(What Is Worship?)

What is worship? Who are this man
and this woman bringing flowers?

What kinds of flowers should be brought,
and what streamwater poured over the images?

Real worship is done by the mind
(Let that be a man) and by the desire
(Let that be a woman). And let those two
choose what to sacrifice.

There is a liquid that can be released
from under the mask of the face,
a nectar which when it rushes down
gives discipline and strength.

Let that be your sacred pouring.
Let your worship song be silence.

Note: The untitled poem above was written by Lalla, also known as Lalleswari or Lal Ded, a Kashmiri woman who lived from 1320-1391. She had an unhappy marriage, so she left home to study under a spiritual Hindu teacher. Later on, she traveled around the Kashmiri countryside and met Sayyid Ali Hamadani, a famous Sufi saint. She wrote several mystical poems, which have been translated by Jane Hirshfield, Coleman Barks, Willis Barnstone, and others. This poem was translated by Coleman Barks in the book, "Holy Fire" edited by Daniel Halpern.


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