Poems by Rumi

Contributed by Nihát Tsolak


if you don't have enough madness in you
go and rehabilitate yourself

if you've lost a hundred times the chess game of this life
be prepared to lose one more

if you're the wounded string of a harp on this stage
play once more then resonate no more

if you're that exhausted bird fighting a falcon for too long
make a comeback and be strong

you've carved a wooden horse
riding and calling it real
fooling yourself in life
though only a wooden horse
ride it again my friend
and gallop to the next post
you've never really listened
to what God has always
tried to tell you
yet you keep hoping
after your mock prayers
salvation will arrive

  Ghazal 1194 Translation by Nader Khalili "Rumi, Fountain of Fire" Cal-Earth Press, 1994

Like This

If anyone asks you
how the perfect satisfaction
of all our sexual wanting
will look, lift your face
and say,

Like this.

When someone mentions the gracefulness
of the nightsky, climb up on the roof
and dance and say,

Like this.

If anyone wants to know what "spirit" is,
or what "God's fragrance" means,
lean your head toward him or her.
Keep your face there close.

Like this.

When someone quotes the old poetic image
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon,
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings
of your robe.

Like this.

If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead,
don't try to explain the miracle.
Kiss me on the lips.

Like this. Like this.

When someone asks what it means
to "die for love," point

If someone asks how tall I am, frown
and measure with your fingers the space
between the creases on your forehead.

This tall.

The soul sometimes leaves the body, the returns.
When someone doesn't believe that,
walk back into my house.

Like this.

When lovers moan,
they're telling our story.

Like this.

I am a sky where spirits live.
Stare into this deepening blue,
while the breeze says a secret.

Like this.

When someone asks what there is to do,
light the candle in his hand.

Like this.

How did Joseph's scent come to Jacob?


How did Jacob's sight return?


A little wind cleans the eyes.

Like this.

When Shams comes back from Tabriz,
he'll put just his head around the edge
of the door to surprise us

Like this.

From 'The Essential Rumi', Translations by Coleman Barks with John Moyne


   Muslims! What can I do? I have lost my identity!
I am not a Christian, Jew, pagan, or Muslim.
I am neither an Easterner nor a Westerner,
   neither a land nor a sea person.
Nature can't fully account for me,
   nor can the whirling cosmos.
I don't exclusively belong to earth, water, fire, or air.
I am not of the invisible-ineffable, nor of the dust--
I am not a process or a being.
I am not of this world or the next, and deserve
   neither eternal reward nor eternal punishment.
I am not of Adam or Eve,
   not of the original Garden nor the final one.
My home has no address; my tracks leave no trace.
I am neither body nor soul--What can I say?
I belong to the Self of the Beloved.

I have laid all "twos" aside:
this world and that world are one.
I search for One, I recognize One,
I see One clearly, and I call the name of the One.
That unnameable One, the breath of the breath,
   is the first and last, the outside and the inside.
I identify no one except by "O That... O This!"
I am drunk on the cup of Love:
   here-now and everywhere-all-time have vanished.
I can't handle any business except celebration.

If I spend an instant without you,
that instant makes my whole life seem worthless.
If I can win one moment with you,
I will crush both worlds under my feet
as I dance in joy forever.

My Beloved Shams-i-Tabriz, I am living permanently
I have no more stories to tell except ones about drunks and

Jelaluddin Rumi, "The Diwan of Shams-i-Tabriz" based on literal translation of number 31 in "Selected Poems", R.A. Nicholson (1898, pp.124-127), by Saadi Shakur Chisti (Neil Douglas-Klotz), in "Desert Wisdom", pp.173, Harper Collins: New York  (1995)


Who was Rumi?

Written by W.D. Adkins

Rumi (1207-1273) was born in Balkh, now part of Afghanistan, but in those years a part of the Persian Empire. In 1215, when a child, his family whisked him off to Turkey, in flight from Mongol armies that had invaded their home region. The poet's new home—in those days—was called Roman Anatolia, thus inspiring the young mystic singer's chosen name, Rumi.

In some respects, perhaps, Rumi followed in the footsteps of his father, Bahauddin (Light of the Faith) Walad, a mystic too, but also a jurist and a theologian. Upon this elder's death, Rumi became a sheikh, instructing a learning community of dervishes. Such dervishes were much given to ecstatic experiences, mind-states in which they attained what they believed to be absolute personal union with God, a concept that remains heretical in many Islamic and Christian circles.

