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Four Days Before Rumi Died

(for the harvest Moon collective, in memory of Fielding Dawson)



I could travel around the world

sending you postcards:


These people are not as free

as you, either,

but the law does not allow postcards.


I could call you from across the country:

I had a dream! You were in it!

but there is no phone line

to a bank of cells

just the telegram of a sixth sense

set precisely in the present


Like the Aymara natives of Lake Titicaca

for whom the moment of sundown is always

five o'clock, there's no time

for egos, yours or mine

they are luxuries in a prison

it's five o'clock, the sun in going down.


Realists in the best sense

you stretch out to embrace a word:

freedom, for instance

more than a sound, the thing itself

like love reverberating with all the tremors

of intimacy


No one in prison presents a poem stoop shouldered

drowned in the rectitude of truth

romance flies out the window, the heart

recognizes freedom

in the emissary from a distant place

in the lost tribesman from a human race.


In a workshop of diligent hammers

we send up

smoke signals,

some disappear

some messages have been caught from far away


We gulp down freedom

like a cat with a canary in our stomach,

guards suspicious of smiles

look at us perplexed:

Where is that sound coming from?


Your open mic poems celebrate

what few in the life outside allow,

and like denizens of a Twilight Zone

we hop back and forth across a mirror

What is that singing in your belly?


they demand. What is that singing?

Because they don't know

we can't tell them

Just a telegram, we say,

a singing telegram from our next of kin.


December 13, 2001

Eastern C.F., Napanoch, NY