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A conversation

February 2, 2005

A conversation between Jelalladin Rumi and Pablo Neruda On the Centenary of Pablo's Birth

Tell me Rumi, what is all the business about longing?
The half-open rose wilting in the early frost,
Tired men whose souls leak from the bottoms of their boots?
I know why they drink wine to escape their sorrow.
But why are we trapped inside this compass,
Whose arms swing eternally to the south?

Ah, Pablo, you're a young man, and still you are old.
Today you might have given us your wisdom and recited
100 odes about socks, underwear, and the blue veins
that travel the faces of old men and women.
But today, it's your birthday, so I'll give you a break.
Instead, I'll write you a quatrain about the sea.

And Rumi, what do you know of the sea?
You're wandering life led you across plateaus
And deserts, but your eyes have not seen
The winds that carve islands and peninsulas.
You'd like to be one of those new-age sages
Who peddles verse and self-help on tv,
But you're too old and beyond plastic surgery.

Oh, Neruda, you've become a little defensive
In your old age, and perhaps you do not know
The longer you are dead, the more people listen
To your verses, and try to bring you back.
Try to make you the subject of another poem
About things that are slow and delicate and lost.

-- July 12, 2004

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Book of the day

Borrowed Ware
Medieval Persian Epigrams
Translated by Dick Davis

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