisher, 1990), copyright Cola Franzen.

 
 
 

Out Beyond Ideas*
by Rumi
(translated by Coleman Barks)

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.

 
 
 
* Used with the kind permission of Coleman Barks. This poem and other Rumi poems can be found in The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks (Harper Collins 2004) and Rumi The Book of Love, Translations and Commentary by Coleman Barks (Harper Collins 2003).
 
 
 

Wake Up Your Heart
by Rabia al-Adawiyya (8th Century)
(translated)

Truth can’t come in through your eyes,
Nor can speech go out through your mouth to find Him;
Hearing leads the speaker down the road to anxiety,
And if you follow your hands and feet you will arrive at confusion.
The real work is in the Heart:
Wake up your Heart!

O God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.

 
 
 

I Know the Way You Can Get*
by Hafez (circa 1375)
(translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Loving:

Your face hardens,
Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
And nose.

Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.

Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
The innocent
And into one’s self.

O I know the way you can get
If you have not been drinking Love:

You might rip apart
Every sentence your friends and teachers say,
Looking for hidden clauses.

You might weigh every word on a scale
Like a dead fish.

You might pull out a ruler to measure

From every angle in your darkness
The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once
Trusted.

I know how you can get
If you have not had a drink from Love’s
Hands.

That is why all the Great Ones speak of
The vital need
To keep remembering God,
So you will come to know and see Him
As being so Playful
And Wanting,
Just Wanting to help.

That is why Hafiz says:
Bring your cup near me.

For I am a Sweet Old Vagabond
With an Infinite Leaking Barrel
Of Light and Laughter and Truth
That the Beloved has tied to my back.

Dear one,
Indeed, please bring your heart near me.
For all I care about
Is quenching your thirst for freedom!

All a Sane man can ever care about
Is giving Love!

 
 

* From the Penguin publication I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy. Copyright © 1996 & 2006 Daniel Ladinsky and used with his permission.

 
 
 

At The Time of the Night Prayer
by Rumi
(translated)

At the time of the night prayer,

As the sun slides down,
The route the senses walk on closes;
The route to the invisible opens.

The angel of sleep then gathers and drives along the spirit,
Just as the mountain-keeper gathers his sheep on the slope.

And what amazing sights he offers to the descending sheep –
Cities with sparking streets.
Hyacinth gardens.
Emerald pastures.

The spirits see astounding beings –
Turtles turn to men,
Men turn to angels,
When sleep erases the banal.

I think one could say that the spirit goes back to its own home.
It no longer remembers where it lives.
And it loses its fatigue.
It carries around in life so many griefs and loads, and trembles under their weight.
They are gone.
It’s all well.

 
 
 

Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam (excerpts)

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread — and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness-
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enou!

Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
To-Day of Past Regrets and Future Fears:
To-morrow! — Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand Years.

Only helpless pieces in the game He plays
Upon his chequer-board of Nights and Days
He hither and thither moves, and checks . . . and slays
Then one by one, back in the Closet lays

“The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d-
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go”

 
 
 

Moses and the Shepherd*
by Rumi
(translation by Coleman Barks)

Moses heard a shepherd on the road praying,
“God,
where are you? I want to help you, to fix your shoes
and comb your hair. I want to wash your clothes
and pick the lice off. I want to bring you milk
to kiss your little hands and feet when it’s time
for you to go to bed. I want to sweep your room
and keep it neat. God, my sheep and goats
are yours. All I can say, remembering you,
is ayyyy and ahhhhhhhhh.



Moses could stand it no longer.
“Who are you talking to?”
“The one who made us,
and made the earth and made the sky.”
“Don’t talk about shoes
and socks with God! And what’s this with your little hands
and feet? Such blasphemous familiarity sounds like
you’re chatting with your uncles.
Only something that grows
needs milk. Only someone with feet needs shoes. Not God!
Even if you meant God’s human representatives,
as when God said, ‘I was sick, and you did not visit me,’
even then this tone would be foolish and irreverent.



Use appropriate terms. Fatima is a fine name
for a woman, but if you call a man Fatima,
it’s an insult. Body-and-birth language
are right for us on this side of the river,
but not for addressing the origin,
not for Allah.”



The shepherd repented and tore his clothes and sighed
and wandered out into the desert.
A sudden revelation
came then to Moses. God’s voice:
“You have separated me
from one of my own. Did you come as a Prophet to unite,
or to sever?
I have given each being a separate and unique way
of seeing and knowing and saying that knowledge.
What seems wrong to you is right for him.
What is poison to one is honey to someone else.



Purity and impurity, sloth and diligence in worship,
these mean nothing to me.
I am apart from all that.
Ways of worshiping are not to be ranked as better
or worse than one another.
Hindus do Hindu things.
The Dravidian Muslims in India do what they do.
It’s all praise, and it’s all right.

It’s not me that’s glorified in acts of worship.
It’s the worshipers! I don’t hear the words
they say. I look inside at the humility.



The broken-open lowliness is the reality,
not the language! Forget phraseology.
I want burning, burning.
Be friends
with your burning. Burn up your thinking
and your forms of expression!
Moses,
those who pay attention to ways of behaving
and speaking are one sort.
Lovers who burn
are another
Don’t impose a property tax
on a burned-out village. Don’t scold the Lover.
The “wrong” way he talks is better than a hundred
“right” ways to others.
Inside the Kaaba
it doesn’t matter which direction you point
your prayer rug!
The ocean diver doesn’t need snowshoes!
The love-religion has no code or doctrine
Only God.
So the ruby has nothing engraved on it!
It doesn’t need markings.



God began speaking
deeper mysteries to Moses. Vision and words,
which cannot be recorded here, poured into
and through him. He left himself and came back.
He went to eternity and came back here.
Many times this happened.
It’s foolish of me
to try and say this. If I did say it,
it would uproot our human intelligences.
It would shatter all writing pens.

Moses ran after the shepherd.
He followed the bewildered footprints,
in one place moving straight like a castle
across a chessboard. In another, sideways,
like a bishop.
Now surging like a wave cresting,
now sliding down like a fish,
with always his feet
making geomancy symbols in the sand,
recording
his wandering state.



Moses finally caught up
with him.
“I was wrong. God has revealed to me
that there are no rules for worship.
Say whatever
and however your loving tells you to. Your sweet blasphemy
is the truest devotion. Through you a whole world
is freed.
Loosen your tongue and don’t worry what comes out.
It’s all the light of the spirit.”

The shepherd replied,
“Moses, Moses,
I’ve gone beyond even that.
You applied the whip and my horse shied and jumped
out of itself. The divine nature and my human nature
came together.
Bless your scolding hand and your arm.
I can’t say what has happened.
What I’m saying now
is not my real condition. It can’t be said.”



The shepherd grew quiet.
When you look in a mirror,
you see yourself, not the state of the mirror.
The flute player puts breath into a flute,
and who makes the music? Not the flute.
The flute player!
Whenever you speak praise
or thanksgiving to God, it’s always like
this dear shepherd’s simplicity.
When you eventually see
through the veils to how things really are,
you will keep saying again
and again,
“This is certainly not like
we thought it was!”

 
 
* Used with the kind permission of Coleman Barks. This poem and other Rumi poems can be found in The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks (Harper Collins 2004) and Rumi The Book of Love, Translations and Commentary by Coleman Barks (Harper Collins 2003).

 
 
 

Blood
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You should get the text from another source.

 
 
 

Jerusalem
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You should get the text from another source.

 
 
 

Kindness
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You should get the text from another source.