Bill Moyers
May 28, 1999
Fooling with Words (Part Two)

COLEMAN BARKS: "Today like every other day we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument and jam with the whole Paul Winter Consort."

BILL MOYERS: You're one of the few poets I know who consistently uses music as co-conspirator, almost, in what you are doing.

COLEMAN BARKS: I am gonna be experimenting with the flute this afternoon and the cello tomorrow. And they allow the poems to go deeper, I think. And to touch part of your being that might not be open just to the spoken word. They allow a space around the poems, where things can be repeated- that when you're in a place where music is, you can say things over and over and over.

(Barks in the small tent)

COLEMAN BARKS: Saladin Rumi is a 13th century heart master who presided over a dervish learning community, exactly, in fact, as large as this one. And these poems which will- they are not new, of course, they're 700 years old. But they – as far as I know – have been brought into English now for the first time. This is Rumi's poem about being tired of poetry. Do you have any sympathy for that, at all? No? Is it – and it wasn't because he had heard poems nonstop for three days at a festival. He was tired of poetry. He was tired of love poems, because he wanted love. He was tired of God poems, because he wanted the presence. In this poem, he calls poems jars of spring water.

"Jars of spring water are not enough anymore. Take us down to the river. The face of peace, the sun itself, no more the slippery cloud-like moon. Give us one clear morning after another. And the One whose work remains unfinished, who is our work, as we diminish, idle though occupied, empty and open.

Jars of spring water are not enough anymore. Take us down to the river. The face of peace, the sun itself, no more the slippery cloud-like moon. Give us one clear morning after another. And the One whose work remains unfinished, who is our work, as we diminish, idle though occupied, empty and open.

(Barks in the Main Tent)

COLEMAN BARKS: I'm gonna read you some granddaughter poems now. It's shamelessly grand-fatherly. There she is. This is the beloved, as far as I know. This is it. They had one assignment to write – rewrite -- "Little Miss Muffet," and this is what she's put. It's just brilliant.

"Little Miss Muffet sat on the rug eating her chicken and licorice. Along came a ant and bit her."

That off-rhyme "licorice" and "bit her," it's just unbelievable. This one is called "Justice."

Getting undressed for her bath, lying on her back on the bed. Kicking and twisting her underwear off down to one foot aloft. Twirling the cotton pants around, she says, I've got underwear flags of justice.

BILL MOYERS: Which do you prefer, writing your own poetry about the people and the places and experiences you know best, or translating Rumi?

COLEMAN BARKS: I like both of them. Bbut, in one of them, I have to try to kind of disappear, in Rumi. In the other one, I have to kind of get in the way. You know, get my personality and my delights and my shame and get all that in the poem.

(Barks in the small tent)


"New Year's Day now, Fiesta Bowl on low; my son lying here on the couch on the dad pillow he made for me in the seventh grade. Now a sophomore at Georgia Southern, driving back later today, he sleeps with his white top hat over his face; I'm a dancing fool. Twenty years ago, half the form he sleeps within came out of nowhere with a million micro lemmings, who all died but one; piercer of membrane, specially picked. To start a brain making egg drop soup that stirred two, sun and moon centers for a new painted sky in the tiniest ballroom imaginable. Now he's rousing, six feet long, turning on his side, now he's gone.

BILL MOYERS: What do you say when people ask, "How do I become a poet?"

COLEMAN BARKS: Well, the way I did it, I just kept a little black notebook when I was about 12 and wrote down words that I loved the taste of, like, azalea. Or, for some reason, Halcyon, the bird that calms the waters with its wings. And odd words and also of images too. I remember there was an image of a boy stirring a spider web with a stick. I don't know why, things that just- I think a fascination or an obsession with images and with the taste of words, of language, that is to your mouth delicious.

(Pinsky in the small tent)

ROBERT PINSKY: This poem is 26 words long. It also has marks of punctuation. One of them is an equals sign, and I will pronounce it.


"A, B, C. "

Anybody can die evidently. Few go happily irradiating joy, knowledge, love. Most need oblivion, painkillers. Quickest respite. Sweet time unafflicted. Various world. X= your zenith.

