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The Sufi mystic, Jalal ad-Din Rumi, tells this story of the dangers of letting the animal in you run wild, literally. I have heard some commentators talk about how it is a metaphor for self-restraint, and perhaps it is, but it also seems to serve as porn, that is, “art for the purpose of sexual gratification,” as the dictionary so blandly puts it, as well.

Mythology seems full of such stories; Zeus only appears as an animal when he takes it into his head to impregnate a mortal. They say it is because his “godly figure” would be too awe inspiring otherwise, but if you are a god with unlimited powers that answer seems a tad convenient. This all leads to the question of how often were shepherds and shepherdesses caught enjoying the flesh of their flock before “that’s not a bull, that’s a god in bull-form” became the standard response?

There was a maidservant
who had cleverly trained a donkey
to perform the services of a man.

From a gourd,
she had carved a flanged device
to fit on the donkey’s penis,
to keep him from going too far into her.

She had fashioned it just to the point
of her pleasure, and she greatly enjoyed
the arrangement, as often as she could!

She thrived, but the donkey was getting
a little thin and tired looking.

The mistress began to investigate.
One day she peeked through a crack in the door
and saw the animal’s marvelous member
and the delight of the girl
stretched under the donkey.

She said nothing. Later, she knocked on the door
and called the maid out on an errand,
a long and complicated errand.
I won’t go into details.

The servant knew what was happening, though.
“Ah, my mistress,” she thought to herself,
“you should not send away the expert.

When you begin to work without full knowledge,
you risk your life. Your shame keeps you
from asking me about the gourd, but you must
have that to join with this donkey.
There’s a trick you don’t know!”

But the woman was too fascinated with her idea
to consider any danger. She led the donkey in
and closed the door, thinking, “With no one around
I can shout in my pleasure.”

She was dizzy
with anticipation, her vagina glowing
and singing like a nightingale.

She arranged the chair under the donkey,
as she had seen the girl do. She raised her legs
and pulled him into her.

Her fire kindled more,
and the donkey politely pushed as she urged him to,
pushed through and into her intestines,
and, without a word, she died.

The chair fell one way,
and she the other.

The room was smeared with blood.

Reader,
have you ever seen anyone martyred
for a donkey? Remember what the Qur’an
says about the torment of disgracing yourself.

Don’t sacrifice your life to your animal-soul!

If you die of what that leads you to do,
you are just like this woman on the floor.
She is an image of immoderation.

Remember her,
and keep your balance.

The maidservant returns and says, “Yes, you saw
my pleasure, but you didn’t see the gourd
that put a limit on it. You opened
your shop before a master
taught you the craft.”

(tr. Coleman Barks)