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Mountain Snow

                                    Sebastian Matthews


            “. . . the work with words we’re here to do . . .”
                                                           Coleman Barks

When Coleman reads Rumi, I inhabit a courtyard of words.
Like a girl inside a skipped rope, he steps through

the door of the song’s pulse: he sings the poems
in a speaking voice. Leather jacketed, tall, Coleman

at the podium, full house, his hip southern drawl
slowed-down and precise. Sultan in an old chair,

he lounges as musicians solo. Drummer on an old Irish drum
weaves Persian rhythms, his fingers snapping its round spine,

thumb rubbing the numb face of the drum. Fire-pit sparks
fly from his hands in a sirocco howl; a dancer mimes her body,

face contorting the words. She is response to Coleman’s call,
dithyrambic chorus wrapped in thrall—whirling dervish

switching direction mid-spin. Halfway in, Coleman reads
an ancient Welsh poem. Radial, its 36 spokes revolve—

there is no beginning, middle or end. In each stanza
a picture of animal life, a tableaux. In each

the phrase “mountain snow.” When Coleman reads
his harsh pastoral, the musicians know to follow him in,

constructing cairns along the trail. I don’t know
where I go. I close my eyes, open them once: dancer

bowed at center stage, a swan, white dress draped,
layer of mountain snow. There’s a cold cave I’ve crept into,

an ancient dowsing pulse. How four musicians take hold
a room and throw us out of ourselves, I do not know.


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