ROBERT PINSKY: When my mind is sort of on idle, it often goes to the alphabet – giving itself little puzzles to do with the alphabet. And for me, the alphabet is an example of an arbitrary meaning that becomes satisfying. And I think, one day, I tried to make a sentence with no prepositions or articles – and thought, anybody can die, evidently. And once you've gone that far, you want to see -- anybody can die evidently, few go happily. It becomes irresistible to finish the alphabet, though, you know, as an experienced abacadarian, that around X it's going to get very tricky. That's part of the challenge.

BILL MOYERS: Is it true that, when you were young, you read the dictionary?

ROBERT PINSKY: Oh, I spent many happy hours with a dictionary. I just loved the fact that it had no story. So it didn't go anywhere. It takes all kinds, Bill.

(Holman reciting)


He said he said go on and say he said what did he say he said that's what he said that is what he said to say he said to say ohhh, open up the book with your fingers hook and scan it with your television eyes, television eyes, ahhhh stick it with your eyes.

(Duhamel in the small tent)


They decide to exchange heads. Barbie squeezes the small opening under her chin over Ken's bulging neck socket. His wide jawline jostles atop his girlfriend's body, loosely, like one of those nodding novelty dogs, destined to gaze from the back windows of cars.

(Menashe in the small tent)

"Salt and Pepper"

Here and there
White hairs appear
On my chest-Age
seasons me
Gives me zest--

I am a sage
In the making
Sprinkled, shaking.

JIM HABA: It's important to be willing to listen, because you don't know where poetry is going to come from or who it's going to come from. Emily Dickinson is a celebrated example of somebody who was not known in her time, as was Gerard Manley Hopkins, just to mention two people in the recent English language tradition. And there are thousands of others who have only been heard after they were no longer there to read themselves.

(Garrison in the small tent)

DEBORAH GARRISON This poem about office life is called, "Please Fire Me."

Here comes another alpha male,
and all the other alphas
are snorting and pawing,
kicking up puffs of acrid dust

while the silly little hens
clatter back and forth
on quivering claws and raise
a titter about the fuss.

Here comes another alpha male-a
man's man, a deal maker,
holds tanks of liquor,
charms them pantsless at lunch:

I've never been sicker.
Do I have to stare into his eyes
and sympathize? If I want my job
I do. Well I think I'm through

with the working world,

through with warming eggs
and being Zenlike in my detachment
from all things Ego.

I'd like to go
somewhere else entirely,
and I don't mean

(Garrison in small tent)

DEBORAH GARRISON: I cannot write unless I feel I'm writing in some language that has a relationship to my real language in real life. I'm just not the kind of poet who is going to sound on the page wildly different from the way I sound when I talk to you now. I need to feel that the language is live, in the sense of if I were talking on the phone to a friend, sharing my gossip. But on the other hand, if I just wrote that phone conversation down on a piece of paper, it sure doesn't sound like poetry. And how do I get from A to B? How do I take this sense of intimate language between friends actually really, which is so natural, and then construct it and make it not natural, but yet still give the impression of naturalness?

(Garrison in the Main Tent)


I'm never going to sleep
with Martin Amis
or anyone famous.
At twenty-one I scotched
my chance to be
one of the seductresses
of the century,
a vamp on the rise through the ranks
of literary Gods and military men,
who wouldn't stop at the President:
she'd take the Pentagon by storm
in halter dress and rhinestone extras,
letting fly the breasts that shatter
crystal – then dump him, too,
and break his power-broker heart.

Such women are a breed apart.
I'm the type
who likes to cook--no,
really likes it; does the bills;
buys towels and ties;
closes her eyes during kisses:
a true first wife.

The seductress when she's fifty
nobody misses, but a first wife
always knows she's first,
and the second (if he leaves me
when he's forty-five) won't forget me
either. The mention of my name,
the sight of our son – his and mine – will
make her tense; despite
perfected bod, highlighted hair
and hip career, she'll always fear
that way back there
he loved me more
and better simply
for being first.

But ho:
the fantasy's unfair to him,
who picked me young and never tried
another. The only woman he's ever left
was his mother.

(Clifton reciting inside the church)

LUCILLE CLIFTON: This poem, it's probably odd, but this poem was the most difficult for me to write. It's called "Oh Absalom, My Son, My Son."

Since I'm in church, I will do a confession—. It was difficult for me, because I have a son who is schizophrenic and who does not believe that he is, but he knows something's wrong. He thinks it could be me, which it could be, I suppose. But--he refuses to take medication.

