Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why "Tired of Speaking Sweetly" Feels Like My Spiritual Autobiography These Days

With all the physical pain that I've endured the past six months due to an injury and subsequent chronic suffering, and the emotional and spiritual tumult that invariably ensues from pain, I found this poem--in its brutal vision of God--oddly sanguine, strangely familiar. What seems remarkable to me about the poem, from a contemporary eye, is how this rather old poem feels both politically incorrect and yet how powerfully modern. God as drunk spouse who likes to rough us up?!


Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.

If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.

Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth

That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,

Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.

God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.

The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:

Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.

But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.

~ Hafiz ~

(The Gift – versions of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky)


Joseph Ross said...

A true collision between ancient and modern, making it an authentically human experience. I've felt edges of this in the past year. Sorry that you have too.

Peace, Joseph

Philip Metres said...

Thanks Joseph. Sometimes it's easy to know that you're not alone in the shell of suffering.

chaika said...

ay, that's so and god and god and love.

Anonymous said...

I have long appreciated certain phrases of the poem and seen it posted frequently on the internet. Few people comment on the imagary of domestic violence. I have looked for some commentary in vain for some explanation for relationship between the poet and the conditions for women in the medieval world.

Philip Metres said...

Excellent question, which, alas, I cannot answer for lack of good information! But it is true that the imagery is provocative, suggestive of abuse, and deeply unsettling. The way God is in the Book of Job.