It is the last day of April. National Poetry Month has finally come to an end and so has my poetry series. I’ve heard from many of you about how much these posts have meant to you by giving you a moment’s pause each day to reflect on something beautiful, or new. I’m so glad I was able to do that, but the pace is a little much for me to keep up. I can’t sustain a daily practice, but I will try to throw out a poetry post once in a while.
One of the most difficult tasks of the month was deciding which poems to include and today was no exception. If I can only share one more gem from Hafiz, which should it be? Just know that whatever poem I chose, there were dozens left on the table. If you’ve enjoyed the last several days in particular, go buy The Gift as a gift to yourself.
“We Have Not Come to Take Prisoners”
We have not come here to take prisoners,
But to surrender more deeply
To freedom and joy.
We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.
Run, my dear,
That does not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.
Run like hell my dear,
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.
We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
“O please, O please,
Come out and play!”
For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,
But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom and
For me, this poem sums up the essence of Hafiz’s mystical vision. We have a sacred duty and it is first and foremost to recognize the divine Presence within and to act accordingly. This is a radical revisioning of what most of us raised with religion have been taught. We have been catechized by church and culture to button it up, keep it down, follow the rules, imprison our passion, obey our reason. Hafiz screams at us to “Run!” from those false prophets who would do violence to the nascent Spirit within us, the one that makes it possible for us to be free – free for God to God’s work within us and the world.
And yet, even as it makes me smile, something inside me grimaces and I find some inner resistance to this poem. Do you sense it too? What part of us disapproves of spiritual freedom, play and joy? I don’t think it’s any part of us. I think it’s the “sharp knife” that was stuck in us when we were small and taught the rules of the game. No matter how much we’ve grown, no matter how much larger our vision is, the point is still there, digging in, reminding us to hold something of ourselves back, to be smart and play it safe.
Ultimately, we may never get rid of the knot in our chest, but the poetry of Hafiz empowers us to ignore the discomfort. He also insists that we protect ourselves from anyone who would push that knife deeper, including our scared and shamed selves. We can obey our fear, disguised as “reason,” or we can obey our God. Too often we worship the former and call it the latter. The poetry of Hafiz and other mystics insist there is another way and it’s the way I want to go – the way of Love, joy, freedom, divine courage, connection and cohabitation.
“Come out and play” friends, the poets are calling you!