"Oh Absalom, My Son, My Son"

even as i turned myself from you

i longed to hold you oh
my wild haired son

running in the wilderness away
from me from us
into a thicket you could not foresee

if you had stayed
i feared you would kill me
if you left i feared you would die

oh my son
my son
what does the Lord require

(Olds in the Main Tent)


"The Clasp"

She was four, he was one. It was raining. We had colds. We had been
in the apartment two weeks straight. I grabbed her to keep her from
shoving him over on his face again. And when I had her wrist in my
grasp, I compressed it fiercely, for a couple of seconds. To make an
impression on her. To hurt her. Our beloved first-born.

I even almost savored the stinging sensation of that squeezing: the
expression into her of my anger -- never, never again, the righteous
chant accompanying the clasp.

It happened very fast. Grab, crush, crush, crush, release. And at the
first extra force she swung her head as if checking who this was, and
looked at me, and saw me. Yes? This was her mom. Her mom was
doing this.

Her dark deeply open eyes took me in. She knew me; in the shock of
the moment she learned me. This was her mother, one of the two
whom she most loved, the two who loved her most. Near the source of
love was this.

MARK DOTY: That is one of poetry's great powers, the preservative, the ability to take a moment in time and make an attempt to hold it. Yeats said a great and terrifying thing, which is this: "All that is personal soon rots unless it is packed in ice or salt." And, of course, the ice or salt he referred to was the power of form, the preservative element of language, which can hold a moment from the past, a version of that moment, and allow us to return to it, allow us to give it to someone else, allow you as a reader to enter imaginatively into the community of his poem and be part of it yourself.

(Merwin in the Main Tent)



My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father's hand the last time

he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don't want you to feel that you
have to
just because I'm here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don't want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

(Kinnell in the Main Tent)


"After Making Love We Hear Footsteps"

For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run – as now, we lie together,
touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears – in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small
he has to screw them on ...

and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.

In the half darkness we look at each other
and smile
and touch arms across his little, startlingly muscled body --
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.

BILL MOYERS: What is it that makes the poet's temperament? Why does someone who is a poet, —say, have that sense of ah-ha, there's something there that'll follow, and the rest of us don't quite know what to do with that intuition.

PAUL MULDOON: Well, certainly, I agree with you, that it does begin with these little glimmers and the sense that there might be an interaction between two things – often two quite unlike things that come together in a metaphor or an image.

(Muldoon in the Main Tent)

PAUL MULDOON: This little poem called "Symposium." A symposium, as you know, was originally a philosophical discussion taking place over a glass of wine. Or, in the case of the speaker, or speakers of this poem, maybe two glasses. Or perhaps even three. This poem is made up of a series of proverbs, and part of one violently juxtaposed with part of another.

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it hold its nose to the grindstone and hunt with the hounds.
Every dog has a stitch in time. Two heads? You've been sold
one good turn. One good turn deserves a bird in the hand.

A bird in the hand is better than no bread.
To have your cake is to pay Paul.
Make hay while you can still hit the nail on the head.

For want of a nail the sky might fall.

People in glass houses can't see the wood
for the new broom. Rome wasn't built between two stools.
Empty vessels wait for no man.

A hair of the dog is a friend indeed.
There's no fool like the fool
who's shot his bolt. There's no smoke after the horse is gone."

Thank you.

PAUL MULDOON: Many people, I think, have an image of the poet as someone who's walking along -- probably tousle-haired like myself – and these things strike as if one is hit by lightning or something like that. I think there needs to be a little element of that, some aspect of what we conventionally think of as inspiration, something coming from beyond, an awareness of a phra- a striking phrase, an image that perhaps hasn't quite occurred to anyone before. And the willingness, the ability, to sit down and see what happens with that.

(Muldoon in the Main Tent)

PAUL MULDOON: It seemed, for a long time, every Sunday afternoon my parents had organized a little outing -- a little sightseeing trip for us. And generally, I'm afraid, there was not- we were not going to any poetry festivals up the road, I can tell you, unfortunately. We restricted ourselves to visits to graveyards.

