Poet Coleman Barks has dedicated much of his life’s work to introducing the 13th-century Islamic mystic Jelaluddin Rumi to contemporary audiences. In this episode of THE LANGUAGE OF LIFE, Barks brings Rumi to life in poems that are ecstatic, wise and hilarious.
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BILL MOYERS: They are here to celebrate life. They are have come to celebrate language. Poetry readings are flourishing across America in many different places in wondrous variety. Nowhere is the renaissance of poetry more vivid than in the historic village of Waterloo, New Jersey. Every two years, thousands of people gather to hear some of the world’s best poets at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.
The poet Coleman Barks is a son of the American South who teaches English at the University of Georgia. For many years he has devoted himself to the poetry of the 13th century Persian mystic, Rumi.
COLEMAN BARKS: There are love dogs no one knows the names of. Give your life to be one of them.
BILL MOYERS In this hour, Coleman Barks with the Fall-Winter Consort and the Poetry of Rumi.
MAN: Coleman Barks comes to us from Chattanooga, Tennessee. He’s taller. And Athens, Georgia and, by some mysterious travel, Turkey. Coleman Barks.
COLEMAN BARKS: All right! All the poems tonight are the words of 13th century mystic Jalaladin Rumi. I think that’s all I’ll say.
COLEMAN BARKS: “Listen to presences inside poems. Let them take you where they will. Follow those private hints and never leave the premises. I am so small. How can this great love be inside me? Look at your eyes. They’re small, but they see enormous things. Walk to the well, turn as the Earth and the Moon turn, circling what they love. Whatever circles comes from the center.
COLEMAN BARKS: Jalaladin Rumi, he was an Islamic mystic, 13th century poet who — who wrote in Persian and all of his poems were spoken or sprang spontaneously from, ah, these ecstatic states. And the poetry has to do with the opening of the heart and, ahm, exploring the mystery of what they call union.
BILL MOYERS A 13th century mystic?
COLEMAN BARKS: The mystical believes or knows that we’re in the midst of some enormous creative energy that makes 300 billion galaxies and these flowers and the people in a restaurant, the unbelievable variety and energy going on all the time. We’re in the midst of it.
BILL MOYERS Do you find it hard to talk about mysticism?
COLEMAN BARKS: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know whether I’m supposed to talk about it really, and particularly, ah, on television.
BILL MOYERS Mysticism wasn’t meant to be public, was it?
COLEMAN BARKS: No. I’m — I’m — it comes from the word the “mystase”, the members of the mystery cults in, ah, ancient Greece. And the mystase has to do with this, the mouth and with silence. Shh. The mystase are the ones who did not speak their secrets.
BILL MOYERS And they’re hard to tell because there are secrets and …
COLEMAN BARKS: Yes, they are, but I think it’s time to tell ’em.
“All day I think about it. Then at night I say it. Where did I come from and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere. I’m sure of that. And I intend to end up there. This drunkenness began in some other tavern. When I get back around to that place, I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile, I’m like a bird from another continent sitting in this aviary. The day is coming when I fly off. But who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?”
“There was once a frog from the ocean that came to visit a frog who lived in a little ditch three feet by four feet by two feet. And the little frog jumped down in the ditch and would go up to the other side and — and say, ‘How did you like that?’ to the ocean frog. You know, explored his little hole in the ground and he says, ‘You know? What is it like where you live?’ And the frog that lived in the ocean said, ‘I couldn’t tell you. It’s — it’s like, ah, you have to go there someday. I’ll take you there someday,’ he said. That is like trying to describe mystical reality to someone who lives in the confines of the mind. That’s like the difference between that ditch and a ocean. And maybe through mystical poetry you get a little taste or a little fragrance of salt breeze coming.”
“What is the soul? I can not stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison for drunks. I didn’t come here of my own accord and I can’t leave that way. Whoever brought me here will have to take me home. This poetry, I never know what I’m going to say. I don’t plan it. When I’m outside the saying of it, I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.”
COLEMAN BARKS: Some people have this abundance of creativity flowing through them. You know, it’s just a — a gift.
BILL MOYERS How many poems did Rumi write?
COLEMAN BARKS: Thousands, just thousands. He must have written 12 or 14 poems a day for something like the last 12 years of his life.
