The son of Mary, Jesus, hurries up a slope
as though a wild animal were chasing him.
Someone following him asks, ‘Where are you going?
No one is after you.’ Jesus keeps on,
saying nothing, across two more fields. ‘Are you
the one who says words over a dead person,
so that he wakes up?’ I am. ‘Did you not make
the clay birds fly?’ Yes. ‘Who then
could possibly cause you to run like this?’
Jesus slows his pace.
I say the Great Name over the deaf and the blind,
they are healed. Over a stony mountainside,
and it tears its mantle down to the navel.
Over non-existence, it comes into existence.
But when I speak lovingly for hours, for days,
with those who take human warmth
and mock it, when I say the Name to them, nothing
happens. They remain rock, or turn to sand,
where no plants can grow. Other diseases are ways
for mercy to enter, but this non-responding
breeds violence and coldness toward God.
I am fleeing from that.
As little by little air steals water, so praise
Is dried up and evaporates with foolish people
who refuse to change. Like cold stone you sit on,
a cynic steals body heat. He doesn’t feel
the sun. Jesus wasn’t running from actual people.
He was teaching in a new way.
“What Jesus Runs Away From”
Jesus on the lean donkey,
this is an emblem of how the rational intellect
should control the animal-soul.
Let your spirit be strong like Jesus.
If that part becomes weak,
then the worn-our donkey grows to a dragon
Be grateful when what seems unkind
comes from a wise person.
Once, a holy man,
riding his donkey, saw a snake crawling into
a sleeping man’s mouth! He hurried, but he couldn’t
prevent it. He hit the man several blows with his club.
The man woke terrified and ran beneath an apple tree
With many rotten apples on the ground.
“Eat! You miserable wretch! Eat.”
Why are you doing this to me?
“Eat more, you fool.”
I’ve never seen you before!
Who are you? Do you have some inner quarrel with my soul?
The wise man kept forcing him to eat, and then he ran him.
For hours he whipped the poor man and made him run.
Finally, at nightfall, full of rotten apples,
fatigued, bleeding, he fell
and vomited everything,
the good and the bad, the apples and the snake.
When he saw that ugly snake
Come out of himself, he fell on his knees
before his assailant.
“Are you Gabriel? Are you God?
I bless the moment you first noticed me. I was dead
and didn’t know it. You’ve given me a new life.
Everything I’ve said to you was stupid!
I didn’t know”
If I had explained what I was doing,
you might have panicked and died of fear.
If I described the enemy that lives
Inside men, even the most courageous would be paralyzed. No one
would go out, or do any work. No one would pray or fast,
and all power to change would fade
from human beings
so I kept quiet
while I was beating you, that like David
I might shape iron, so that, impossibly,
I might put feathers back into a bird’s wing.
God’s silence is necessary, because of humankind’s
faintheartedness. If I had told you about the snake,
you wouldn’t have been able to eat, and if
you hadn’t eaten, you wouldn’t have vomited.
I saw your condition and drove my donkey hard
into the middle of it, saying always under my breath,
“Lord, make it easy on him.” I wasn’t permitted
to tell you, and I wasn’t permitted to stop beating you!
The healed man, still kneeling,
“I have no way to thank you for the quickness
of your wisdom and the strength of your guidance.
God will thank you.”
Jesus on a Lean Donkey
The Essential Rumi (1997.)
Translated by Coleman Barks