The Dull “I”

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The Dull “I”

When I began writing I loved the long essay form of autobiographical essay.

Now I am so tired of myself, of writing even the slender, deceptively simply “I” thatfind it impossibly dull to do so.

What is left when one has grown so very weary of oneself?

Enlightenment?
Drugs?
Suicide?
Service?

Perhaps all, not in that order.

The I knows nothing. I know nothing.
Experience is a sequence of felt sense, pattern that turns on a dime to addiction or perception, opaque desire, and even when desire is sated, discomfort.

This is the current felt sense of the body I inhabit: discomfort. It has always been thus.
Eating disorders, unhappy childhoods, rape, assaults physical and mental, ambition, failures, love, touch sex marriage, children, embodiment in physical form – it all seems to lead to the same portal: let us be elsewhere.

I love drugs as much as I love practice. It is a prayer, isn’t it: let us be elsewhere.

Today I walked away from a lover, began perhaps to finally grieve my unending love for my husband who is the X on my blooded heart, found out he was dating, cried for hours upon hours, had my daughters come home only to observe them punch one another, and then felt the exquisite pain of my smallest child’s delicate teeth sink with rather alarming consequence into the softest part of my tricep. Blood, rage, tears, regret… on and on it goes. For all of us, every sentient being, all the time.

We took the dog outside into the warm spring dusk.

The moon reflected down on us her borrowed light.
And the patterns were suspended, drifting upward like used webs.

Quietude.
All that remains.

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Moon Tide

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Moon Tide

When the arrival
is upon us
after years or minutes
or lifetimes

I do believe
all that is left
of our great
homecoming

is
heart-break.
And how could it not
be so
after the cities and roads and mountains
the grandeur of the Southern Pacific,
moon at dawn,
brown bodies balanced on waves
that look like lapis jaws

and you remember
only the footprint of a small seabird
whose name you never knew ~

she said, briefly ~

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she said, briefly ~

I

In each person there exists a point of stillness. I have had the most direct experience of this often inaccessible terrain while being guided in practice by Richard Freeman. In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, if one slows down enough, there are moments that can stretch to an infinite vista, vast as the Universe: it is the brief abandonment of the ego’s poison-grip.

Before lifting the body, which at this stage of practice often feels weightless, into Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulderstand supported with hands), it is recommended to lie flat on the Earth, palms down, limbs delightfully stiffened just to the point of muscular sensation, not beyond.

This pose, which might look like a tense corpse, is called Tadaka MudraTadaka, from the Sanskrit, means a pond, or a pool. Mudra, loosely, is a seal, or a gathering in by the body, the hands, the head, to increase or decrease a certain energy or spiritual intention.

As the body rests-does-not-rest in Tadaka Mudra, occasionally a hollowing takes place. The hollowing is at the deepest root of the lower abdomen: it is as if the limbs, the ribs, the pelvic bones become the land, perhaps the land of our common, every day life, and in the center that land gives way to a sacred, secret and primordial, indeed impersonal, depth.

I have touched this depth in guided practice, in Zen practice, and, very occasionally, in my own exploration. This is the great stillness I believe we all seek, which is ironic: in the seeking we create suffering, grasping, and so the illusive, shimmering Tadaka floats further away. Water, after all, cannot be gripped.

We know this point through spiritual practice, through poems (Eliot’s Four Quartets: “At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;/ there the dance is,/ but neither arrest nor movement…”), through philosophy (Kant’s theory of noumenon vs. the world apprehended by the senses and intellect), and, of course, through personal revelation.

II

What does it mean when the access to stillness abandons the mind, or is stolen by that Thief in the Night, overwhelming circumstance?

The place of silence, which might be Peace – consider the Greek Eirene, so like Mother Mary – or Infinite Love – seeing Vishnu in one’s heart: this place is the perfect Jewel of the Soul. Or, if one is uncomfortable with spiritual image, this is where relaxation, genuine letting go, occurs. We build around this Jewel temples of protection, ambition, structure and illusion. It is the place within us that holds the most contradiction, as we will do anything to guard it and then exert equal effort to never visit it for more than a moment. If there is a center to Being, this faceted, blinding Jewel is the representation.

And here we enter a world necessarily beyond language, a world in which language itself is a poor symbol, an extended hand of mere gesture, a simplistic outline of meaning.

And yet, and yet.
For me it is more and more concrete, the Presence and then the Absence of soul, of peace, of love. Recently I spent a week in a madhouse. I went, simply, because the circumstances of my life, what I have done to myself, allowed others to do to me, has caused me to slip, fall, and the falling did not stop.

In the madhouse everyone was falling. And because humans have a need to love, to seek peace, we tried to catch one another. If one imagines the slapstick of Laurel and Hardy blended with Euripides’ brutal interpretation of murder and madness in Herakles, this is a fairly accurate portrayal of the comedic hopelessness of Bipolar-Major Depression-PTSD-Extremely Anxious humans attempting to connect.

III

Now I know.

Madness is the sacking of the Jewel.

Who does the sacking, and whether the Jewel can be replaced or if its absence is only an illusion is all a matter of interpretation, and, as one is in the middle of the mess, utterly irrelevant. What replaces the Soul when it’s gone is pain. A pain that is physical, existential, mental, in the body and out of body all at once and all the time. People who judge the suicidal have no sense of the pain that encompasses the Soul-less beings who are, quite simply, seeking relief from something so far gone it is indescribable.

Madness is absence, the incapacity to describe the absence, and the solitary confinement that is the natural result of that incapacity. In this way, just as Love can be an infinite loop of openness and joy, so can its departure: pain begets pain, the trip becomes a fall, the fall becomes an endless vertigo of isolation.

Aside: if you ever wonder what it’s like to be around crazy people when you, also, are  crazy: it is, in a word, comforting. We are all in this (secret, shamed) war together. And, to be as simple as possible, there is nothing left to protect, defend, or to dress up and pretend. My roommate showed me the open wounds on her wrists as casually as one reveals a grey hair. I was around impoverished addicts and perpetual liars and lawyers and mothers and beautiful teenage girls and an 80 year old retired executive and we were all leveled to an equality that I imagine only combat and sickness can create.

I have always been a child, then a girl, then a woman, of extremes.
I know what it is to touch Infinite peace under the guidance of Richard Freeman’s patrician, elegant hand.
I know what it is to live, if one can call it that, with moment by moment suicidal impulse.

This is either a gift or a death sentence. (What in life is not a death sentence? I cannot help but allow my mind to linger on the comfortingly obvious…).
But here I am, my daughters asleep by my side, and I am writing these words.

And I can see a glimmer of diamond in each of their perfect hearts.

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…

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.