The Tavern Haunters

by Mahmud Shabistari

English version by Andrew Harvey
Original Language Persian/Farsi

Being a tavern haunter means
Being sprung free of yourself.

The tavern is where lovers tryst,
Where the bird of the soul comes to rest
In a sanctuary beyond space and time.
The tavern haunter wanders lonely in a desert
And sees the whole world as a mirage.
The desert is limitless and endless --
No one has seen its beginning or its end,
And even if you wandered in it a hundred years
You would not find yourself, or anyone else.
Those who live there have no feet or heads,
Are neither "believers" nor "unbelievers."
Drunk on the wine of selflessness,
They have given up good and evil alike.
Drunk, without lips or mouth, on Truth
They have thrown away all thoughts of name and fame,
All talk of wonders, visions, spiritual states,
Dreams, secret rooms, lights, miracles.

The aroma of the Divine Wine
Has made them abandon everything;
The taste for Annihilation
Has sent them all sprawling like drunkards.
For one sip of the wine of ecstasy,
They have thrown away pilgrim staff, water jar, and rosary.
They fall, and then they rise again,
Sometimes bright in union,
Sometimes lost in the pain of separation;
Now pouring tears of blood,
Now raised to a world of bliss,
Stretching out their necks like racers;
Now, with blackened faces, staring at a wall,
Or faces reddened with Unity, chained to a gibbet;
Now whirling in mystic dance,
Lost in the arms of the Beloved,
Losing head and foot like the revolving heavens.
Every passage that the Singer sings them
Transmits the rapture of the invisible world,
For mystic singing is not only words and sounds;
Each note unveils a priceless mystery.

They have thrown away their senses
And run from all color and perfume,
And washed in purified wine
All the different dyes: black, green, or blue.
To them, devotion and piety are only hypocrisy;
They are weary of being either masters or disciples;
They have swept the dust of dunghills from their souls,
Without telling even a tiny part of what they see,
And grasped in bliss at the swirling robes of drunkards.
They have drunk one cup of the pure wine
And have become -- at last, at long last -- real Sufis.

-- from Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom, by Andrew Harvey / Eryk Hanut

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Recommended Books: Mahmud Shabistari

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom The Secret Rose Garden: Mahmud Shabistari Beyond Faith and Infidelity: The Sufi Poetry and Teachings of Mahmud Shabistari

The Tavern Haunters