Poem for D

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Poem for D
“-..and then I hear
your heart and mine beating,
and both with fear.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Book of Hours

Where am I?
What have I done

with me?

Over here?
No…..not over here –
~  ~ Over there?
Not over there either…
Under the piano
on top of the shelf
is no me or I
or even one Self.

Said I to Mama
at 3AM
“When people get married
they die to their Love.
Wedding. Cake. Then buried.”

A ballet leap
from dream to terror –

but then –
Mama’s skin
and the silk-soft Maltese
on his pillow –

In early dawn
I hear birdsong

~ ~ it is spinning
~ ~ ~ ~ into the tail of a peacock

Mama
breathes
me
~ to safer
~ ~ shores…

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Prayer I

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Prayer I
~~
for Livi

I knew her breath
before her face –
cheeks flushed with meth,
black eyes embrace

the careless slaughter
of her own youth.
Livi. Daughter.
Mother. Her truth

long gone long ago;
she’ll shoot, smoke, snort,
gums numb from blow,
the notes from court

still shut and piled
with other shit
that makes a child
give up and quit.

Her baby sleeps
at home while she
sleeps it off, weeps
“One day you’ll see ~”

Livi love. Look:
That boy, his deed
is from a book
you cannot read.

 

Loser

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Loser

 

 

 

 

I wish it were possible to be like Rembrandt.

In my genius
casual as a shawl thrown across my back
I could make
for you
a sketch.

In a few words, just a few, I could tell you, reader,

that I have lost.

When does loss turn one into a loser? Is it a set timeline, something evolutionary, even biological? Is it a design? Once the design has reached some predetermined point along the scale, it’s over. The transformation, or the disintegration, is total.

Oh.
When I was a girl, with my long braids and big angry eyes, looking out for the next betrayal, I fell in love with travel and Fred Astaire and Valentino red. Someday, I knew, I would be living in a small cottage by the sea. There would be music and books and all life would lie before me, something ephemeral but true, an essence mysterious but, for me alone, forever reliable.

I would always be an arrow. Quick, sure, sudden.
Waves, wind at night,
sunsets of aggressive loveliness.

Never lonely.

When I was a girl I was always traveling. France, first and always. Italy, North Africa, West Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanke, Mongolia, Patagonia, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Equador, Honduras, Mexico, begin again, take a small dart, point it at a beautiful antique map, go there.

Never. Stop.

Oh.
When I was a girl….
Life was elsewhere.
Planes overhead, silk skirts and slender ankles.
Sex at dawn.
A day was a month was a year –
the greatest gift granted to the young:
the meaninglessness
of Time.

How old were you
when you realized
that poetry was far
failure near
and there is no poetry
in the failures
of the middle years.

I have failed my children.
I have failed my ex-husband-

who hates me with such vengeance we both, now, agree
my death
would be a boon.

I have failed at the bank.
I have failed on the zafu.
Failed. Failed. Failed.
Whatever potential I possessed, I fucked it
up and over.
The more the potential,
the more the fuckup.

Consider:
“Failure” has its root in the Old French.
It means
non-occurrence.

Have you ever been truly, truly hated?

Have you ever been truly, truly hated by a lover a husband a wife
who used to fuck you,

who held a glass of Pieper Heidsieck –
cold and elegant as a corsetted woman in its thin flute –

while you, dressed in hand sewn silk chiffon,
fabric draped in the back to the lowest hollow (Straight spine
giving way to vistas of undulating haunch and hip),

drunkenly gaze at this now-murderous stranger –
while he spoke
to you
and everyone in the candle-lit room
of Love erotic and Eternity spelled out in decades?
Have you?
He said
“I love you, I love your face. I love this:
upon waking every morning it will be your face I first see.”
My face.
His rising sun.
Navigation.
This way, this way, this way, I am your East.

I think I could hand him my dead body
as a belated wedding gift.

But it would not be enough.

Oh
So here I sit
in the middle years
the ugly years
the years
that speak loudly
these are the years of crude announcement:
“this is what you have done
this is what you will never do”

I used to be on the side of Nietzsche. I used to understand that human beings are weak incarnations of what they could be, that godliness is far from us, that our manifestation is of weakness, ugliness, grasping selfishness.
Failler. non. evenement.

We are not gods.
No vision. No interpretion.
We cannot live in the present,
only wish
to slay the gap.

No Buddha
No Artemis
No Christ
No Aphrodite
No Apollo.

All love is arrogance.
All lovelessness a violation.

I am out of mind.
Muttering griefs to small children,
weeping on the heart of a man
who sees nothing but weakened snares in my shoulders.
He shakes them loose.

“You cannot escape you”
he says
“but I can.”

Oh.
When I was small.
And the world was big.
The future spread before me like a quilt.

See her, sitting in her room, so unhappy, the horror of a lonely childhood hanging like a canopy.
Small fingers, with those untended nails,
set out long golden needles
strips of silk and old cotton, threads of many colors,
stitching the future –
outline the escape –

delicate origami
wishes,
future on the forever-horizon,
created
by the stitches
of a child.

