Calm in the Midst of Lightning

When the love-lion wants to drink our blood,
we let him. Every moment we offer up
a new soul. Someone comes to collect
the turban and the shoes.

Calm in the midst of lightning
stands the cause of lightning.

The way I look is so fragile,
yet here in my hand
is an assurance of eternity.

A snake drags along looking for the ocean.
What would it do with it?

If, for penance, you crush grapes,
you may as well drink the wine.

You imagine that the old sufis
had dark sediment in their cups.
It does not matter what you think.

The flower that does not smile
at the branch withers.

Shams Tabriz rises as the sun.
It is night now.
What’s the point of counting stars?

Spilled Speech

As everyone drifts off to sleep,
I am still staring at the stars.

Separation from you does have a cure.
There is a way inside the sealed room.

If you will not pour wine,
at least allow me half a mouthful
of leftover dregs.

Secretly I fill my sleeve with pearls.
When the love-police detain me,
let your moon come down
and hold me in its arms.

Officer, I know this man.
I will take him home.

Let my wandering end as the story does
of the Kurd who loses his camel.
Then the full moon comes out,
and he finds what he lost.

These rocks and earth-forms
were originally sun-warmed water,
were they not?

Then the planet cooled
and settled to what we are now.

The blood in our bodies carries
a living luminous flow,
but watch when it spills out
and soaks into the ground.

That is how speech does,
overflowing from silence.

Silk on one side,
cheap, striped canvas on the other.

A Mountain Nest

Have you seen a fish dissatisfied
with the ocean? Have you seen a lover?

Have you seen an image
that tries to avoid the engraver?
Have you seen a word emptied of meaning?

You need no name.
You are the ocean.
I am held in your sway.

Fire in your presence
turns into a rosebush.

When I am outside you,
life is torment.

Then Solomon walks back into Jerusalem,
and a thousand lanterns illuminate.

The divine glory settles
into a mountain nest.

The emperor and the source of light,
Shams Tabriz, lives here,
with no location in my chest.

Let the Soup Simmer

As the air of April
holds a rosebush,
I draw you to myself.

But why mention roses?
You are the whole, the soul,
the spirit, the speaker,
and what follows Say,
the quarry and the bowstring
pulled to the ear.

The lion turns to the deer,
Why are you running in my wake?

There are thousands of levels
from what lives in the soil
to humanity, but I have brought you along
from town to town.

I will not leave you somewhere
on the side of the road.

Let the soup simmer
with the lid on.
Be quiet.

There is a lion cub
hidden in a deer-body.

You are the polo ball.
With my mallet I make you run.
Then I track you.


To read Gibson Faye-Leblanc’s interview with Coleman Barks in the February 2007 issue of Guernica, go here.

To comment on this piece:

A snake drags along looking for the ocean./ What would it do with it?

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