Chestnuts from Germany

Good Morning, Germany
―For Stefan and Mimi

On our walk along the Rhein that first day
Before Lee and I left for Frankfort,
I picked up three chestnuts.
The chestnuts lit up good memories
For Lee and her New Jersey growing up.
Anyway, I smuggled the chestnuts home
From Germany inside my pants pocket,
Walked right through the sensors
And past all the men and women with guns.
I didn’t know what I was going to do with them.
Couldn’t throw them away. 
Anyway, I put them at the feet of Hotei,
That Happy Chinaman who sits with
Great joy in my bathroom window.
Why I did it, I don’t know.
Except Hotei is a wise saint,
The patron of children and the feeble,
Who doesn’t need words to speak.


Taking a bath with Mr. Rumi

Self Portrait in the NYC bathtub of my good friends,
Sylvia and John Gardner (May 2010)

My good friends Doshin Diana Johnson and Keisei Amelia Furrow reminded me recently of this wonderful poem by the great Sufi poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, aka جلال‌الدین محمد رومی. The poem reminds me of this photograph, a self-portrait, that I took way back in 2010 in the tiny and wonderfully intimate bathroom belonging to our good friends Sylvia and John Gardner. The "Story Water" poem and the photograph seem like the perfect way to say Happy New Year, vowing to practice peace in the days ahead. Mr. Rumi would have it no other way. 


A story is like water 
that you heat for your bath.

It takes messages between the fire 
and your skin. It lets them meet, 
and it cleans you!

Very few can sit down 
in the middle of the fire itself 
like a salamander or Abraham. 
We need intermediaries.

A feeling of fullness comes, 
but usually it takes some bread 
to bring it.

Beauty surrounds us, 
but usually we need to be walking 
in a garden to know it.

The body itself is a screen 
to shield and partially reveal 
to light that's blazing 
inside your presence.

Water, stories, the body, 
all the things we do, are mediums 
that hide and show what's hidden.

Study them, 
and enjoy this being washed 
with a secret we sometimes know, 
and then not.

Translation from Barks, Coleman.The Essential Rumi. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994.