Double

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Double

Close
your
eyes.

fallen

wings
drifting
settling
to a veined blackness.

Respite
in the center –
hear voices rise
and release,
free from their creators
neither intent
nor context

therefore
without division

and so
form
and its outline
dissipate

split-cloud

print
on the page
before sleep.

When you were lovers
those first nights

division

was the enemy
fought
with limbs tongue loins
this urge and urge and urge

toward union
toward the invisible
center

that is
the heart’s completion
final stop

before
the break
and bleed –

 

 

 

Hunter

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Hunter

Forgotten snare
burrowed in beds of sweet moss,
hungry mouth hidden
by damp soil that rusts the jaw;
forest deep, forever needle-green.
Red-tailed raptors surf a frozen wind
and blue-jays are stunned to silence
by a gentle unrelenting snow.

The rot arrives with surprising speed ~
so fragile the limb, the mind so inured to it ~
this lovely left arch, the one that would step first
out and away from him
is necrotic, green and violet, touch of red, like
a honeymoon sunset, cocktails over the caldera –
The toothy trap chews through stubborn bits
poison poison poison
stills the slender feet
the fleet mind
“Where is my world?
Where is the train.. it is time to board, our worn leather bags
have gone missing.
Who holds the small torn bear
for my daughter?
Where is the music that drifts through the harbor,  breath of intermezzo,
form to form, sky to sea? Where in the world
is my world?”

Murderer.
poison
poison
poison
flushes the veins like vines
reaching sunward in the shadowed forest
brain drunk with memory and then its absence.
In the spring the hunter remembers this trap,
so efficient
it is empty.

The 6th Floor is the Children’s Floor

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The 6th Floor is the Children’s Floor

“We don’t like labels,” the unusually kind doctor said.

And I thought, but language itself is a label. How does one dig underneath that? (Love is the correct answer, though this, too, is a word, and not a very helpful one.)

“But we need labels so we can get into the ballpark of what these symptoms are, and how we can treat them. Oh, and how we can force the school to acknowledge his particular needs.”

Ballpark. How I loathe that metaphor. It reminds me… of heat, of spaces made unnecessarily loud and large. It makes me feel lonely. It makes me miss Paris. Everything makes me miss Paris. Truthfully, though, if one is “in the ballpark,” one isn’t even close to comprehension, right? Shouldn’t it be “tennis court,”  or something slightly more contained? But Americans don’t understand contained, and we certainly don’t understand our children, hence the necessity for reworking our alphabet into a series of increasingly concerning and strange acronyms.

It is an exercise in both anguish and comedy to observe the life of one’s most beloved become a series of sorted and resorted letter games, Scrabble with stricter rules and no winner. His situation reminds me of Buddhist goddesses like Marichi who wear the mundamala around their necks: 52 severed heads, each head standing for a letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.

Perhaps he is in this hospital partly because he has a mother who thinks these thoughts. I’m sure of it, actually. Because without being able to blame myself, place myself at the center of the tragedy, I couldn’t fix it. I would lose control of the narrative, and that, above all else, is what I cannot accept about my son’s suffering. I will fix him. Or this doctor will, the one who takes astonishing amounts of time with me but continues to use this metaphor I do not understand.

Language is sacred. What stands behind language, the biological need for it, the artistry of it, the simple core of it, is beautiful, necessary, ultimately the greatest mystery we have as human incarnations. But even language, these letters and the words they form, the sound it makes, gets in the way. In the way of what I of course cannot name (infinite regress, yes?). We might say an essence, something too sacred to be spoken.

We might say this is prema, or divine love.

I do know that language stands in our way.
I do know that language is the only way.

These are some of my thoughts as I listen to the terrifying letters being strung together, my new personal mala. Vaguely I envision what sort of heads might be strung upon my mundamala. Certainly whoever decided schools should be for tests, not children. DeVos…Certainly… ahh, I am becoming vengeful, but not out of compassion. I must refocus.

My son is this.
My son is that.
My son is brilliant.
My son cannot function.
My son is my son.
My son is my…
My son is

And is is enough.

hollow point

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hollow point
~~ 
for Bowe Bergdahl
                                            and for my son

This field is neither yellow nor burnt-brown
neither receptacle nor offering,
a slope of soil, ungenerous, unsown.
Sleep, where three tree roots dig and thirst and cling.

No matter. The dawn’s deep chill will shake
your bones awake. Your dreams, perhaps this dream,
are paintings of all you’ve never had; that ache
of absence rises, weaves into your bloodstream.

I listened to a man describe the dark
he lived there many years, so many years
that darkness now is like a watermark
upon his limbs, loneliness grinds the gears.