They had a very wide circle of acquaintances, many of whom had now passed on. And they went to pay their respects to quite a number of graveyards. And we'd relied for a long time on one particular uncle for a ride on these trips. And then we got a car of our own, and the first trip we took in it was to visit a roundabout, or rotary -- a turning -- traffic circle. I don't want you to get any sense of, you know, the poverty of our lives -- we actually- this was the first traffic circle in Ireland, I'm almost certain -- certainly in Northern Ireland. We'd heard a lot about it. We'd heard reports of it. But nothing would do until we went along and experienced it.

And I remember quite vividly, driving up to it and cautiously, cautiously driving round it and then, when we'd got the hang of it, a little more confidently driving around it again, and then coming home. But anyway, that's part of the image here. The B-Specials were the auxiliary force of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and they were disbanded in the early 1970s for what was generally thought to have been bad behavior. The sash – the sash my father wore, an orange song, and this is an extremely long introduction to what is, you'd be glad to hear, a shortish poem.

"The Sightseers"

My father and mother, my brother and sister
and I, with Uncle Pat, our dour best-loved uncle,
had set out that Sunday afternoon in July
in his broken-down Ford

not to visit some graveyard -- one died of shingles,
one of fever, another's knees turned to jelly --
but the brand-new roundabout at Ballygawley,
the first in mid-Ulster.

Uncle Pat was telling us how the B-Specials
had stopped him one night somewhere near Ballygawley
and smashed his bicycle

and made him sing the sash and curse the Pope of Rome.
They held a pistol so hard against his forehead
there was still the mark of an O when he got home.

(Lamkin in the Main Tent)


yo body
what a body
yo beauty-mark back body
yo full ripe woman body
yo fine body

yo body walkin the avenue

incense sellers, kinte sellers
silver sellers work in the summer sun
yo body walking the avenue
workin workin workin workin workin

yo body walkin with yo fancy sisters body
and everybody watchin yo body sayin
o, what a body
yo "hiya doin, mr. callaway!" body
yo I -ain' t-gotta-take-nothin-from-nobody-no-more body

KURTIS LAMKIN: The Kora talks. It talks, for real. Different societies tune the instrument to the voice of the people. That's why a lot of – all of – the African instruments were banned from the United States because they could talk.

BILL MOYERS: During slavery.

KURTIS LAMKIN: Right, and the Africans were brought over from Africa. So everybody knew that the instrument could talk, but there is this charge, I think, that goes into it because it's used to talk about people's lives and also what they believe, you know. And there are times when I can feel the charge going back and forth between me and the kora. It's like a dance. The voice of the kora and my voice going back and forth and doing this dance.

(Lamkin in the Main Tent)


Crystal water, candle lit, silver ripples, black velvet, black velvet. Your
body languishing moonlit. Massage oil from the witch's garden.
Massage oil from the witch's garden. Your body languishing moonlit.
Your magic body. Your magic body dreaming. Your dreaming body
your near body burning. Your burning body humming, your body
rocking body, rocking body, rocking body, rocking body - your body,
your body, your body [REPEATS SEVERAL MORE BODY-Os AS
CHANT]. Your, your, your, your body. Oh, your luscious, your
lively, lovely, lively.

Your sweet mama, your sweet mama body -- your mama body blessed, your blessed.

BILL MOYERS: How about doing the poem from the Million Man March

KURTIS LAMKIN: So this--that's the kora talking, right. We do; and what I see, I see the milling, this is, this is the milling. They call it a march, right? But you didn't see people like stomping and stepping and things like that. It was almost like -- all of these people in all the different kinds of hats, they were just coming together, mingling, talking, sitting up on the steps and crying. I mean, grown men sitting up on the steps and just crying. "Why are you crying?" "I don't know why I'm crying. I'm just crying." "Okay. Can I help you? Can you do this with you?" You know. And then the arguments, the debates over what's going on, all that stuff.

(Lamkin in the Main Tent)


we do right
we do wrong
we do time overtime
we do what it takes to shake the snake
that coils around our humble lives
whatever we can do
we do

we do lunch
we do meetings
we do fundraisers we do marches
we send a million men
to carry peace to the heart of a cold cold nation
some say we don't count
we do
we always do

suppose there's a god

who thinks that we are god
who loves us so deeply she followed us here
we work so hard every trick looks like a miracle
and then we name the trickster god
if there is a god
who thinks that we are god
do we hear her prayer
do we hear her prayer
do we
do we

in the deep dark hour
when we are alone
what is that sound what is that prayer
what is this faith
we do
we do
we do

STANLEY KUNITZ: The great feature of the Festival is its generosity of spirit, its welcome to different factions in poetry, different schools of poetry – age, young and old. And that demonstration of the democratic spirit is indicative of one of the most important revolutions in the whole history of modern poetry in this country.

