Four Days Before Rumi Died
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 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 is 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
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 an emissary from a distant place
in a lost tribesman from the human race.
In the workshop of diligent hammers
we send up
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 me perplexed:
Where is that sound coming from?
Your open mic poems celebrate
what few in the life outside allow
Like a denizen of the Twilight Zone
I hop back and forth across a mirror
What is that singing in your belly?
the guards demand. What is that singing?
Because they don’t know
I can’t tell them
Just a telegram, I say,
a singing telegram from my next of kin.
[From The Green Piano]
From the publisher’s Web site:
Janine Pommy was born on February 5, 1942, in Jersey City, New Jersey, and grew up in Union City, New Jersey. Her father worked as a milkman in the mornings and a carpenter in the afternoons. At the age of sixteen, inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, she traveled to Manhattan to become involved in the Beat scene there.
In 1962, Vega moved to Europe with her husband, painter Fernando Vega. After his sudden death in Spain in 1965, she returned to New York, and then moved to California. Her first book, Poems to Fernando, was published by City Lights in 1968 as part of their City Lights Pocket Poets Series. During the early-1970s, Vega lived as a hermit on the Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca on the Bolivian-Peruvian border. Out of this self-imposed exile came Journal of a Hermit (1974) and Morning Passage (1976).
Following her return to the Americas, she has published more than a dozen books, including Tracking the Serpent: Journeys to Four Continents (1997), which is a collection of travel writings. Her last book of poetry was The Green Piano.