Feb 15 • 3M

On Hospitality: A Reply To Rumi

Amy Isikoff Newell
Comment
Share
 
1.0×
0:00
-2:52
Open in playerListen on);
Episode details
Comments
On Hospitality: A Reply To Rumi

Welcome all the visitors, you say. 
Do not put bars on the windows or locks on the doors. 
Do not close up the chimney flue. Duct tape and plastic sheeting 
will not keep the visitors at bay. They'll pound on the doors,
they'll break your windows, they'll breach the barricades, 
they'll storm the beach, swarm in like ants through cracks. 
They'll leak like water through the walls, and creep like mice, 
and curl like smoke and crack like ice against the window glass. 
Keep them out? It can't be done, don't try. 

Welcome all the visitors. Fine. 
There's all kinds of welcoming, however. 

I do not have to throw a house party. 
I will not post flyers. 
There will be no open bar. 
No one will get drunk 
and lock themselves in the bathroom. 
No one will break furniture, 
grind chips into the rug, 
throw anyone else in the pool, 
or lose an earring in the couch. 

I do not have to run a guest house, either. 
There will be no crackling fire. 
And no easy chairs. 
I will not serve tea to the visitors. 
I will not dispense ginger snaps and ask my guests 
about themselves: Did my mother send you?
Why must you plague me? Why not stay a while longer?
Who are you, really?

If I must welcome – and I'm convinced I must – let me build 
a great hall to receive my guests. Like a Greek temple, 
let it be open on all sides. Let it be wide, and bright, and empty. 
Let it have a marble floor: beautiful – and cold, and hard. 
Let there be no sofas, no benches, no dark corners, no anterooms 
and no coat closets. No walls, not even a ledge to lean against.

I'll welcome anyone who comes, I'll show them my enormous empty hall. 
Come in, come in, I'll say. I'll even smile, perhaps make conversation for a while. 
And if someone settles on the floor, as if to stay, or circles round and round, 
as if they've lost their way, I'll be kind, extend my hand, 
and gently show them out again. 

-- Amy Newell


This poem was written in 2003. It is published in many places on the internet, weirdly, since I never personally published it. (It escaped into the wild, so to speak). It is a response to a Rumi poem called “Guest House”. Please note that what most of us know of Rumi’s work is mediated through this one dude Coleman Barks and is a little problematic, read this 2017 New Yorker article for more deets)

if you like this why not write back and tell me so? also you can subscribe.