“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 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)