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Jelaluddin Rumi (1207–1273) was a Persian poet and Sufi mystic and is widely regarded as the greatest mystical poet of any age. He was born in Afghanistan in a part of the Persian empire. It is said that no other poet in history has had so exalted and comprehensive an impact on the civilization he adorned.

Islamic scholar A.J. Arberry said “In Rumi we encounter one of the world’s greatest poets. In profundity of thought, inventiveness of image, and triumphant mastery of language, he stands out as the supreme genius of Islamic mysticism.”

Rumi’s ecstatic poetry has been a part of classical and devotional music from Turkey to Pakistan. Rumi often expresses a deep connection with the power of music: “Love plays and is the music played./ Let that musician finish this poem.” He is able to contain and continue intricate theological arguments and at the same time speak directly from the heart or to the heart. He writes with humor and inspired passion.

The brilliant translations of Coleman Barks, the premiere English translator of Rumi, deeply convey the essence of Rumi’s work from bewilderment, emptiness and silence, to flirtation, playfulness and majesty. In this poetry the secular and the sacred are always mingling.

Rumi spoke his sublime poems. As Barks explains, “They were written down by scribes, and later revisions were made by Rumi on the page, but for the most part his poetry can be considered spontaneous improvisation.”

At the age of 37, Rumi’s life changed profoundly when he met a wandering dervish: Shams Tabriz, a man in rags who was in tune with the Infinite. Rumi followed this fierce dervish and they became inseparable. Their friendship was mysterious, esoteric and sacred. From his contact with Shams, Rumi became a mystical artist. As Shams was such a profound inspiration to Rumi, many times he said that Shams was the author of his poetry. “Shams” symbolizes the power of grace.

Rumi would whirl around, hour after hour. The whirling, moving meditation done by Mevlevi dervishes, originated with Rumi and is an ecstatic dance of surrender. As Rumi says, “When someone mentions the gracefulness of the nightsky, climb up on the roof and dance and say, Like this…”

Finally, as Barks writes, “The vital God-human or human-God connection can break through anywhere at any time. I like to hope that Rumi’s poems, even in translation, carry the essence of the transforming friendship of Rumi and Shams, that that sun can reappear, whole and radiant in any one of us at any moment.”

Click link for sample
Who Makes
These Changes?

mp3
Say I
Am You

mp3
Say Yes
Quickly

mp3
Each
Note

mp3

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.

The Instruments

Who is the luckiest in this whole orchestra? The reed.
Its mouth touches your lips to learn music.

All reeds, sugarcane especially, think only
of this chance. They sway in the canebrakes,
free in the many ways they dance.

Without you the instruments would die.
One sits close beside you. Another takes a long kiss.
The tambourine begs, Touch my skin so I can be myself.

Let me feel you enter each limb bone by bone,
that what died last night can be whole today.

Why live some soberer way, and feel you ebbing out?
I won't do it.

Either give me enough wine or leave me alone,
now that I know how it is
to be with you in a constant conversation.

Say I Am You

I am dust particles in sunlight.
I am the round sun.

To the bits of dust I say, Stay.
To the sun,
Keep moving.

I am morning mist, and the breathing of evening.

I am wind in the top of a grove, and surf on the cliff.

Mast, rudder, helmsman, and keel,
I am also the coral reef they founder on.

I am a tree with a trained parrot in its branches.
Silence, thought, and voice.

The musical air coming through a flute,
a spark of a stone, a flickering in metal.

Both candle and the moth crazy around it.

Rose, and the nightingale lost in the fragrance.

I am all orders of being, the circling galaxy,
the evolutionary intelligence, the lift,

and the falling away. What is, and what isn't.

You who know Jelaluddin, You the one in all,

say who I am. Say I am You.

The Music We Are

Did you hear that winter’s over?
The basil and the carnations cannot control their laughter.

The nightingale, back from his wandering,
has been made singing master over the birds.
The trees reach out their congratulations.

The soul goes dancing through the king’s doorway.
Anemones blush because they have seen the rose naked.

Spring, the only fair judge, walks in the
courtroom, and several December thieves steal away.

Last year’s miracles will soon be forgotten.
New creatures whirl in from non-existence,
galaxies scattered around their feet.

Have you met them? Do you hear the bud of
Jesus crooning in the cradle?

A single narcissus flower has been appointed
‘Inspector of Kingdoms’. A feast is set.

Listen: the wind is pouring wine.
Love used to hide inside images: no more!
The orchard hangs out its lanterns.
The dead come stumbling by in shrouds.

Nothing can stay bound or be imprisoned.
You say, ‘End this poem here,
and wait for what's next.’ I will.
Poems are rough notations for the music we are.

Unmarked Boxes

Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.
The child weaned from mother’s milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.

