Fables from Laura Kaminski

Fable Six: Dance

The dervishes are blown across
the desert lands like seeds,
they gather at the shrines
of Sufi saints to dance and pray,
they spin with arms stretched
up toward heaven, sprouting,
reaching for the light, longing
to learn to photosynthesize.

Fable Seven: Destruction

regarding the death of an oak in Syria, November 2013

Some call our dancing
heresy, took the shrine
at Atme, with their rifles
turned back those of us
who came to pray.

We gathered, then, within
the nearby shade of a large
weathered tree, made
our ablutions, spread our
carpets on the sand.

They came with axes,
proclaimed jihad with
chainsaws, toppled
the hundred-fifty-
year-old oak tree.

We take our mats—
the world is filled
with other places
to face the qibla.

Before we leave, we
turn and greet the angry
soldiers: Peace.


Fable Eight: Grafting

after instructions in The Drowned Book: Ecstatic and Earthy Reflections of Bahauddin, the Father of Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks & John Moyne, Harper One, 2004

Patience. Sunlight has traveled
eight minutes through the emptiness
to get here, gently warm the water
in the jar where this beheaded
rose-stem waits in suspended
animation. It does not show signs
of life, but neither has it rotted.

Patience. We have time. We might
as well read these old instructions,
maybe draw ourselves a diagram.
And see, there is a poplar growing
outside near the garden—look
through the window, you can see
from here—we will use that one.

Mise en place—we have assembled
our ingredients for this experiment:
one white poplar, one rose stem,
one long thin strip of woven linen.
There’s one more, but it won’t be
a problem—the soil here is sandy
clay and it just rained yesterday,
I can scoop a double-handful
of thick mud on the way if you’ll
carry rose-stem jar and scalpel.

My hands are gooey, you make
the incision in the poplar—not
so high there, remember, I am
shorter than you are, please make
a cut that’s low enough for me
to reach—peel back a patch
of bark and carve a tiny trough
as if you’re making a coffin,
special-order, just to fit this stem.

When you’re done stripping, take
the stem and coat it in this clay
that’s in my hands, gently tuck
it in that crease to sleep, bind
the bark back over with the linen,
give it a good thick muddy blanket,
fill in the little grave, then I’ll wipe
the surface smooth and let it dry.

And then we wait. More patience.
Enough we’ve time to ponder
the workings of the universe that
choose to save—this page in particular—
from destruction in that ancient fountain,
these instructions for grafting
the red rose to the white poplar.
Fable Nine: Gathering

The sapsucker-woodpecker, first
to return in spring, drills a ring
of taps right here and other
migratory birds, tired from their
travels, gather to renew their
strength. Even the hummingbird
comes to drink from this slow
fountain while she waits
for the approaching season
to arrive, to wake, to blossom.

Fable Ten/The End: Greeting

For years I’ve lived in isolation—
now strangers stop their cars
and walk across my yard in awe,
drawn to the rose now blooming
from the trunk of the white poplar.

I sit in the green fountain sprays
of its cascading stems, its blossoms.
Two petals fall and settle on the open
pages of my book. Another car
has stopped. I close the book and rise
to welcome guests. They are strangers.
Perfect strangers.