In the Spirit of Convivencia! – Poetry from Book Release Party for author, Joyce Yarrow

Sometime Ago

Music and Lyrics by Chick Corea: “I had a dream of this melody.  I kept singing it for days.  I’m sure it’s from a long time ago.”

Sometime ago, I had a dream
It was happy, it was lasting, it was free.
And now in life, oh can’t you see
We can make that dream into reality.
Oh, the music, it was playing;
Ooh, the firelight, it was dancing.
All the children, they were singing;
All the people, they were loving.
Sometime ago, I had a dream
It was happy, it was lasting, it was free.
And now in life, oh can’t you see
We can make that dream into reality.
Oh, the morning sun, it was soft and cool;
Oh, the evening breeze, it was warm and gold.
Then all together life had started to unfold
Sometime ago.


By Rabi’a al Basri

In love, nothing exists between heart and heart.
Speech is born out of longing,
True description from the real taste.
The one who tastes, knows;
the one who explains, lies.
How can you describe the true form of Something
In whose presence you are blotted out?
And in whose being you still exist?
And who lives as a sign for your journey?

In my Soul there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church where I kneel.
Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist.

Is there not a region of Love, where the Sovereignty is illuminated nothing,
Where ecstasy gets poured into itself and becomes lost,
Where the wing is fully alive but has no mind or body?

In my Soul there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church that dissolves,
That dissolves in God.

Inner Wakefulness

by Jelaluddin Rumi

This place is a dream only a sleeper considers it real
then death comes like dawn and you wake up laughing
at what you thought was your grief.

A man goes to sleep in the town where he has always lived and he dreams he’s living in another town
in the dream he doesn’t remember the town he’s sleeping in his bed in
he believes the reality of the dream town
the world is that kind of sleep.

Humankind is being led along an evolving course, through this migration of intelligences
and though we seem to be sleeping
there is an inner wakefulness, that directs the dream
and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are.


by Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207- 1297)
From Women in Praise of the Sacred
English version by Jane Hirshfield, original Language – German

Love flows from God into man,
Like a bird
Who rivers the air
Without moving her wings.
Thus we move in His world
One in body and soul,
Though outwardly separate in form.
As the Source strikes the note,
Humanity sings —
The Holy Spirit is our harpist,
And all strings
Which are touched in Love
Must sound.


From The Poetry of Arab Women from the Pre-Islamic Age to Andalusia by Wessam Elmeligi:

Āʾisha al-Qurṭubiyya was a well respected calligrapher and book collector from Córdoba. Being independently wealthy, Aisha had the option to choose never to marry.  Her best-known poem rejects a suitor and is often quoted as an example of the agency some Andalusian women enjoyed:

I am a lioness but,
for the life of me,
To become someone’s mount
I shall never allow myself.
And if so I ever choose to be
A dog I would not count
When to lions my ears were deaf.

Qamar al-Ishbīliyya, the Moon of Seville was originally from Baghdad. She was gifted to the governor of Seville and it was said that other slave women ridiculed her for coming from Baghdad, accusing her of being a social climber and an opportunist. Qamar responded strongly to those making fun of her:

They said: “Qamar came in rags,
After her eyelashes slashed a heart.
She treads in dread, she walks early,
Crossing lands and countries over countries.
She is not free to choose her setting.
She has nothing but rhymes and poems.”
If they were sensible, they would not have shamed the stranger.
May God help a slave girl hurt by those who are free.
The child of Adam has nothing but hard work,
After faith and loyalty to the Creator.
Let me be, away with ignorance,
I shall not tolerate its bearers.
Ignorance will never run out of shaming and insults.
If there was no Paradise but for those who are ignorant,
I would be content from the Lord of the people with hell.

Qasmūna bint Ismāʿīl was a Jewish poet often cited as an example of the religious harmony in the Andalusian Arab community. Her father was a poet as well. It was said she was admiring herself in the mirror and recited a poem critiquing conservative traditions that would not allow sex before marriage:

I see a garden ripe for picking,
But see no picker reaching out to pick.
Alas! Youth goes wasted.
And what I shall not name remains single.
In one of her best poems, she compares herself to a deer, thus engaging with the classical metaphor in Arabic poetry. But Qasmūna asserts her independence by portraying herself as a gazelle rather than allowing herself to be objectified when described as such by a male poet:
O deer that always grazes at the pasture,
I resemble you in loneliness and in eyes so dark.
The evening has come to both of us single without a companion,
Let us, then, be patient forever with what fate decrees.

My Heart Can Take Any Form

The great Sufi poet, Ibn al-Arabi captures the meaning of Convivencia:

My heart can take on any form:
A meadow for gazelles, a cloister for monks,
Sacred ground for idols, Kaa’ba for the circling pilgrim,
The tables of the Torah, the scrolls of the Koran.
My creed is Love; wherever its caravan turns along the way,
That is my belief, my faith.

The Field

by Shelomo Ibn Gabirol, a Hebrew poet who lived in Muslim Spain

The storm-clouds lowed above us like bulls.
Autumn was angry, and its face darkened
And put them to chase like wisps of wool,
like a ship’s captain blasting its horn.
The heavens went black in a thickening mist,
As the morning stars and their light were absorbed,
Then the sun with its wing whisked them across
the earth until they split and it burst.
The wind beat at the sheets of rain,
And the clouds were cut into threads reaching down
into the world below—drenching
ridges, preparing the furrows for sowing.
On the hills, hidden grasses emerged
Like secrets a man had long withheld;
All winter the clouds wept until suddenly
life again swept through the trees of the field.


Five Short Poems by Hafiz


Where does poetry come from?
From the amorous sighs
in this moist night when making
love with form or spirit.
Where does poetry live?
In the eye that says, “Wow wee!”
in the overpowering felt splendor
every sane mind knows
when it realizes – our life dance
is only for a few magic seconds.
From the heart shouting,
“I am so damn Alive.”

The Lute Will Beg

You need to become a pen
in the Sufi’s hand.
We need for the earth to sing
through our pores and eyes.
The body will again become
until your soul paints all its
beauty upon the sky.
Don’t tell me, Dear Ones,
that what Hafiz says is not true.
For when the heart tastes
its glorious destiny
and you awake to our
constant need for your love
God’s lute will beg
for your hands.

No More Leaving

At some point your relationship with God will become like this:
Next time you meet Him in the
forest or on a crowded city street
there won’t be any more “Leaving”.
That is, God will climb into
your pocket.
You will simply just take
yourself along!

Find a Better Job

Now that all your worry
has proved such an
unlucrative business,
why not find a better job.

Dropping Keys

The small man
builds cages for everyone
he knows.
While the sage, who has to
duck his head when the moon
is low, keeps dropping keys
all night long –
for the beautiful
rowdy prisoners.


Asking the Question

Poem by Sura Charlier

Asking the question of each soul who comes in need:
“Where is your aliveness –
what makes you sing and dance, clap and shout, weep and sorrow?
Where is your aliveness – your livingness?”
Listening, stock-still in one-pointed concentration:  a lioness stalking prey.
Once Breath is breathed onto this ember,
a clear flame arises,
and all this smoke will clear.
Shall I blow harder?
We’re awake now.