Talking with Rumi

“I cannot write poetry,” I tell him

While sipping warm Jasmine tea

From fine hand painted china

And he smiles, saying,

In your light I learn how to love.

In your beauty, how to make poems.

“But I do not know how to love,”

Shamefully, I bow my head away from his gaze

But he takes my head with his gentle arms

And makes me face him,

What is love?



Don’t ask what love can make or do!

Look at the colors of the world.

“But I cannot see what you want me to see,”

Turning away, as if in this turning

He could see all my shame

Look at your eyes. They are small

But they see enormous things.

Bewildered, I look

Maybe for the first time, at this apparition

And ask, “What should I see?”


The sky is blue. The world is a blind man

squatting on the road.


Pale sunlight,

pale the wall.

And as if I finally understand,

“Is that all that simple?”

Do you think I know what I am doing?

That for one breath or half-breaths I belong to myself?

As much as a pen knows when it’s writing

or the ball can guess where it is going next.

I bite my lip and I am distracted

By the blood extracted

He decides to leave his cup of tea still full

I call out, “Please

Don’t go, I still do not know

How to write poetry!”

And, fading away,

This we have now

is not imagination.


A flickering storm cloud

shows his lightning to you!


Breath before it’s gone


What else could human beings wants?


(All text in italics written by Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks)

(Published in the Philippine Free Press, February 19, 2000)

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