Poems & Rumi's rubaiyat by Zara Houshmand
June 12, 2000
Poems by Zara Housmand. To read Houshmand's translations of Rumi's
-- A picture gallery at the edge of sleep
-- Exile, 1
-- Exile, 2
-- Empty box
-- Sweet traitor
-- Let them rust
-- A Message to 'Rumi's Pen'
A picture gallery at the edge of sleep
The title of the gilt-framed painting
although its airy substance was
an early Impressionist landscape. France.
But I had since discovered
........(that 'since' in the space of a
hypnogogic fraction of an instant)
that you would travel with me anywhere at all.
Anywhere. I knew this, somewhere in between
the frozen stubble, bitter clods, edgeless shadow
seeping across the blotter of Poland,
between there and the sun-warmed peaches spilling
soft across the white Spanish linen
in calm abandon.
I knew it even in the unremarked walls,
in the recesses.
I could taste you in the flavor of the paint on the walls.
I could feel you deep in the mortar.
Fifty years ago, New York
my father to be
unfurled his carpet on your airport floor
and prayed his way through customs.
Hah! The last time he ever knelt,
and for all I know the last he ever prayed,
at least to show.
He polished his English
over and over on the silver screen
and like his hero, hid
his protruding foreign parts
in the fabric of his dreams,
hid his accent in the fist of his words,
and danced his way to the California coast,
Coyote from the east, yes, my dad
was Cyrano de Bergerac.
was not your Luci's Desi.
Coyote of the west, too, obsessed
to claim his difference as his own-
different only in being the best
and eager to do the work of four men to prove it.
I was born in fifty-three.
Berkeley. The year that everything started.
The man of the year on the cover of Time
another fine coyote
pouring sugar in your gas tank,
pissing proudly on the oil machine
while the dark fuzzy thing in the stroller
parked at the back of the class
piled wet diapers on the great doctor dream
and the money, blocked, stopped coming from home.
Home? What home?
Hey, Great Satan, Sheitan-e-Bozorg,
better the devil you know.
Better the stories we tell ourselves
than the story we've been told.
Stepping out in the L.A. day,
like quilts spread out to an alien sun,
you make me a gift of this route, the way
it speaks to you; you offer, one by one:
a public path worn private, a tunnel,
the view through a flower's eye, points in space
where forgotten smells, discovered, funnel
an emptiness into the heart, a place
still hollow for another place, still raw
to the routes of escape. Above, a crow
hawks rumors; below the blades of grass claw,
grasping, at the sidewalk cracks. Still, they grow,
recalling birches shimmering like hope
in the creases of a far mountain slope.
They say that this is as far as you go,
here, where the sound of the waves
bounces back off the cliffs
and returns on itself,
white noise washing and washing again
the blood from out of our voices.
They say that this is the end of the road:
an ocean, an ocean of waiting;
with waves to lick your open wounds,
with salt that bites,
with salt that leeches
the color from out of the blood.
Beached, what difference an angel, a ghost,
in this vast and narrow place?
I see driftwood in your face,
and waste, an ocean of waste,
in these bleached and twisted cords,
these dry veins rooted on another shore.
Waking into the half-light space,
the innocent place,
but only out of the corner
of my eye:
sharp implement through the heart.
from the far end of a dark hole
........of the blind piper leading,
........of what nation?
Only this green one,
in the closet.
Now the box lies empty
in Pandora's lap.
I see nothing in the box,
Clearing, now I see
the empty box.
I see the falling tree,
the shaving plane,
the thrust of a skilled man's hand,
and late that night
for a moment, sweet,
the thrust of his hope in the dark.
I had no inkling
how much hope I carried,
how this sweet traitor
spread flush and fed fat on demand
by its selfless sister, love.
You'd think that she would fade and waste
to be so sucked, but no,
she courses fathomless.
Gross hope enmeshed with subtle love
knife shaking in the hand.
Let them rust
Out of the back, the bone
and scrap pit where pigs lie,
thrust this mind forward into
........a more forgiving place.
I am weary of minding every eventuality.
I am tired, bone sick, of painting the enemy.
Let the gate rot on its hinges,
the tools--be honest: weapons--let them rust.
I have no reason to return,
no bone to pick,
no, I will eat sunwarmed fruit
when it is ripe, in its own time.
I will lie, my back to the earth,
my face to the sky;
and when the mood takes me,
with clear eyes,
I will cry.
It was back in the days
when roots were the thing
and everybody was digging
with sticks and stuff
in the old dirt,
poking for pride
and coming up
with tubers, or truffles,
or somesuch for the scrapbook.
So I said
well maybe me too
and scratched around in the dust a bit
not thinking too hard about much;
but my stick hit stone
and the stone sang Shame!
hide your shame!
and the stone dug its roots
in the earth like a tooth
and screamed at my decay.
Reflections from the pool danced on the ceiling
where he lay those last few days
and watched it all unravel.
Much that one could frame
regret, accomplishment, and yet
much more, much more, much more...
defied that grasp,
the suchness, sadness, seeming of a life
so deeply lived; all, all that simply was.
And the water of this pool,
in all its play and dance and light
would simply drain away.
I was witness
and student to that dying.
Years and years have passed.
I have found that there are many smaller deaths,
and I have practiced letting go.
But there are times, if few
that throw me back.
Here I'm standing at the pool
within your eyes.
The lights play.
And now I know
that it's life itself Iím letting go.
A message to 'Rumi's pen'
Don't take all the credit now, my friend.
This love is but a door
........into a wider, deeper love that
Enter if you dare:
........you'll find a hidden crack that
takes you back to where
you smell the ink and feel the trembling weight of a human hand.
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