(Cervantes in the Main Tent)

LORNA DEE CERVANTES: Thank you very much. This first poem comes out of a series of poems I've been writing as exercises with my students, where you put a title in a hat and then we pull it out of the hat and everybody has seven minutes to write a poem without revision. So this is an unedited poem, and it's about a girl, a Chicana in the barrio in Denver, who wrote poetry at age 17, in the same way that I wrote poetry.

"Summer Ends Too Soon"

Summer ends too soon was the last she said, beautiful Maria, Ave
Maria. Maria, dodging father's fists and his, Maria praying under the
table. Maria crooning pain songs in the bathroom. Maria combing his
sludge out of her hair. Maria serving masters.

Seventeen-year-old Maria, Maria, your lady of the kept secret. Maria,
dancing to his temper. Maria, washing her panties in the toilet.

Two days after graduation, Maria swaying from the limb. Maria,
sweet, purple fruit of his sin. Ave Maria.

LORNA DEE CERVANTES: When you grow up as I did, you know, a chicaninda in a barrio in a Mexican neighborhood in California, welfare-class, you're not expected to speak. You're ignored. You're something in the periphery -- emptying garbage cans or washing plates. And you're not expected to speak, much less write.

BILL MOYERS: So where did the idea come from: "I can write"

LORNA DEE CERVANTES: Oh, I started writing when I was eight years old. My brother was a musician, and he was always singing songs and looking at songbooks, and I thought poetry – they didn't teach poetry in my schools, the barrio school, right? I thought poems were songs for people with bad voices. And my brother always assured me that's what I had. And so, I just always wrote poetry. I don't think there was a time in my life when poetry wasn't at the center.

(Cervantes in the Main Tent)


I haven't been much of anywhere. Books, my only voyage. Cross no
bodies of water, seen anything other than trees change, birds take
shape. Like the rare bee hummingbird that once hovered over the
promise of salsa in my garden. A fur-feathered vision from Cuba in
Boulder. A wet-back stowaway, refugee farther from home than me.

Now snow spatters its foreign starch across the lawn gone crisp with
freeze. I know. Nothing tropical survives long in this season.

I pull the last leeks from the frozen earth, smell their slender
tubercular lives, stand in the sleet whiteout of December. Roots draw
in, threads of relatives expand, while solitude, the core, that slickheaded
fist of self is cool as my dog's nose and pungent with

Now when the red-bellied woodpecker calls his response to a California
owl, now when the wound transformer in the womb slackens. And I
wait for potential. All the lives I have yet to name. All my life I have
willed into being. Alive and brittle with the icy past.

And it's enough now listening, counting the unknown arachnids and
ornegas who share my love of less sweeping. For this is what I wanted.
Come to. Left alone. With anything but the girlhood whores, the
touching, the hungry leaden melt down of the hours. Or the future,
around negation, black suction of the hearts, conception.

Save me from a stupid life, I prayed. Leave me anything but the stupid
life. And that's poetry.

(Montage of Festival. Lim in the Main Tent)

"Riding into California"

If you come to a land with no ancestors
to bless you, you have to be your own
ancestor. The veterans in the mobile home
park don't want to be there. It isn't easy.
Oil rigs litter the land like giant frozen birds.
Ghosts welcome us to a new life, and
an immigrant without home ghosts
cannot believe the land is real. So you're
grateful for familiarity, and Bruce Lee
becomes your hero. Coming into Fullerton,
everyone waiting at the station is white.
The good thing about being Chinese on Amtrack
is no one sits next to you. The bad thing is
you sit alone all the way to Irvine.

SHIRLEY LIM: Poetry is what has saved me through the years.


SHIRLEY LIM: I started writing when I was perhaps about nine. The idea that you can go into a space where there is language. And it's language which is yours, which is completely private and where you can do anything with it. You can curse at someone that you cannot curse otherwise. You can create a space of beauty, when all around you is poverty and deprivation. You can have an uplifting of the spirit, when all around you things are pulling you down. I think that act of writing that poem is the act that has centered me all my life.

