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“If there’s an abyss between what you promote and how you live, chances are, you’re screwing up both.” —Alain C. Dexter


My wailing is heard in every throng,
In concert with them that rejoice and them that weep.
Each interprets my notes in harmony with his own feelings,
But not one fathoms the secrets of my heart.

—“The Song of the Reed Flute”, from the prologue to Book I of The Mathnavi by Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (trans. E.H. Whinfield, 1898)

I could make it easy, pretend it was a dream;
those who fear fiction, you can think I made it up,
my meeting in the city with a man who brought a cup
nearly empty of its content and a page for me
to sign. Your yea or nay, they matter not, you’ve
earned the right to see what’s left, not wrong
or right but true. I looked inside; the granulated
residue of some disgusting potion lined the fine
bone china. The troubled feeling I had grew strong:
my wailing is heard in every throng.

Each of these bits of grit are what remains
of argument you think you’ve won by pressing
hard, suppressing. In the instant you believe
you’ve proved your point, its opposite springs up,
empowered by the deep and unexamined that
is no less you but learns, by need, to creep;
it lives denied, a madman seething in your attic.
As you strut along, laying dynamite to bridges
you still need, he conspires while you sleep
in concert with them that rejoice and them that weep.

So can we throw them out, these grounds,
I asked, grossed out, or do I have to drink them?
Neither, said the man, unless you harbour still
a taste for non-digestibles. The document he
pushed at me appeared to be the index of a billion
unresolvables: violence, corruption, slave rings,
romances unrequited, thoughtlessness, not
knowing what I want and settling for less. There
was no end, and I was having trouble breathing.
Each interprets my notes in harmony with his own feelings.

This list is yours? I hadn’t noticed until then
his nose looked rather beakish. They are
mountains made of glass, he said, caused
by lightning hitting deserts over time, for every
better feeling you’ve neglected kills the green.
I am in charge, but so are you, electric part-
icles of change. So will you sign them over
to me now? God, yes! I took the pen, he smashed
the cup. His final words before he flew shook me apart:
But not one fathoms the secrets of my heart.


If you enjoyed this glosa, you might enjoy an entire book of them, compiled by Professor Alain C. Dexter in a most peculiar way. Take a look here.

© Elaine Stirling, 2013
Image of Simorgh, bird of divinity, from The International Conference of Quality Managers website