Chickpea to Cook

The DervishI happened to be packing up books yesterday and came across an Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets book of Rumi poetry. It was small and hidden amongst the other books. Rumi or Jalal al-Din was born in 1228 in northern Afghanistan. There are many who have translated Rumi’s poetry. Translation flavors vary wildly. You get to choose your favorites. This compendium includes several poems from my most favorite translators including Coleman Barks, Andrew Harvey and Kabir Helminski.

This poem struck my eye initially because chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are just about the most favorite food of my grandchildren. Go figure! But it’s been a long-time beloved food of theirs (they are ages 10 and 7.) I stopped my packing efforts and sat down to read.

It’s about a new life born out of fire and turmoil. Thanking the elements that brought it to the new place.

Chickpea to Cook
Rumi – Translated by Coleman Barks

A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where it’s being boiled.

‘Why are you doing this to me?’

The cook knocks him down with the ladle.

‘Don’t you try to jump out.
You think I’m torturing you.
I’m giving you flavor,
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.

Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this.’

Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.

Eventually the chickpea will say to the cook,
‘Boil me some more.
Hit me with the skimming spoon.
I can’t do this by myself.

I’m like an elephant that dreams of gardens
back in Hindustan and doesn’t pay attention
to his driver. You’re my cook, my driver,
my way into existence. I love your cooking.’

The cook says,
‘I was once like you,
fresh from the ground. Then I boiled in time,
and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings.

My animal soul grew powerful.
I controlled it with practices,
and boiled some more, and boiled
once beyond that,
and became your teacher.’


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