“The Steambath” (Rumi)

Steam fills the bath, and frozen figures on the wall

open their eyes, wet and round, Narcissus eyes that see enormous distances. And new ears that love the details of any story. The figures dance like friends diving into red wine, coming up and diving again.

Steam spills into the courtyard. It is the sound of resurrection. They move from one corner laughing across to the other corner. No one notices how steam opens the rose of each mind, fills each beggar’s cup solid with coins. Hold out a basket. If fills up so well that emptiness becomes what you want.

The judge and the accused forget the sentencing. Someone stands up to speak, and the wood of the table becomes holy. The tavern in that second is actually made of wine. The dead drink it in. Then the steam evaporates. The figures sink back into the wall, eyes blank, ears just lines.

Now it is happening again, outside. The garden fills with bird and leaf sounds. We stand in the wake of this chattering and grow airy. How can anyone say what happens, even if each of us

dips a pen a hundred million times into ink?

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