A few are born to it, don’t you agree?
All alien mind and false mimickry.
Killer, hero, poet whose lost the key –
Lives of secrets they themselves cannot see.

how do i know when he knows that i know he knows

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How
do i know
when he knows
that i know
he knows
the nucleus
is clouded
with some substance
that is neither
will
nor wish
not design or plan
and beneficence
lives and dies
– like every thing –
in less than a moment
nectar on the tongue
gone before its own arrival
flash
of self joining self
his own inheritence

Etoile

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Etoile

November 2, 2018
“only
those who love illusion
and know it will go far:
otherwise we spend our
lives in a confusion
of what we say and do with
who we really are.”
  ~~ Auden, Many Happy Returns

To my youngest,
You turn 5 on this day, a day I look to with dread and mourning, you with wise anticipation. “I am big now,” you say.
Huge. But you have been, since your zygot days.

You are cursed with beauty, wit, and unfair symmetry. Your eyes, strange beauty, are on the balance almost too wide, and your mouth, with its speech unending
and baby-wolf teeth, transfixes your little friends with its eccentric range

of judgment and joy.

Your secret blessing, which you must have as must all fairies princesses
and goddesses in the truest tales, is an anger and impatience
carried through from some distant life lived long ago. My caresses
now too often set aside as you demand obeisance

and toys.

You were named for dancers, man of stardust, celestial sight, infinite sky.
At night the winds increase, dogs sit out and piteously cry –
but sleep takes you, wraps you in a jealous grip; you cast a spell
over all comfort; Life lusts for you, this child who from Star to Earth fell

and was sung to form.

May Love embrace you. May you embrace Love.
May life tire you to worn wisdom.
But not for hundreds of moons.
We are made, each to each, of stardust.
But you swallowed the dust,
You are only
Star.

Practice is the Practice

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Practice is the Practice
All hearts oscillate in the same swing, within the ocean of nectar, singing one song.”
~~ Anandamurti
– “Please practice. All the time.”
~~ Richard Freeman

I have been a student of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga for almost twenty years. My practice has not been steady, which is something of a requisite for Ashtanga, and my devotion has ebbed and flowed along with my tendency toward intellectual skepticism and the common householder responsibilities of mother, wife, daughter, and Western life in general.

Practice is a seed. And in many of us devoted to this strange, often utterly misunderstood art, the seed is hearty and lives untended, waiting for our attentive return. Like all living things though, the bija, or seed of awakening, flowers best with disciplined, appropriate cultivation. If we hold too tightly, particularly to asana, the result is suffering, repeated patterns of attachment, or raga. Relax the grip altogether and we find stubborn habits, old pains and unconscious actions rising through the cracks; soon enough there are more reasons not to practice than face starting over again.

And yet yoga is a contradiction. One of its most ancient meanings is trick or trickster. As soon as one thinks “I have it. I’m a practitioner. My asana practice is two hours a day, I never miss pranayama, the water in my neti pot is the purest, and I fast once a week” – no sooner does one establish a dedicated, daily practice then the stories begin once again. The ego never stops its churning creation. So we practice. We become attached to our lithe flexibility, our pujas, the sense of belonging, especially for Ashtangis and Iyengar devotees, members of a rather exclusive club. We don’t practice. We become attached to the pleasure of laziness, even the odd pleasure of guilt and procrastination. The moment the mind identifies with practicing/not-practicing, it does not matter if one is in a 20 minute sirsasana or having the third beer of the night: insight ceases.

Ego craves solidity. Ego craves containment. Practice is the opposite: it is fluid, necessarily without a definitive end. Even writing these words, “practice is,” I am already outside of practice. I am attempting to identify the unidentifiable. It is a little bit… like love.

The ego, or asmita, cannot help but identify with the pleasures, pain, attainment and goals of practice. Out of the 8 limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga this is why asana is both so instructive and so outsized in the Western comprehension of yogic discipline. As a teacher or practitioner, how many times have you heard someone say in response to a discussion of yoga “I’m not good at yoga?” This statement is nonsensical, it is like someone saying “I’m not good at thinking,” but indicates how profoundly we depend on the physical presentation of the body to represent an art that is in reality deeply ephemeral, cerebral, and illusive.

As I age, the seed ages. My ego cringes at the fact that I do not have a 6 day a week practice. Sometimes I think I will walk away from practice, as if that is even an option at this point. My eyes have opened, ever so slightly, to the net of consciousness that joins one and all beings; I can no more leave that awareness than I can leave the love I possess for my children.

I love asana, like everyone who practices. Backbends make me high, forward bends remind me that, somewhere in this frame, there is earth and soil and gravity. Inversions quite literally change the brain, its chemistry, its hormonal balance. But I need less. I watch people half my age as they hunger for the next pose, the next arm balance, as they wrestle half to death with the incredible difficulty of “floating” a vinyasa. It is beautiful to watch: the sweat, the focus, the simple loveliness of youth. And my ego sometimes chimes in: “I can still do that.” Or, “why can’t I do that?”

But the reality is that my body is getting older, and my mind is becoming increasingly sensitive and refined. I just don’t need a four hour practice of yang intensity. I certainly need four hour practices, and will need, as Mr. Iyengar advised, more backbending the higher in years I go. Now, however, as I inch my way toward my late 40’s, I experience practice as a quiet, firm presence, like a small candle that burns continuously through wind, sun, and night.