In dark times it is sometimes hard
to speak of joy—not because
it doesn’t exist but because
of the guilt in feeling it.
The dark clots our arteries,
it keens in our ears, floods the streets.
Still, my friend sends me a word—
wushdan. It’s pronounced like swush,
she says, not swoosh. Wushdan.
I say it aloud, and the syllables
hush my tongue. It means,
she says, “heart awareness,
conscience,” as in a practice
of inner discipline. Wushdan,
I say again, as if to speak a word
is to know the secrets harboring
inside it for centuries.
The root, says my friend, is wush,
which is Persian, means joy.
It feels as if someone
has slipped me a piece of chocolate
in math class during a test.
Or as if, while reading
the headlines of war I look out
the window and see the big brown eyes
of a doe looking unwaveringly
into mine. And I put the paper down
and watch out the window
until the light is gone.