If You’re Not Here, Nothing Grows

Rumi, my roomie.

“Be like the cat, so alive after the mouse, never wondering or questioning why,

when there is really only God, only God…
touching our


Rumi  – The Purity of Desire, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Those Who Surrender

by Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

I have been tricked by flying too close
to what I thought I loved.

Now the candle flame is out, the wine spilled,
and the lovers have withdrawn
somewhere beyond my squinting.

The amount I thought I won, I’ve lost.
My prayers become bitter and all about blindness.

How wonderful it was to be for a while
with those who surrender.

Others only turn their faces one way,
then another, like pigeons in flight.

I have known pigeons who fly in a nowhere,
and birds that eat grainlessness,

and tailors who sew beautiful clothes
by tearing them to pieces.

It’s incredible how the smell of a cat’s stomach fur while lying together in a sunshine patch on the carpet in the living room, can transport me back to my childhood completely. Maybe that’s the secret elixir of eternal youth? Ponce de Leon didn’t have to risk life and limb traipsing about the New World searching for the fountain of youth.  He failed to recognize it was waiting for him, curled up purring, in his living room.

I adopted Rumi on Wednesday from the local Humane society. Rumi seems a fitting name for a love cat and he’s my roommate. My house finally smells like home, a faint odor of cat food musking the kitchen with eau de Purina.

As for Rumi the poet, there are almost not enough words for the wonder that his poetry conveys. His friendship with Sham and his joy are something we can all aspire to find one tenth of what he savored in his life.  I found a reference on the internet that Rumi is the most read poet in English today.  If that’s true, I wonder what Rumi would think about that fact?  Creating multiple international, timeless best sellers I doubt was on Rumi’s list of things to do as he sat down each night to write another poem.  Or maybe he would be ecstatic that his messages of love, transcendence, spiritual unity with the universe are being embraced around the world eight centuries after his death.

Picking out only two Rumi poems is like trying to eat only 2 slices of pie at Thanksgiving when there are four to choose from.  Inevitably you are going to come back for seconds  or thirds to nibble on the ones you passed by the first time.  There are too many good Rumi poems to pick from that I dared not even try to share my absolute favorite(s). It would be like violating the secrets Rumi whispers in my ear every time I read them.

I do love the lines in the poem below:  “There is a secret medicine given to those who hurt so hard they can’t hope. The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.” If you’re a hoper you’ve already been given the medicine.  If you are hurting so hard you can’t hope, take some Rumi daily, you’ll feel better.

Do you have a memorable Rumi poem or quote?  Please share it in the comments section, just don’t share your favorite, that would be violating a thing that’s sacred between you and Rumi.


My Worst Habit

by Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks – The Essential Rumi

My worst habit is I get so tired of winter
I become a torture to those I am with.

If you’re not here, nothing grows.
I lack clarity. My words
tangle up and knot.

How to cure bad water? Send it back to the river.
How to cure bad habits?  Send me back to you.

When water gets caught in the habitual whirlpools,
dig a way out through the bottom
to the ocean. There is a secret medicine
given only to those who hurt so hard
they can’t hope.

The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.

Look as long as you can at the friend  you love,
no matter if that friend is moving away from you
or coming back towards you.



Published by

A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

2 thoughts on “If You’re Not Here, Nothing Grows”


    Being in a hurry drops the key on the ground
    to a door I want you to enter.

    If you read my words slowly and out loud
    that will help to — pick the lock.

    From The Purity of Desire, page 61

    And loved your writing here about Rumi and your cat.
    You wrote so beautifully you brought some welcomed
    tears to this old cowboy’s eyes.

    Daniel Ladinsky


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s