Archive for category Poems

Wine in the Poetry of Rumi

Everyone has an alcohol problem. Because of the nature of humans and the nature of alcohol, it is bound to be a problem. People love to indulge to excess and alcohol is destructive in excess. Societies that have developed cultures that reject alcohol likely have the smallest alcohol problem. Societies that drink in moderation have moderate alcohol problems. Societies with rampant binge drinking have the most significant alcohol problem.

You might argue that the failure of prohibition refutes my argument. In reality, it serves as an illustration of the argument. It is only when a society’s “culture” rejects alcohol that the society can progress beyond it. In prohibition, a minority political movement inspired the government to legislatively ban alcohol. Yet mainstream culture at the time still embraced alcohol as a necessary part of life so a binge society binged even more in the face of a statutory prohibition.

The Sufi poet Rumi used wine as a metaphor in his work. The intoxication of wine can represent the ecstasy of uniting with God. The fermentation of the grape reflects the development of the soul. Grape juice is cheap; good wine tends to be expensive. The unrefined soul has much less value than the soul refined by discipline and contemplation.

Rumi wrote:

“You only need smell the wine
For vision to flame from each void–
Such flames from wine’s aroma!
Imagine if you were the wine.”

This makes me think of a “contact high.” A contact high occurs when a non-user of drugs feels light-headed or even intoxicated because of the smell or smoke of a drug. I believe Rumi  is talking about the ecstasy of union with the Divine. Just being near the people who have immersed themselves in God makes a person feel some of the intensity of that experience.

One of the Noble Companions of Prophet Muhammad (S), Hanzala (R), said that when he was in the company of the Prophet, he felt his faith soar. He disliked being away from him because he felt his faith plummet.


Rumi waxes eloquently about the glory of God. He says the prince and the wise man are veils. Furthermore, the “wine of love” removes these veils. He invites people to drink with both eyes and “both heads.” These two heads may be the physical head of the body and the metaphysical head of the soul.

Does Rumi’s work glorify wine? It depends on whether you interpret him literally or figuratively.  He certainly describes wine, intoxication, and fermentation in glowing words and phrases. But if the wine is always a metaphor, he is not telling people to drink, but rather encouraging them to get closer to God.


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Song Analysis “Rolling in the Deep” – Adele

There’s a fire starting in my heart

Reaching a fever pitch, it’s bringing me out the dark

Finally I can see you crystal clear

Go ahead and sell me out and I’ll lay your sh- bare

[Adele is PISSED. She compares her rising emotion to a fever. she is looking at the man she used to love, seeing his for once, under the light of reality. When she says she will lay his sh- bare, she meansshe will expose him for the jerk he is.]

See how I leave with every piece of you

Don’t underestimate the things that I will do

There’s a fire starting in my heart

Reaching a fever pitch

And its bring me out the dark

[She says that she will take away parts of him. Many people, on breaking up with a significant other, feel as if they are losing pieces of themselves. She talks about a fire in her heart, which naturally makes me think of heartburn. Heartburn feels awful. It feels like spilling acid on your chest. She hates the way she feels. She is angry and vengeful.]

The scars of your love remind me of us

They keep me thinking that we almost had it all

The scars of your love they leave me breathless

I can’t help feeling

We could have had it all

[“The scars of your love they leave me breathless” is like an entire love story carefully folded into a single verse. She feels so much pain now because she feels they had something special. She feels this man has damaged her forever. Think of a scar. Most scars are pretty small. But the scars of truly vicious abuse are different. They are so big and deep that even a seasoned doctor looking at them cannot help but gasp. That is the kind of scar the speaker has. Her scars might be emotional or they might be physical scars from domestic violence. She says they could have had it all, that is, everything they wanted. Isn’t it so amazing how the people who can make us sublimely happy can also bring us to our knees with pain?]

Rolling in the deep

You had my heart

Inside of your hand

And you played it

To the beat

[I really don’t know what to make of the phrase “rolling in the deep.” Still, it does create an image in my mind. I picture a scuba diver plunging into the ocean with waves swirling all around her. I think she wants to convey the depth of her emotion and the feelings in which she’s figuratively drowning. She describes her vulnerability, saying that he held her heart in his hands. The song abounds with metaphors and that makes it particularly fun to analyze.]

Baby I have no story to be told

But I’ve heard one of you

And I’m gonna make your head burn

Think of me in the depths of your despair

Making a home down there

It reminds you of the home we shared

The scars of your love remind me of us

They keep me thinking that we almost had it all

The scars of your love they leave me breathless

I can’t help feeling

We could have had it all

[The imagery here reminds me of classical depictions of Hell. His head is burning, he’s deep down in a miserable place, and he’s stuck there forever. The irony here is that this terrible home is like a Bizarro version of the home they had together. Perhaps the “depths of despair” is connected to “rolling in the deep.” Maybe it’s not her in the deep, but him, in her imagination. His rolling is like the twisted motions of a man writhing in pain.]