Life for the young Rumi was typical for religious scholars in his time, and consisted of helping the poor, spending hours in focused meditation, and teaching the rudiments of mystical spirituality to aspiring students.

But in 1244, a wandering dervish, the legendary mystic, Shams of Tabriz, entered Rumi's never-to-be-the-same existence. Shams, it is said, had crossed and re-crossed the Persian Empire seeking Allah's help in the finding a friend who might be able to "endure" his companionship.

After traveling afar a voice came to Shams in a vision asking him what he was willing to give up in return if he were granted the companionship of such a friend. "My head," he replied.

The voice sent him thereafter to the town where Rumi resided. The two men united, the legends tell, after it was clear to each that neither would cease their journeying toward the divine by assuming it found in its entirety. One taste of the divine seemed, for most mystics, sufficient. But for both Rumi and Shams, "the way was always unfolding."

They became inseparable.

Coleman Barks, translator (with ineffable grace) of the great Persian poet's works, writes:

"Their Friendship is one of the mysteries. They spent months together without any human needs, transported into a region of pure conversation."

This relationship, according to Barks, "caused difficulties in the religious community" Other men, to whom Rumi had been close, felt neglected. In the midst of such controversies, Shams suddenly disappeared, leaving as unexpectedly as he'd arrived.

Following this first departure, it is believed, Rumi's transformation into an artist- mystic began. He sang with gusto, danced in the realm of the spirits, and began to write poems that would last through the centuries ahead, inspiring not only his Persian countrymen, but men and women in faraway lands who generally described themselves as dumb-struck with awe at the insight and beauty his words conveyed.

But Rumi missed Shams terribly. He discovered that his friend had gone to Damacus, and begged that he return. When they became reunited for a second time, the legends say, they fell at each other's feet so that "no one knew who was lover and who the beloved." Though both men were married (Shams married a young girl who'd been sheltered in Rumi's home) their relationship became so intense with its celebrations of mystic communication-- that jealousies—as once before—erupted.

One night—in their room—on December 5, 1248, as they embraced with communicative fervor, Shams went to the back door where he'd heard a knock. He never returned to that room where his beloved waited, and, tragically, was never seen again.

It is believed that Shams was murdered by a jealous rival. Rumi, overcome by intense grief, went searching in Syria for his friend. His entire world, it seemed, had disappeared with his great love. In Damacus, however, he came to a realization that became encapsulated in a single verse. Readers who have lost their lovers in other circumstances may well-understand what Rumi meant when he said:

Why should I seek? I am the same as he.

His essence speaks through me.

I have been looking for myself.

Thus did the union of these two men take place. Translator Barks calls the illumination Rumi experienced in Damacus fana , or "annihilation in the Friend." In the wake of this annihilation, Rumi called a collection of his many poems The Works of Shams of Tabriz.

A second great love entered Rumi's life, a goldsmith, Saladin Zarkub. Rumi then addressed his poetry to this man with a tender intensity.

But Saladin died too and Rumi took a third lover, Husam, claiming that he understood the "secret order" of the Mathnawi which Rumi's translator calls "that great work that shifts so fantastically from theory to folklore, to jokes, to ecstatic poetry." All six volumes of that work were dedicated to Husam, with whom he lived until December 17, 1273. It was on that day that Rumi passed into the eternal realms.


You can find more information on Rumi and more of his poems here


   That thieving Heart-ravisher gave me a kiss and went!
What would have happened if instead of one He had
given me six or seven?
    Every lip He kisses bears its marks: It splits and
cracks from His lips' sweetness.
    Another mark is that mad desire for the lip of
the Water of Life makes Love stir up a thousand fires and furnaces every
    Still another mark is that the body, like the
heart, runs after that kiss with haste and speed.
    It becomes slender and delicate like the Friend's
lips--how marvellous! Slenderness from the fire of a boundless Beloved!
-- Ghazal (Ode) 419 Translation by William C. Chittick "The Sufi Path of Love" SUNY Press, Albany, 1983


"Come! Come again!
Whoever, whatever you may be, come!
Heathen, idolatrous or fire worshipper, come!
Even if you deny your oaths a hundred times, come!
Our door is the door of hope, come! Come like you are!"

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