The Reed Flute's Song

by Jalalu'ddin Rumi, excerpted from Coleman Barks' translation in The Essential Rumi




Listen to the story told by the reed,

of being separated.



"Since I was cut from the reedbed,

I have made this crying sound.



Anyone apart from someone he loves

understands what I say.



Anyone pulled from a source

longs to go back.



At any gathering I am there,

mingling in the laughing and grieving,



a friend to each, but few

will hear the secrets hidden



within the notes. No ears for that.

Body flowing out of spirit,



spirit up from body: no concealing

that mixing. But it's not given us



to see the soul. The reed flute

is fire, not wind. Be that empty."



Hear the love fire tangled

in the reed notes, as bewilderment



melts into wine. The reed is a friend

to all who want the fabric torn



and drawn away. The reed is hurt

and salve combining. Intimacy



and longing for intimacy, one

song. A disastrous surrender



and a fine love, together. The one

who secretly hears this is senseless.



A tongue has one customer, the ear.

A sugarcane flute has such effect



because it was able to make sugar

in the reedbed. The sound it makes



is for everyone. Days full of wanting,

let them go by without worrying



that they do. Stay where you are

inside such a pure, hollow note.



Every thirst gets satisfied except

that of these fish, the mystics,



who swim a vast ocean of grace

still somehow longing for it!



No one lives in that without

being nourished every day.



But if someone doesn't want to hear

the song of the reed flute,



it's best to cut conversation

short, say good-bye, and leave.

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Voices on the Radio

is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Colgate University, co-Chair of the Study of Islam Section at the American Academy of Religion, and editor of Progressive Muslims.

Seemi Bushra Ghazi

is a lecturer at the University of British Columbia, musician, and non-clerical reciter of the Qur'an.

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