Rolling in the deep

You had my heart

Inside of your hand

And you played it

To the beat

Throw your soul through every open door

Count your blessings to find what you look for

Turned my sorrow into treasured gold

You pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow


[She advises him on how to survive his miserable fate. She’s telling him to look for ways out. She’s reminding him to be thankful for what he still has. Finally, she says that he should expect all the bad he does to come back to him. She doesn’t really say this out of a wish to see him happy. It’s like she’s telling him the way the moral universe works just to remind him of how much he betrayed her.]



Poem Analysis – “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” William Shakespeare

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

[Shakespeare praises his beloved as more beautiful than a summer’s day. He says she is more “temperate” than a summer day. While a summer day might be excessively hot or humid, he claims his beloved (and I’m going to assume that’s a she because it’s less creepy for me) is mild and easygoing.]

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

[Hey Shakespeare – get a calendar! May is in the spring not the summer. Yet seeing as he is the Father of English Literature, I am willing to cut him some slack. It is true that some summer days are too windy, especially in Tornado Alley. He also shows a clever turn of phrase when he says summer has a short lease. I love the idea of comparing a season to a cheap apartment.]

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;

[The “eye of heaven” is the sun. He is basically whining about how some days are too hot and some are overcast.]

And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;

[Everything beautiful tends to lose its beauty over time. “Fair” here means “beautiful” not just or proper.]

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

[He expresses a naïve hope that his beloved will never lose her beauty. A few lines earlier, he was saying “every fair . . .sometime declines.” Note that “sometime” here is different from “sometimes.” He does not mean that beauty sometimes declines. He means that for every beautiful person or thing, there is a certain time at which it loses its beauty.]

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

[The poet expresses hope that this poem will have great longevity. He hopes that his verses will last until the end of humanity – “so long as men can breathe.” When Shakespeare penned these lines, it might have seemed quite arrogant to presume such endurance for a poem. Yet now, as we read this poem about four hundred years since its origin, it seems unthinkable that this poem would be lost.]



Swimming in Your Stream – Lyric Poem

My heart aches for affection

Shopping the self-help section

I try so hard to please

Waiting for the one who never leaves


What I have is not enough

I don’t have the stuff

Tan hands that craft verse

Jobless or something worse


I lack that polished sheen

Not living the dream

But you could change my scene

And you would be my queen.


I live too much in my head

Scholar in the School of Ed

Absent-minded professor

Sinful nonconfessor


I’m here laughing at your jokes

I’m getting your Diet Cokes

The one that lets you be free

Somehow you don’t see me


Swimming in your stream

Not living the dream

But you could change the scene

And you would be my queen.



The Deep Ocean

The Deep Ocean

Not with my hands, but with my soul

Not to her grave, but to her soul.

The fragility of her tiny hands

The deep ocean of her soul

The wrinkles on her face

Told the story of her soul

She did not worry about our careers

But was concerned about our souls

The problems the world faced

She saw answers in our souls

Allah put an end to her pain

Returning her to the form of a pure soul


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Patience Means More Than Just To Wait

“There is no faith without going to the edge of disbelief.” – Anonymous

Take me up to the heights
And I will look down
I’m done with responsibilities and rights
I only want oblivion

Steeped in what you call sin
Failure on every front
I will dare to question
My turn before yours

I understand the cause of pain
The burden of choice
But what really racks my brain
Is the eons of silence

Not that I need to see your face
I long for a message
In this time and place
I need you more than ever

You were too wise to set a date
But no one said it would be so long
A world of violence and hate
Cries out for a hero

Patience means more than just to wait
It requires struggle too
Challenges of the world do not abate
When one simply does nothing

You give too much away
And our story is over
Until we’re ready for that day
Preserve the mystery

I’ll never be completely sure
The battle is in the debate
This faith and love will endure
So long as you don’t let me go

(C) Asad Jaleel Enterprises 2009

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Photosynthesis Song

Photosynthesis Song

The popularity of my previous post – The Nitrogen Cycle Song has convinced me that there is a big market for science-themed songs. So I’ve come up with a little ditty about photosynthesis. Enjoy!

You start with water and carbon with an oxygen pair,

You end with sugar and the oxygen of air.[1]

But the plant has two other needs you have to fill,

It has to have light and chlorophyll.

It happens in little organs called chloroplasts

And you wouldn’t believe how fast.

Plants are busy while I’m making rhymes.

In one second, one step can happen a million times.[2]

Without plants, there’d be no food chain,

Then you couldn’t power your heart and brain.

We’ve got an energy problem we need to fix,

Plants make the power people need – times six.[3]

[1] The general equation for photosynthesis is:

2n CO2 + 2n H2A + photons2(CH2O)n + n O2 + 2n A

carbon dioxide + electron donor + light energy → carbohydrate + oxygen + oxidized electron donor

[2] The third phase, the electron transport chain and ATP synthesis, takes place on the microsecond (1 microsecond (μs) = 10−6 s) to millisecond (1 millisecond (ms) = 10−3 s) time scale.

[3] The amount of energy trapped by photosynthesis is immense, approximately 100 terawatts which is about six times larger than the power consumption of human civilization.

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