BILL MOYERS I heard you say to someone here that trying to imagine the Islamic world without Rumi is like trying to imagine the Western world without Shakespeare.
COLEMAN BARKS: He is the model of imaginative freedom, you know, like Shakespeare is for us? Whenever I heard Shakespeare, it just, oh, man, somethin’ just — you know, “Now I can do that. That’s my language,” you know? And they hear that through Rumi.
BILL MOYERS But we’ve never heard of him. Not many people have.
COLEMAN BARKS: Yeah. I hadn’t — I hadn’t heard of him ’til 1976 and I had had the one of the best literary educations you can get in this country at the University of California at Berkeley and at, ah, Chapel Hill, you know, and I had never heard of Rumi until Robert Bly handed me this book and he said, ah, “These poems need to be released from their cages,” you know.
BILL MOYERS And you’ve been translating them ever since?
COLEMAN BARKS: Yeah. Seventeen years now I’ve been working pretty much every morning on trying to make, ah, what I’m given, which is literally scholarly transcriptions of poems, into what I hope are valid poems in American English.
BILL MOYERS Something about him so appealed to you at in effect you stopped writing poetry more or less to just translate his works.
COLEMAN BARKS: Uh-huh. I still write my own personal poetry, but, ah, I love this — I feel a — a great gift to be able to do this work, whatever it is.
COLEMAN BARKS: “You’ve seen a herd of goats going down to the river. The lame and dreamy goat brings up the rear. There are worried faces about that one, but now they’re laughing because, look, as they return, that one is the leader. There are many different ways of knowing. The lame goat’s kind has branches that trace back to the roots of the presence. Learn from the lame goat and lead the herd home.”
BILL MOYERS: You said last night in the performance you urged the audience to look for the presence within the poem.
COLEMAN BARKS: Right.
BILL MOYERS What is the presence?
COLEMAN BARKS: Yeah. I — I don’t — I don’t have any way to — to say what this is. You know, it’s what we feel — let’s see. When we feel like we’re — well, Wordsworth said it, you know. He said there’s a presence that — he was walking to Tintern Abbey, you know, and he felt this presence that rolls through all things. Sometimes we feel it out in nature. Sometimes we feel it in laughter.
BILL MOYERS Let’s — let’s see what it is in another one of his poems. Here’s one.
COLEMAN BARKS: “To praise is to praise how one surrenders to the emptiness. To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes. Praise the ocean. What we say, a little ship. So the sea journey goes on and who knows where? Just to be held by the ocean is the best luck we could have.” It’s what William James called the “oceanic feeling.” That’s the presence. It’s a total waking up. “Why should we grieve that we’ve been sleeping? It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been unconscious. We’re groggy, but let the guilt go. Feel the motions of tenderness around you, the buoyancy. Feel the motions of tenderness around you, the buoyancy.”
BILL MOYERS But how does a Westerner, scientifically inclined, surrounded by technology — how does a Westerner approach poetry like this?
COLEMAN BARKS: I think we all have a core that’s ecstatic, that knows that — that looks up in wonder. We all know that there are marvelous moments of eternity that just happen, you know? We know them. We can’t say they don’t happen, can we? I can’t.
BILL MOYERS You use the word “ecstatic”.
COLEMAN BARKS: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS Ecstasy’s very central to Rumi’s poems.
COLEMAN BARKS: Mm-hm. Mm-hm.
BILL MOYERS What is ecstasy?
COLEMAN BARKS: When I was a child in Chattanooga, sometimes in April, I remember it was like seven or eight years old and when that spring gold light would come, ah, at the end of the day that’s just there for about ten minutes? You know what I’m talking about …
BILL MOYERS Mm-hm.
COLEMAN BARKS: … in the South? That gold time?
BILL MOYERS Mm-hm.
COLEMAN BARKS: I could hardly stand it as a child. I would — I would lay down and hug myself. And I’d be there and my mother and father’d be playing bridge with the Penningtons, you know, and, ah — and I’d look — I’d say, “Mama, I’ve got that full feeling again,” just laying on the floor holding myself, you know? And she’d say, “I know you do, honey.” So, you know, I grew up in an ecstatic — just living in this beautiful, gorgeous place of the Tennessee Valley, and around all of these ecstatic teachers. I had a Latin teacher that was just unbelievable. I mean he was — he would stand up on the desk and just scream, you know, “Young men! I love words.”
