Childhood Friends (Part 1)

      You may have heard, it’s the custom for kings

to let warriors stand on the left, the side of the heart,

and courage. On the right they put the chancellor,

and various secretaries, because the practice

of bookkeeping and writing usually belongs to the right hand. In the center,

      the sufis,

because in meditation they become mirrors.

The king can look at their faces

and see his original state.

      Give the beautiful ones mirrors,

and let them fall in love with themselves.


      That way they polish their souls

and kindle remembering in others.


      A close childhood friend once came to visit Joseph.

They had shared the secrets that children tell each other

when they’re lying on their pillows at night

before they go to sleep. These two

were completely truthful

with each other.


      The friend asked, “What was it like when you realized

your brothers were jealous and what they planned to do?”


      “I felt like a lion with a chain around its neck.

Not degraded by the chain, and not complaining,

but just waiting for my power to be recognized.”


      “How about down in the well, and in prison?

How was it then?”

      “Like the moon when it’s getting

smaller, yet knowing the fullness to come.

Like a seed pearl ground in the mortar for medicine,

that knows it will now be the light in a human eye.


      Like a wheat grain that breaks open in the ground,

then grows, then gets harvested, then crushed in the mill

for flour, then baked, then crushed again between teeth

to become a person’s deepest understanding.

Lost in love, like the songs the planters sing

the night after they sow the seed.”

      There is no end

to any of this.

(to be continued)

– Rumi in Coleman Barks    The Essential Rumi – reissue: New Expanded Edition