Sometimes I Forget Completely

Rumi wrote a poem "Sometimes I forget completely"

Coleman Barks translated Rumi's poem "Sometimes I forget completely" into English

It took six hundred years, give or take a few, for Rumi’s poetry to appear in English. R. A. Nicholson (1868-1945) gave us the first complete English translation of the Mathnawi. A. J. Arberry (1905-1969) followed in Nicholson’s footsteps, translating Fihi ma fihi (translated as Discourses of Rumi) and many Rumi poems. I believe these men felt like the man in the gospels who discovered the treasure buried in the field, or the merchant of pearls who discovered the pearl of great price.

In 1976, poet Robert Bly showed Coleman Barks some of Arberry’s Rumi translations. Bly suggested to Barks that he make a more modern poetic translation, saying, “Release these (poems) from their scholarly cages.” Oh, what gratitude I have for the human bucket-brigade of A. J. Arberry, Robert Bly, and Coleman Barks, carriers of the celestial nectar!

Sometimes I forget completely

Sometimes I forget completely
what companionship is.
Unconscious and insane, I spill sad
energy everywhere. My story
gets told in various ways: a romance,
a dirty joke, a war, a vacancy.

Divide up my forgetfulness to any number,
it will go around.
These dark suggestions that I follow,
are they part of some plan?
Friends, be careful. Don’t come near me
out of curiosity, or sympathy.

I was inspired by recent events to share this poem. Sometimes I forget completely that I’m not alone, and it drives me mad, as it is a violent violation of one of the great truths of the universe. Please help me to remember, but from a distance.


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