Poets & Writers

A Poet a Day: Three Love Poems by Rumi

Read by poet and translator Coleman Barks

A Poet a Day: Three Love Poems by Rumi

During these trying days of social distancing, self-isolating and quarantines, days rife with fear and anxiety, my colleagues and I thought you might like some company. So each day we will be introducing you to poets we have met over the years. The only contagion they will expose you to is a measure of joy, reflection and meditation brought on by “the best words in the best order.”
— Bill Moyers

Coleman Barks is a poet in his own right, but perhaps he is best known for his work bringing the poetry of Rumi to the attention of the West with several books featuring his interpretation of this 13th century Persian mystic for a modern world. Here he is reading three love poems excerpted from Bill Moyers’ 1999 interview with Barks. (Watch the full interview in our archive.)

“Time’s Knife”

Time’s knife slides from the sheath, as a fish from where it swims.
Being closer and closer is the desire of the body.
Don’t wish for union.
There’s a closeness beyond that.
Fall in love in such a way that it frees you from any connecting.
Fall in love in such a way that it frees you from any connecting.

Love is the soul’s light, the taste of morning.
No me, no we, no claim of being.
These words are the smoke the fire gives off as it absolves its defects.
As eyes in silence, tears face.
Love cannot be said.”

“The Way of Love”

“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 that?
They fall, and falling, they’re given wings.

You so distracted me, your absence fans my love.
Don’t ask how, then you come near;
do not, I say, and do not you answer,
don’t ask why this delights me.
Stars burn clear all night till dawn;
do that yourself,
and the spring will rise in the dark with water;
your deepest thirst is for.

You’re the spring,
we’re grasses trailing in it,
you’re the king coming by,
we’re beggars along the road,
you’re the voice,
we’re echoes of.
You’re calling for us now,
how could we not return?

“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 come-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 rise from nowhere,
how does your face contain them?
I’m a fly in your honey,
then closer, a moth caught in flame’s allure,
then empty sky stretched out in homage.


Born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Coleman Barks taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Georgia for 30 years. A prolific translator of the works of 13th century mystic poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, Barks has been a student of Sufism since the late 1970s.

Watch Bill Moyers entire interview with Coleman Barks.