with Rumi’s quotes from Undressing, trans. Coleman Barks.
I have just pulled out
my best armor and scrubbed
it with Kroger oven cleaner,
the only thing strong enough
in my cupboard to pull out
the metal’s intrinsic shine.
It glitters as I step
into the tall, silver legs,
the breast plate shimmers
in the afternoon sun,
and Rumi walks into the room
and pushes me with his hand.
I fall like a pin, like a tree, like a woman,
and clatter and clang echo
all around the room.
“Learn the alchemy true human beings know,”
Rumi says. “The moment you accept
what troubles you’ve been given,
the door will open.”
I struggle to stand and he tickles me
under the arms where the armor
exposes my skin.
“Joke with torment brought by the friend,”
he says. I stick out my tongue at him.
I clatter and clank and fail to stand.
This time he sits on the wooden floor beside me
and motions for me to be still.
The armor is uncomfortable,
and his fingers so soft as he cradles my face.
“Sorrows are the rags of old clothes
that serve to cover,” he says. “Take them off.”
“But I’m scared,” I tell him.
“I’m under attack.”
He looks at the empty room.
I want to tell him about
the woman who stabbed
at my back today, stabbed
from a hundred miles away. And
the man who would eat me alive.
But the space grows bigger all around us,
inside us, and the armor, it disappears.
It’s as if it the armor were never here.
Nothing left. Not a clang,
not a clunk, not a screw.
I am naked in the open room
with the sunlight reaching through.
And Rumi, he is gone.
No one here but quietude.
And the long, long sword.
And the butcher knife. And a note
in Persian script:
“Welcome difficulty as a familiar comrade,”
Rumi has written, “And PS: That undressing
and the naked body underneath,
that is the sweetness that comes
after grief.” Goosebumps
rise on my naked arms, my belly, my chest.
A breeze goes over my cheek.
I do not reach for the robe
nearby, do not shrink
from the weaponry. I sit.
And doors I never knew were there
swing wide, wide open.
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