WOMAN: This book, ah, it’s a bunch of words that no one really uses. They’re just weird words. Robert Bly, I went to go see him and some guy just came and handed them out. What does it say?
TWO FEMALE VOICES: Coleman Barks.
COLEMAN BARKS: This is a book of lost words, totally useless, tasty language. You want one? All right. All right.
WOMAN: Thank you very much.
WOMAN: Can I have one?
COLEMAN BARKS: Free book.
WOMAN: Thank you.
COLEMAN BARKS: “Dricks, the rotten part of wood. He easily pried loose the dricks with one finger and looked back at me.” So it’s totally useless language!
WOMAN: Where do you find these words?
COLEMAN BARKS: Well, I found some of ’em in the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY, 13-volume dictionary, and some in an 18th century, DICTIONARY OF STREET LANGUAGE, and some of them I just made up.
WOMAN: What are some of your favorite words in there?
COLEMAN BARKS: “Besonian, a raw recruit, someone in need of everything, instructions, equipment and rations, a word Shakespeare made up from the Italian ‘bisonio’, to want. Seventh graders, you loud, skinny bisonians, I see your glory.”
COLEMAN BARKS: Rumi’s teacher was the mysterious Shams of Tabrese and found buried in one of Shams’ discourses a poem that seems to have been written by Shams himself. So this is its debut as far as I know in — in English. “I … you … he … she … we … I … you … he … she … we. In the garden of mystic lovers, I … you … he … she … we. In the garden of mystic lovers, these … are not true distinctions. I … you … he … she … we.” All right.
BILL MOYERS Last night you read “I … You … He … She … We” …
COLEMAN BARKS: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS … in the Garden of?
COLEMAN BARKS: Mystic Lovers, these are not true distinctions.”
BILL MOYERS So what’s …
COLEMAN BARKS: It’s so radical, isn’t it?
BILL MOYERS It is.
COLEMAN BARKS: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS What do you make of it?
COLEMAN BARKS: There’s a certain state of awareness where individuality is not the truth. There’s some truth that we are a community. The fact that we’re multiple is not so true as the fact that we are one. He says — amazing thing for someone to say in the 13th century. The Crusades were going through. The wars were happening, all this sectarian conflict. And he said, “If you think there’s an important difference” — this is so radical — “between a muslim and a Jew and a Christian and a Buddhist and a Hindu and a shamanist — if you think there’s an important difference between those categories, then you’re making a division between your heart, what you love with, and your ability to act in the world.” Just amazing.
BILL MOYERS Because the heart?
COLEMAN BARKS: Is the same.
BILL MOYERS Leaps beyond those categories.
COLEMAN BARKS: Right. There’s some impulse to worship and to love that is common in everyone.
BILL MOYERS: As you talk, this is the — this is the one I think of.
COLEMAN BARKS: “We can’t help being thirsty, moving toward the voice of water. Milk drinkers draw close to the mother. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Shamans, everyone hears the intelligent sound and moves with thirst to meet it. Clean your ears. Don’t listen for something you’ve heard before. Invisible camel bells, slight footfalls in sand almost in sight. The first word they call out will be the last word of our last poem.”
“The way of love is not a subtle argument. The door there is devastation. Birds make great sky circles of their freedom. How do they learn it? They fall and falling, they’re given wings. Birds make great sky circles of their freedom. How do they learn that? They fall and falling, they’re given wings.”
COLEMAN BARKS: Not all of his poems are reminders of an ecstatic state. There’s a lot of different sides to his genius. This is more maybe on the practical side, about deliberation.
COLEMAN BARKS: “A friend remarks to the prophet, ‘Why is it I get screwed in business deals? It’s like a spell. I become distracted by business talk and make wrong decisions.’ Mohammed replies, ‘Stipulate with every transaction that you need three days to make sure. Deliberation is one of the qualities of God. Throw a dog a bit of something. He sniffs to see if wants it. He’s deliberate. Be that careful. Sniff with your wisdom nose, get clear, then decide.’ The universe came gradually into being over six days. God could have just commanded ‘Be.’ God could have thrown full-blown prophets flying into the cosmos in a second. Our bodily personalities seem identical, but the globe of soul fruit we make each is elaborately unique.”
