Poet's Choice

By Mary Karr
Sunday, November 16, 2008

Poetry's roots in sacred song are undeniable. Native American hunters around a fire praised the Great Spirit for sending buffalo. In other cultures, tillers of the soil begged a cloudless sky to split open and loose down rain. I would rank Robert Bly's translations of Kabir -- a 15th-century Indian ecstatic poet raised Muslim and infused with wisdom from both the Sufis and Hindus -- up there with the Hebrew Psalms and the Song of Solomon. In this poem, Kabir refers to the soul as "my inner lover":

I talk to my inner lover, and I say, why such


We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves

birds and animals and the ants --

perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you in

your mother's womb.

Is it logical you would be walking around entirely

orphaned now?

The truth is you turned away yourself,

and decided to go into the dark alone.

Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten

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