Blessed is Untidiness
It is obvious that I have come to the world to look for things.
When I do not collect pebbles in my dreams
I descend into dry wells left open in the courtyard of my childhood
To help my father rescue a pair of careless kittens.
The kittens look different every time we rescue them.
“Have you ever put your arms around the wind?” Father knows he looks silly when he asks such questions. We have a lot in common, not the least looking for things.
“No,” I say proudly, “but I shake hands with aspens every morning.”
Father pets the rescued kittens in silence, a satisfied look on his face.
He knows the aspens, the souls of early morning, the green angels of the dawn prayer.
Trees can teach you neat things,
Like standing upright in the darkest of nights
Storing daylight in tea leaves to keep it fresh for gray days.
It goes well with bread, cheese, and walnuts at breakfast.
Green angels of the dawn prayer speak to those near them.
An American dervish who has backpacked through the Blue Ridge Mountains once said, “Some things will not lend themselves to prediction, life is one of them.”
What a beautiful reason to look for things!
I laughed like a tree spreading itself in permanent winds
And stopped chasing the period that always ended the adventure in every sentence
When you come to think of it, whirling is nothing but incompleteness put to music.
The thought of incompleteness makes me feel open to saintly things
(I am no prophet – no one this untidy will ever be one. The very message will get lost in the piles on the desk.)
But I pray with the green angles of the dawn every morning:
“Blessed is thirst that is water
“The incompleteness that is whirling
“The rule that says all finished sentences are wrong
Blessed is untidiness, the eternal promise of finding unexpected things.
If I had Dali’s paint brush
His teasing lines,
And his melting surface of time
I would let you look in that mirror
And see for yourself
How pregnant I am
With a simple heartbeat
Like a peaceful lake at sundown
Filled to the brim
With the sun.
You would look in that mirror
And see me standing in the kitchen
With triumphant greasy hands
My freshly baked loaf on one side
The jarful of raindrops and desire on the other
And not in the least bothered
By the million babies pulling at the hems of my skirt.
You would no longer ask why
I am so tender,
And so able to pity
A world that has wiped
From its memory
The face of its mother
For the terror of facing old age.
In that melting mirror
You would see me sitting still
When the fast is over
Facing the east
Marveling at the surge of love
From the earth beneath the prayer rug.
You would see me
Giving birth every morning
To a lucid blue sky
With a sun near enough for you
To burn your finger
When pointing carelessly in its direction.
My String Theory
(for string theorist Ed Witten)
Ed Witten says:
Inside cells, inside atoms, inside sub-atomic particles, inside quarks that make our hair,
Teeth, bones, and muscles
And the cypress tree on Shiraz sidewalks (with birds hiding inside them to chirp to Themselves)
Inside things too small or too large to be seen
Things that make up emptiness and fear
Inside the swollen belies of starving children
And the anticipation of the vulture watching its food getting ready
Inside the freshness inside the flowers in the gardens of Yazd, Luxembourg, Shalimar,
And the bodies burned with napalm in Vietnam
Inside the blueness and freedom of the ocean
And the Statue of Liberty standing tall on its edge
Inside the less visible colors of our skin that color our being in the world
Inside the rays of sunlight that greet us at the threshold of tomorrow day after day
Inside all of those
We –and our worlds– are strings
Super small strings of consciousness
An ocean of potentiality and promise
Of thirst for receiving
We are strings
We are strings
Now soft and wistful as if whirling to music in a faraway land
Now frantic with fear as if chased by a skilled snow leopard on a steep icy slope
Now surprised at our own childlike miraculous energies of make believe
And now composed, and deliberate, as if we knew every step of the way ahead
If Witten is right,
We vibrate therefore we are
We vibrate who we are
Like rivers which must arrive and so what can they do but find new shores?
Like trees which must dance – for what else can they do caught in the playful pandemonium of permanent winds?
And like waves which are the mischievous ripples that they make
Waves which must move or die
We vibrate with the universe
With the mystics who say, “No, my pre-constructed language does not shape my experience. My experience deconstructs my language.”
We say that …and whirl – not into a far-off land
Not out of sight like a mist on a distant mountain
But into the local market to buy lentils and make a magnificent lentil soup
Vibrating with tiny delectable strings of promise to satisfy all primeval hunger for wonder
And for warmth
When you get a break from answering your 4,321 e-mails
Come to my kitchen and vibrate
With a million supper strings
Emanating from the perfect union between a bowl of lentil soup
And a freshly baked loaf
Let us prove Ed Witten right.
Fatemeh Keshavarz holds the Roshan Chair in Persian Studies and directs the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at University of Maryland, College Park. Her publications include Lyrics of Life: Sa’di on Love, Cosmopolitanism, and Care of the Self (Edinburgh University Press, 2015), Jasmines and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran (The University of North Carolina Press, 2007), Recite in the Name of the Red Rose: Poetic Sacred Making in Twentieth-Century Iran (The University of South Carolina Press, 2006), and Reading Mystical Lyric: The Case of Jalal al-Din Rumi (The University of South Carolina Press, 1998). In 2013, Keshavarz was named "poet of the month" by NPR’s Grace Cavalieri, host of The Poet and the Poem.