BILL MOYERS Read that last line again?
COLEMAN BARKS: “But the globe of soul fruit we make each is elaborately unique.”
BILL MOYERS What does that say to you?
COLEMAN BARKS: God — we can say that word, Southern boys. Ah, the mystery …
BILL MOYERS: Even here in New Jersey.
COLEMAN BARKS: Yes! The mystery, say, love’s variety, you know? All so– everybody has their own soul fruit to make that is elaborately unique. That’s just so love– that’s an ecstatic idea.
COLEMAN BARKS: “You know about Nasreddine? Nasreddine and I were out walking recently and, ah, it started raining and I noticed that Nasradine had an umbrella. I said, “Why don’t you put your umbrella up, Nas–Nasreddine?” He said, “Oh, it’s broken. It’s no good.” I said, “Well, why did you bring it?” He said, “I didn’t think it would rain.”Nasreddine has a magic wand and he waves it and conjures up a patent office with a man behind the desk and he says, “I would like to get a patent on this magic wand.” The man behind the desk says, ‘We don’t give patents on this New Age paraphernalia.’ So Nasradine waves the wand and the man disappears.”
COLEMAN BARKS: Nasreddine? He is a Middle Eastern trickster figure about which there are still jokes being made up. It’s a strategy for making you aware or changing your consciousness, to keep it — keep it moving.
BILL MOYERS: Give me an example.
COLEMAN BARKS: “Nasreddine is on a train and the conductor comes to pick up the tickets and Nasreddine can’t find his ticket. He looks in his pants pocket. He looks in his — his briefcase. He looks in his suitcase. He start looking in other people’s suitcases and he can’t find his ticket. And the conductor finally said, ‘Nasreddine, I know you’ve got your ticket. Most people keep it in their top left-hand coat pocket. Why don’t you look there?’ And Nasradine said, ‘Don’t even mention that.’ He says, ‘If it’s not there, I have no hope.'”
BILL MOYERS: Rumi has a great sense of humor.
COLEMAN BARKS: He has a theology of laughter actually. He says that — that it may be that God is the impulse to laugh. You know, and we are the different kinds of laughter.
COLEMAN BARKS: There is this uproarious undercurrent in everything he says.
COLEMAN BARKS: … initiation into poetry.
MALE STUDENT: Oh, God.
FEMALE STUDENT: You must be …
MALE STUDENT: Oh, my God.
FEMALE STUDENT: Oh, no!
MALE STUDENT: Thank you.
FEMALE STUDENT: Oh, no!
COLEMAN BARKS: Let’s just try writing three lines of poetry will syllables that don’t mean anything, that are just tasty to the tongue.
MALE STUDENT: Real words?
COLEMAN BARKS: No, not real words. They can not be real words. It has to be baby talks, things that don’t mean anything. (Imitates) We’re trying to surprise ourselves into a metaphor, perhaps a metaphor for your own inner life. Okay. Would you read it, please?
FEMALE STUDENT: (Reads phrase of nonsensical syllables.)
MAN STUDENT: (Reads phrase of nonsensical syllables.)
FEMALE STUDENT: (Reads phrase of nonsensical syllables.)
COLEMAN BARKS: Hum, very strange. I don’t know whether it’s a valuable exercise or not, making no sense or making the edge of sense, you know. Ah, poetry is close, I think, to madness.
COLEMAN BARKS: “I have lived on the lip of insanity. It’s true. I have lived on the lip of insanity wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I’ve been knocking from the inside.”
COLEMAN BARKS: “Oh, I would love to kiss you. The price of kissing is your life. Now my loving is running toward my life shouting, ‘What a bargain. Let’s buy it.’ I would love to kiss you. The price of kissing is your life. And now my loving is running toward my life shouting, ‘What a bargain. Let’s buy it.”
COLEMAN BARKS: “You think I know what I’m doing? That for one breath or half-breath I belong to myself? As much as a pen knows what it’s writing or the ball can guess where it’s going next.”
COLEMAN BARKS: That’s so precise. That’s exactly the way I feel.
BILL MOYERS: And sometimes I don’t know where Rumi stops and Barks begins. I mean that’s an interesting alchemy going on there when you read these poems.
