Poetry, but not right now.


Yungfrukallan, directed by Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1960

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that certain things are worth doing, but just not right now. I can’t lay hands on an old article that put the idea so well, but the gist was something like this: we say that we want to eat beautiful vegetables, go for a nice long run, and then watch an Ingmar Bergman film, but what we want right now is a wide wedge of salted-caramel chocolate cake, a comfy couch, and the latest Avengers movie.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake 1

One of those “not right now” things for me is poetry.* I like the idea of reading profound poetry, but if it’s valuable, there’s a good chance that it’s going to be hard work, and too often I’m not looking for more of that.

Still, sometimes a poem finds me, and I’m greatly enriched. I have my new daughter† Ginger to thank for this one. I like it ever so much. Ḥāfiz, a fourteenth century Persian poet,◊ gives us these thoughts:

The God Who Only Knows Four Words

Every child
has known God.
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does
anything weird.
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come dance with Me.”
I’d like to hear it in the original Persian, but I’m quite happy with the sounds it makes in my head as I picture God inviting me to dance, and dance, and dance.



Divan of Hafiz, Persian miniature, 1585

*I’m talking about poetry as distinct from greeting card text. Whether it rhymes isn’t as important as whether it moves.

†She married Fiddler a little over a year ago, so she’s my daughter-in-law, but I don’t need the distinction. I’m very glad to have added her to the family without morning sickness or labor pains.

◊Also spelled Ḥāfeẓ; his full name is Moḥammad Shams al-Dīn Ḥāfeẓ. The poem was translated by Daniel Ladinsky.

[Images: moma.org, boxofstolensocks.com, wikipedia]

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