Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi

The following poems are by Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi. He was born in 1207 in what is today known as Afghanistan. For the last seven centuries he has been recognized in the Middle East and Western Asia as a literary and spiritual leader whose work will endure across the ages. The first three poems below are, as is the previous information, taken from a book by Andrew Harvey, "Love's Glory: Re-Creations of Rumi," published in 1996. The next three poems are from a translation by Camille and Kabir Helminski, Rumi: Daylight, A Daybook of Spiritual Guidance, published in 1994.

You need money, the love of friends,
You need your health, you need laughter.
Most of all you need what only He gives:
The living presence of Divine Grace.

If you want to discover Eternal Life
And live in the radiant desert of Detachment
Advance bravely on the Path, fearing no pain or loss,
Take each step authentically, risking your whole being.

The prattle of "balance," of "modration," of "decorum."
I wrote on one of their doors in secret:
"You think you know, you died long ago;
You think you see? Reason ate your eyes."

The spiritual path wrecks the body
and afterward restores it to health.
It destroys the house to unearth the treasure,
and with that treasure builds it better than before.

The more awake one is to the material world,
the more asleep to spirit.
When our soul is asleep to God,
other wakefulness closes the door of Divine grace.

The intellectual quest,
though fine as pearl or coral,
is not the spiritual search.
That spiritual search is on another level.
Spiritual wine is a different substance.

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Umar ibn Ibrahim al-Kahayyam

Umar ibn Ibrahim al-Kahayyam, or more commonly known as Omar Khayyam, lived in the time 1048 - 1131. The earliest references to Khayyam do not give any indication that he was a poet, but rather establish him as a philosopher and astronomer without equal. His work also establishes him as a mathematician. The first work to mention Khayyam as a poet is an Arabic compilation about poet and their art written in 1176-77. In a later abridgement of a history of philosophers made in 1249, Khayyam is described as a poser of "fugitive verses" which were "a tissue of error like poisonous snakes." This author claims that the inner meaning of these verses "revealed the evil of Khayyam's mind." The following ruba'i are, as is the previous information, taken from the translation by Peter Avery and John Heath Stubbs, The Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyam published in 1979. The ruba'i is two-lined stanza of Persian poetry, each line of which is divided into two hemistichs making up four altogether. The word ruba'i is from the Arabic meaning foursome.

Neither you nor I know the mysterious of eternity,
Neither you nor I read this enigma;
You and I only talk this side of the veil;
When the veil falls, neither you nor I will be here.

The cycle which includes our coming and going
Has no discernable beginning nor end;
Nobody has got this matter straight -
Where we come from and where we go.

I saw an old man in the wine-shop,
I said, "Have you any news of those who have gone?"
He replied, "Take some wine, because like us many
Have gone, none has come back."

Nobody, heart, has seen heaven or hell,
Tell me, dear, who has returned from there?
Our hopes and fears are on something of which,
My dear, there is no indication but the name.

Today, tomorrow is not within your reach,
To think of it is only morbid:
If the heart is awake, do not waste this moment -
There is no proof of life's continuance.

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Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton was born in Depew, New York and educated at the Sate University of New York at Fredonia and at Howard University.

the lesson of the falling leaves

the leaves believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god
i agree with the leaves


the coming of Kali

it is the black God, Kali,
a woman God and terrible
with her skulls and breasts.
i am one side of your skin,
she sings, softness is the other,
you know you know me well, she sings,
you know you know me well.

running Kali off is hard.
she is persistent with her
black terrible self. she
knows places in my bones
i never sing about but
she knows i know them well.
she knows.
she knows.


the poet

i beg my bones to be good but
they keep clicking music and
i spin in the center of myself
a foolish frightful woman
moving my skin against the wind and
tap dancing for my life.

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