COLEMAN BARKS: Huh. You see, this is the I don’t know whether I’m supposed to talk about this. But, well, I’ll tell you one sort of experience that I’ve had in my life that is amazing to me. And I don’t know how to explain it other than that there’s some kind of invisible reality that is joking around with me, you know? Ah, when I was six years old I was a — a kind of geography freak. I memorized all the capitals of all the countries in the Rand McNally 1943 Atlas, you know? Ask me some capital of some country?
BILL MOYERS: I’ll ask you the capital of Tanganyika.
COLEMAN BARKS: Dar Es Salaam, which doesn’t exist anymore!
BILL MOYERS It’s Tanzania!
COLEMAN BARKS: So my father was a headmaster of a boys’ school and — and we would eat all our meals over there, 400 people. And they knew that I was this weird child that knew all the capitals. And so they all would yell countries at me across the — the quadrangle. You know, “Uruguay.” And this little kid would say, “Montevideo.” Or “Bulgaria.” He would say, “Sofia.” And one day this Latin teacher went down in his classroom and had a country that didn’t seem to have a capital.
COLEMAN BARKS: And he said, “This is what this child needs.” And so he brought it up and yelled it out across the quadrangle and he said — he said the look on my face when I tried to find the capital of it in my computer and I couldn’t, named me. And so he — the word he yelled was “Capadocia, Capadocia.” And from then on, I was called Capadocia. Or Cap. And a few years ago I almost fell down when I realized that the capital of Capadocia was Iconium, or Conia, where Rumi lived.
COLEMAN BARKS: “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 the trap others and fall in. I should be suspicious of what I want.”
BILL MOYERS: When you went to Conia, where Rumi taught and where he’s buried, what happened?
COLEMAN BARKS: Oh, lovely things happened then. I — I went there in 1984 and was just there by myself doing Ramadan. And I decided I would just do the Islamic thing, you know, and fast and not eat from sunrise to sundown every day. And so I was wandering in and out of Rumi’s tomb and all these sacred places and at night I would go to a restaurant and break the fast and everybody sits there, waits for the call from the tower in the mosque and — and then dips their spoon down into the lentil soup. It’s lovely, you know. And always with dinner I would order bottled water, but I would always get a crowd when I would order it. The people would come out from the kitchen and hear me order it and they’d want to hear me order it again and again. And it turns out, I found out, that what I was ordering with my meal was the secret of the universe. I was saying, “siri” and I should have been saying “su,” you know, for bottled water.
BILL MOYERS: So they’d say, “What do you want,” and you’d say the secret of the universe?
COLEMAN BARKS: Right. So there’s this thing that’s playing tricks on me.
COLEMAN BARKS: And so, you know, maybe the secret of the universe is bottled water for me.
BILL MOYERS Well, I — you see, you are supposed to talk about these things. I mean what — mysticism is not some fog on the mountain.
COLEMAN BARKS: No. I know. I know that. I’m — I’m just — well, I’m just — I haven’t seen anything like this on television. So I’m — I’m going to wait ’til I see it … unless this is edited out, you know.
BILL MOYERS: No. No. We want it. Why would we edit the mysticism out? It is so rare. Why would we lose it?
COLEMAN BARKS: Well, this is not it. I mean, you know, this is — this is talkin’ about it.
COLEMAN BARKS: Robert Bly, he also worked some to bring Rumi over into English. “If you want what visible reality can give, you’re an employee. If you want the unseen world, you’re not living your truth. Both wishes are foolish. But you’ll be forgiven for forgetting that what you really want is love’s confusing joy.
ROBERT BLY: My ego is stubborn, often drunk, impolite. My loving finely sensitive, impatient, confused. Please take messages from one to the other.
COLEMAN BARKS: “I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, ‘It tastes sweet, does it not?’ ‘You’ve caught me,” Grief answered, “and you’ve ruined my business. How can I sell sorrow when you know it’s a blessing?”
COLEMAN BARKS: In Rumi, I think joy is primary. to some people, the world seems like a grief. The world is basically sorrowing and grieving. Rumi would say, I think, that the world is primarily graceful, that is, it’s a gift.
COLEMAN BARKS: “Come to the orchard in spring. There’s light and wine and sweethearts in the pomegranate flowers. If you do not come, these do not matter. If you do come, these do not matter. Come to the orchard in spring. There’s light and wine and sweethearts in the pomegranate flowers. If you do not come, these do not matter. If you do come, these do not matter.”
