Read an Excerpt
Love Is a Stranger
Heart came on solid footing with breath refined
to warn the best of communities.
Heart placed your head
like a pen on the page of love.
We are joyous pennants in your just wind.
Master, to where do you dance?
Toward the land of liberation,
toward the plain of nonexistence.
Master, tell us which nonexistence you mean.
The ear of eternity knows the letter of eternity.
Love is a stranger with a strange language,
like an Arab in Persia. I have brought a story;
it is strange, like the one who tells it.
Listen to your servant.
Joseph’s face enlightened the well in which he hung.
His imprisonment became a palace
with orchards and meadows, a paradise,
a royal hall, and a chamber of sanctity.
Just as you toss a stone into the water,
the water at that very moment parts to receive it.
Just as a cloudy night is dispelled by a clear dawn,
from his humiliation and loss he views high heaven.
Reason, do not envy my mouth.
God witnesses the blessings.
Though the tree drinks from hidden roots,
we see the display of its branches.
Whatever the earth took from heaven,
it yields up honestly in spring.
Whether you have stolen a bead or a jewel,
whether you have raised a flag or a pen,
the night is gone and day has arrived,
and the sleeper shall see what he has
It suits the generous man to give money,
but truly the generosity of the lover
is to surrender his soul.
If you give bread for God’s sake,
you will be given bread in return;
if you give your life for God’s sake,
you will be given Life in return.
Mathnawi I, 2235–36
Iblis asked, “Can you tell a lie from the truth,
you who are filled with illusion?”
“The Prophet has given a clue,
a touchstone to know
the base coin from the true.
He has said,‘That which is false troubles the heart,
but Truth brings joyous tranquility.’”
Mathnawi I, 2732–34