After a Line in Rumi

Between the acts on the great stage
the green room swells with life;
like ocean waves the movement never stops.

Each spent performer, bathed in sweat,
absorbed into their entourage,
glows with the energy of the crowd.

Around the curtain’s edge, those next
to play are bathed in the footlights;
their skins mirrored white phosphorus.

All are intoxicated with a sense of time
on the heady brew of ideas and wild talk;
each creates their own constellation.

It seems to me an India:
a festival begun ten thousand years
ago, with millions in the band.*

I came here as a stranger, long ago;
although I know the hour I arrived,
I could not say which door I used.

With jugglers, clowns, actors and saints
I’ve sung and played and swooned;
the stage is shared with all who care to dance.

Outside the street is dark; no lights
run down the path that leads away.
The door is open; no one stands in wait.

I do not know the ticket price,
nor if I walked or came by car.
It does not matter, either way.

The lights are dimmed, another song
from silence rises into form;
I know the words as if they were mine.

When will it end? I cannot say;
each claims their after-party rights,
as if this show will ever end.

I’ll sing as long as I’m allowed,
and stay until its done;
there are fruits and wine enough.

And once I’m filled and all sung out
whoever brought me to this place
will have to take me home

17 DEC 2004

* Bhagavan Das, in his biography, describes India upon his arrival in the early 60’s as “a big outdoor festival that had been going on for 10,000 years, with 10 million people in the band.”

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