God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,
from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed.
As roses up from ground.
Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,
now a cliff covered with vines,
now a horse being saddled.
It hides within these, till one day it cracks them open.

Part of the self  leaves the body when we sleep
and changes shape. You might say, “Last night
I was a cypress tree, a small bed of tulips,
a field of grapevines.” Then the phantasm goes away.
You’re back in the room.
I don’t want to make anyone fearful.
Hear what’s behind what I say.

Tatatumtum tatum tatadum.
There’s the light gold of wheat in the sun
and the gold of bread made from that wheat.
I have neither. I’m only talking about them,
as a town in the desert looks up at stars on a clear night.

The Fragile Vial

I need a mouth as wide as the sky
to say the nature of a True Person,
language as large as longing.

The fragile vial inside me often breaks.
No wonder I go mad and disappear for three days
every month with the moon.

For anyone in love with you,
it's always these invisible days.
I've lost the thread of the story I was telling.

My elephant roams his dream of Hindustan again.
Narrative, poetics, destroyed, my body,
a dissolving, a return.

Friend, I've shrunk to a hair trying to say your story
Would you tell mine?
I've made up so many love stories, now I feel fictional. Tell me!

The truth is, you are speaking, not me.
This poetry is an echo of what you say.
A piece of land can't speak, or know anything!
Or if it can, only within limits.

Why this distracted talk?
It's not my fault I rave.
You did this. Do you approve of my love-madness?

Say yes.
What language will you say it in, Arabic or Persian, or what?
Once again, I must be tied up.

Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it.
Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing,
where something might be planted,
a seed, possibly, from the Absolute.

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 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.

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.

Say Yes Quickly

Forget your life. Say God is Great. Get up.
You think you know what time it is. It's time to pray.
You've carved so many little figurines, too many.
 Don't knock on any random door like a beggar.
Reach your long hand out to another door, beyond where
you go on the street, the street
where everyone days, "How are you?"
and no one says
How aren't you?

Tomorrow you'll see what you've broken and torn tonight,
thrashing in the dark. Inside you
there's an artist you don't know about.
He's not interested in how things look different
in moonlight.

 If you are here unfaithfully with us,
you're causing terrible damage.
If you've opened your loving to God's love,
you're helping people you don't know
and have never seen.

 Is what I say true? Say
yes quickly,
if you know, if you've known it
from before the beginning of the universe.

Each Note

Advice doesn't help lovers!
They're not the kind of mountain stream
you can build a dam across.

An intellectual doesn't know
what the drunk is feeling!

Don't try to figure what those lost inside love
will do next!
Someone in charge would give up all his power,
if he caught one whiff of the wine-musk
from the room where the lovers
are doing who-knows-what!
                                      
One of them tries to dig a hole through a mountain.
One flees from academic honors.
One laughs at famous mustaches!
                                                    
Life freezes if it doesn't get a taste of this almond cake.

The stars come up spinning every night, bewildered in love.
They'd grow tired with that revolving, if they weren't.
They'd say, "How long do we have to do this!"

God picks up the reed flute world and blows.
Each note is a need coming through one of us,
a passion, a longing-pain.

Remember the lips where the wind-breath originated,
and let your note be clear.
Don't try to end it.
Be your note.
I'll show you how it's enough.

Go up on the roof at night
in this city of the soul.
Let everyone climb on their roofs
and sing their notes!

Sing loud!

CREDITS

Recorded at Myrtletown Records, Eureka, California. Produced by Seabury Gould. Piano tracks recorded by Mike Kapitan at Groove Time, Arcata, California. Engineered, Mixed and Mastered by Tim Gray. Cover Design by Rick Siegfried, ImageMaker, Eureka. Photography by Tim Gray. “Tulip” by Richard Aldorasi, Turkish ebru marbling on handmade paper.

Seabury Gould: vocals, guitar, bansuri bamboo flute, Irish bouzouki, vina, naal drum, piano, keyboard synth, mbira, dumbek, rain stick. Eddie Guthman: string bass, cittern. Marco Zonka: percussion. Rachel Hatchimonji: fiddle. Craig Kurumada: clarinet. Tim Gray: harmony vocals. Translations by Coleman Barks used by permission.

All music composed and arranged by Seabury Gould with the following exceptions:
Part of “The Instruments” is based on the traditional Finnish tune “Itku Polska (Weeping Polska),” learned from Danny Carnahan.
The main melody of “The Fragile Vial” is based on a traditional composition of India called “Sargam in Raga Bhairav,” learned from Ravi Shankar.
The last section of “Like This” is a traditional Manx air or waltz from the Isle of Man (off the coast of Scotland) called “Arrane Ghelby” (the one Celtic tune on this CD). The tune is known as “Song of the Kelpie.”

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