The Vigil – by Rumi

Don’t go to sleep one night.
What you most want will come to you then.
Warmed by a sun inside, you’ll see wonders.
Tonight, don’t put your head down.
Be tough, and strength will come.
That which adoration adores
appears at night. Those asleep
may miss it. One night Moses stayed awake
and asked, and saw a light in a tree.
Then he walked at night for ten years,
until finally he saw the whole tree
illuminated. Muhammad rode his horse
through the nightsky. The day is for work.
The night for love. Don’t let someone
bewitch you. Some people sleep at night.
But not lovers. They sit in the dark
and talk to God, who told David,
Those who sleep all night every night
and claim to be connected to us, they lie.
Lovers can’t sleep when they feel the privacy
of the beloved all around them. Someone
who’s thirsty may sleep for a little while,
but he or she will dream of water, a full jar
beside a creek, or the spiritual water you get
from another person. All night, listen
to the conversation. Stay up.
This moment is all there is.
Death will take it away soon enough.
You’ll be gone, and this earth will be left
without a sweetheart, nothing but weeks
growing inside thorns.
I’m through. Read the rest of this poem
in the dark tonight.
Do I have a head? And feet?
Shams, so loved by Tiabrizians, I close my lips.
I wait for you to come and open them.

3 poems by Rumi

Wean yourself
Little by little, wean yourself.
This is the gist of what I have to say.
From an embryo, whose nourishment comes in the blood,
move to an infant drinking milk,
to a child on solid food,
to a searcher after wisdom,
to a hunter of more invisible game.

Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo.
You might say ‘The world outside is vast and intricate.
There are wheatfields and mountain passes,
and orchards in bloom.

At night there are millions of galaxies, and in sunlight
the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding.’

You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up
in the dark with eyes closed.

Listen to the answer.

There is no ‘other world’
I only know what I have experienced.
You must be hallucinating.

Special plates
Notice how each particle moves
Notice how everyone has just arrived here
from a journey
Notice how each wants a different food
Notice how the stars vanish as the sun comes up
and how all streams stream towards the ocean.

Look at the chefs preparing special plates
for everyone, according to their need.
Look at this cup that can hold the ocean.
Look at those who see the face.
Look through Shams’ eyes
into water that is
entirely jewels.

Who makes these changes?
Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself
Chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
And end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
And fall in.
I should be suspicious
Of what I want.

On Resurrection Day
On Resurrection Day your body
testifies against you.
Your hand says, ‘I stole money’
Your lips ‘I said meanness’
Your feet ‘I went where I shouldn’t’
Your genitals ‘Me too’.

They will make your praying
sound hypocritical.
Let the body’s doing speak openly now,
without your saying a word,
As a student’s walking behind a teacher
says, ‘This one knows more clearly
than I the way.’

Muhammad & the huge eater – by Rumi (an excerpt)

Let body needs dwindle and soul decisions increase.
Diminish what you give your physical self.
Your spiritual eye will begin to open.

When the body empties and stays empty,
God fills it with musk and mother-of-pearl.
That way a man gives his dung and gets purity.

Listen to the prophets and not some adolescent boy.
The foundation and the walls of the spiritual life
are made of self-denials and disciplines.

Stay with friends who support you in these.
Talk with them about sacred texts,
and how you’re doing, and how they’re doing,
and keep your practices together.

Tattooing in Qazwin – by Rumi

In Qazwin, they have a custom of tattooing themselves
for good luck, with a blue ink, on the back
of the hand, the shoulder, wherever.

A certain man goes to his barber
and asks to be given a powerful, heroic, blue lion
on his shoulder blade. “And do it with flair!
I’ve got Leo ascending. I want plenty of blue!”

But as soon as the needle starts pricking,
he howls,
“What are you doing?”
“The lion.”
“Which limb did you start with?”
“I began with the tail.”
“Well, leave out the tail. That lion’s rump
is in a bad place for me. It cuts off my wind.”

The barber continues, and immediately
the man yells out,
“Ooooooooo! Which part now?”
“The ear.”
“Doc, let’s do a lion with no ears this time.”
The barber shakes his head, and once more the needle,
and once more the wailing,
“Where are you now?”
“The belly.”
“I like a lion without a belly.”
The master lion-maker
stands for a long time with his fingers in his teeth.
Finally he throws the needle down.

“No one has ever
been asked to do such a thing! To create a lion
without a tail or a head or a stomach.
God himself could not do it!”

Brother, stand the pain.
Escape the poison of your impulses.
The sky will bow to your beauty, if you do.
Learn to light the candle. Rise with the sun.
Turn away from the cave of your sleeping.
That way a thorn expands to a rose.
A particular glows with the universal.

What is it to praise?
Make yourself particles.

What is it to know something of God?
Burn inside that presence. Burn up.

Copper melts in the healing elixir.
So melt yourself in the mixture
that sustains existence.

You tighten your two hands together,
determined not to give up saying “I” and “we.”
This tightening blocks you.