(Lim in the Main Tent)

SHIRLEY LIM: I read in the New York Times that one of the consequences of the one-child policy in China was a drastic increase in female infanticide. For centuries, many human societies have preferred male children to girl children. And when you have a one-child policy, and you're a peasant family, and you want a boy, what do you do with this little girl? And what was reported was that a favorite method of getting rid of these little infant girls was to turn their faces onto a tray of soot. Because soot is easily available.

And I prefaced the pontoun with a quotation from the People's Daily of Beijing, March 3rd, 1983. At present, the phenomena of butchering, drowning and leaving to die female infants has been very serious. You know when the People's Daily of Beijing tells you that, it is very serious.

"Pontoun for Chinese Women"

They say a child with two mouths is no good.
In the slippery wet, a hollow space,
Smooth, gumming, echoing wide for food.
No wonder my man is not here at his place.

In the slippery wet, a hollow space,

A slit narrowly sheathed within its hood.
No wonder my man is not here at his place:
He is digging for the dragon jar of soot.

That slit narrowly sheathed within its hood!
His mother, squatting, coughs by the fire's blaze
While he digs for the dragon jar of soot.
We had saved ashes for a hundred days.

His mother, squatting, coughs by the fire's blaze.
The child kicks against me mewing like a flute.
We had saved ashes for a hundred days.
Knowing, if the time came, that we would.

The child kicks against me crying like a flute
Through its two weak mouths. His mother prays
Knowing when the time comes that we would,
For broken clay is never set in glaze.

Through her two weak mouths his mother prays.
She will not pluck the rooster nor serve its blood,
For broken clay is never set in glaze:
Women are made of river sand and wood.

She will not pluck the rooster nor serve its blood.
My husband frowns, pretending in his haste
Women are made of river sand and wood.
Milk soaks the bedding. I cannot bear the waste.

My husband frowns, pretending in his haste.
Oh clean the girl, dress her in ashy soot!
Milk soaks our bedding, I cannot bear the waste.
They say a child with two mouths is no good.

SHIRLEY LIM: If a poem does not move and does not give pleasure, then I don't think it really succeeds as art. So it must give pleasure. That's the first thing a poem must do. It must give you pleasure.

BILL MOYERS: But so many of your poems are about- and so many of the poems we've heard-


BILL MOYERS: Pain and grief, and-

SHIRLEY LIM: And isn't it important for us to get pleasure in some way even in the deepest pain and grief to survive? Isn't this how we get out of it, so that we don't sink and drown? You know, maybe pleasure is the oar that we need not to drown.

(Montage of festival. Barks in small tent)


"Don't worry about saving these songs, and if one of our instruments breaks, it doesn't matter. We have fallen into the place, where everything is music. We have fallen into the place, where everything is music. Poems reach up like spin drift on the edge of driftwood along the beach, wanting. They derive from a slow and powerful route that we can't see.

COLEMAN BARKS: Mystical poetry, the kind that Rumi writes, is trying to examine who we really are. You know? I mean, are we this person that's- was born in Chattanooga and grew up and got divorced and now has a grandchild and will eventually die or be in the graveyard? Or are we something else? You know? Rumi says he is talking to his friend Shams, he says, "When I see you, it is not so much your physical shape, but the company of two riders, your purified devotion, and your love for the one who teaches you." That's what he sees. He sees a couple of horseback riders rather than this old man; he sees his magnificent friendship of two riders. Then he sees the sun and moon on foot, behind those. The identity is larger than the universe.

BILL MOYERS: I used to want to know what a poem like that means, but, I have to say, as I've gotten older I don't care so much about the meaning of the poem anymore.

COLEMAN BARKS: Right or about rephrasing it in other words. But do you feel it?


COLEMAN BARKS: Yes. That's all he's after. He's trying to get you to— -- us to – feel the vastness of our true identities.

(Barks in the Main Tent)


"I see my beauty in you"

I see my beauty in you. I become a mirror that cannot close its eyes to
your longing. My eyes wet with yours in the early light. My mind
every moment giving birth, always conceiving, always in the ninth
month, always the common point. How do I stand this? We
become these words we say. A wailing sound moving out into the air.
These thousands of worlds that arise from nowhere. How does your
face contain them?

I'm a fly in your honey. Then closer. The moth caught in flames'
allure. Then empty sky, stretched out in homage.

I see my beauty in you.

I see my beauty in you.

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