BILL MOYERS What’s happened to you as you’ve worked with these poems? I mean you clearly have embraced them.
COLEMAN BARKS: Huh.
BILL MOYERS You’ve incorporated them.
COLEMAN BARKS: You’re saying, what does it mean to have your heart opened by — to break out of the sort of nice boy doing — you know, getting a masters, a doctorate and going through and teaching in college and then having this come down and grab you and work on that? Feels good, you know? I mean it feel like an egg cracking open, that kind of thing, and then something else comes out of it.
COLEMAN BARKS: “If anyone asked 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 night sky, climb up on the roof and dance and say, ‘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 someone asks what it means to die for love, point here. If someone asks how tall I am, frown and measure with your fingers the space between the creases on your forehead, this tall. The soul sometimes leaves the body and then returns. When someone doesn’t believe that, walk back into my house like this. When lovers moan, they’re telling our story like this. I’m a sky where spirits live. Stare into this deepening blue while the breeze says a secret like this. When someone asks what there is to do, light the candle in his hand like this. How did Joseph’s scent come to Jacob? Who? How did Jacob’s sight return? Who? The little wind cleans the eyes like this. When Shams come back from Tabrese, he’ll put just his head around the edge of the door to surprise us like this.”
COLEMAN BARKS: Love stories. Remember when you loved love stories? I mean they were just so gorgeous. You’d go to the movies and that started a search going that took the form of a woman and you met her, or a teacher and you met him/her.
BILL MOYERS They were there all along.
COLEMAN BARKS: Yeah, and they weren’t “it”. The love story was just a way of showing you this longing.
BILL MOYERS What is this longing?
COLEMAN BARKS: Yeah. I don’t know what you can say, whether you can say it. I mean it’s like asking, what is love, you know? What is ache within our ache, you know? What do we really want? We love a river or a grandchild. You know, what — what are — what is the — the something that doesn’t ever get solved in being human. I feel that with my sons. You know, I can never say how much I love them, you know? There’s some — some longing that just never gets satisfied or expressed or you never paint the picture or write the poem, you know, that — that you wanted to write.
COLEMAN BARKS: “One night a man was calling, ‘Allah, Allah.’ His lips grew sweet with the praising until a cynic said, ‘So? I’ve heard you crying out, but have you ever gotten any response?’ The man had no answer to that. He fell into a confused sleep where he saw Hitter, the guide of souls, in a thick green foliage. ‘Why did you stop praising?’ ‘Because I never heard anything back.’ ‘This longing you express is the return message. The grief you cry out from draws you toward union. Your pure sadness that wants help is the secret cup. Listen to the moan of a dog for its master. That whining is the connection. There are love dogs no one knows the names of. Give your life to be one of them.”
COLEMAN BARKS: He said the longing you express is what you’re longing for. That’s unfair, isn’t it?
BILL MOYERS: (Chuckles.)
COLEMAN BARKS: It’s not fair. It’s not somebody. The longing is not for a human form.
BILL MOYERS: What is it?
COLEMAN BARKS: I can’t — it’s a — it’s just the longing is for itself. Is that what he said? See, I’m just trying to understand these, yeah. I — I don’t talk well about these things except through just the poems. You know, that’s the only way I — that I — the minute I start trying to talk about them it’s like my mouth gets full of dust.
BILL MOYERS: Then let’s finish with this final Rumi.
COLEMAN BARKS: “The morning wind spreads its fresh smell. We must get up and take that in, that wind that lets us live, breathe before it’s gone.”
BILL MOYERS: Breathe before it’s gone?
COLEMAN BARKS: Yeah. He thought there were secrets to be known at dawn, the secrets that we’ve been trying to tell here in broad daylight.
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. Let the beauty we love be what we do.”
COLEMAN BARKS: The mind can not understand Rumi’s poetry. Neither can desire. Mind and desire are not enough. There’s something else, some other way of knowing, some deeper part of our being that knows we’re not in grief, that knows we’re in eternity, you know, that sings out of that. That’s the mystery, I think, that can not be said.
COLEMAN BARKS: “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
This transcript was entered on June 20, 2015.