Courtyard lullaby.


Photo: the courtyard at Sunrise Hotel, Isfahan, Iran.


We reached Isfahan after sunset. At our guesthouse, the rooms were arranged around a courtyard with a blue fountain and divans around the sides, where I settled with my book. Mohamad was there, talking with Nima, one of the staff, who kept us well-supplied with tea.

A traveling family came in late. First there was a big-boned paterfamilias who went straight to his room, turned on the lights, left the door open, and busied himself back and forth while his daughters, sons, and grandchildren fanned out into their rooms. When they’d come back out onto the divans, he emerged from his room with a silver tray of pomegranate eighths. He put one right in my hand. I resisted. He insisted. I took it, and then three more. The seeds were colors I’ve never seen before, yellow and orange and pink, along with the usual red. I ate them whole and tried not to drip juice on my Kindle screen.

All of a sudden, to my right, I heard singing. At first I thought it must be a recording. But I realized it was Nima. He’d been talking like a regular mortal just a minute before, but was now filling the whole courtyard with Hafez; his voice was so beautiful that it seemed impertinent, how good he was, how much of God he was channeling at once. At first I stared at my book trying to keep reading because part of me couldn’t believe this was happening, wanted to resist it, wanted to go on as before. I wasn’t prepared. But we never are.


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