Yoga as Tension

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Yoga as Tension

“Sukha-anusayi ragah”
                                            “happiness depending on external circumstance is desire”
~~ Patanjali, Yoga Sutra II.VI

The Best thing about London is Paris.”
~~ 
Diana Vreeland

Paris. Early May 2018.

I arrived in Paris during the last week of April after spending an unhappy few days in Tuscany fighting crowds, being grateful I know that the underground gateway to the beauty of those ancient hills can be easily found in winter, when most people sensibly head to warm beaches for holiday. Even the Uffizi Galleries fade when swarmed by the selfi-obsessed.

The arrival was, as it is more and more, a homecoming more than a visit. Stepping out in the 10th that evening to the noisy blend of drunken Parisian hipsters (they are the same, in case you wonder, as those in the U.S.) and stoned West African immigrants closing up their odd storefronts of cheap clothes, nail salons, and discount travel agencies, my body relaxed as a body only can when sensing some primordial Return.

Consider: the French verb for “to become” is venir.
               the French verb for “to return” is revenir.

How resonant this root: one must return to the most basic, raw Self (whatever that may be – an illusion, a wish, an invention, or a mosaic of all three) in order to find, or create, an authentic life. Returning, becoming, returning, becoming: it is rather like the Ujjayi breath of Ashtanga Yoga. Exhale, return to the home, the midline of the heart and core of the Self. Inhale, expand and become, reach into space with the outer lobes and limbs, only to find they are all the same: world, midline, Self, Other.

For whatever reason, I experience home, both the essence of return and becoming, only in this city. Even when my three children, who at birth took my heart and placed it in theirs, like a helix, are many thousands of miles away, I feel the truth of home here, in France, in Paris. It has been true for me since the silly and tender age of 12, when I made the decision that the day after graduation from high school I would travel to France. I kept that promise to myself, and I loved the country as much as I intuited I would.

After experiencing a long, brutal assault in far Northwestern China when I was 18, it was to Paris, and then Antibes, I traveled. I was ashamed to go to Denver, Colorado. But more than that I knew, like an animal, that I would be safe, embraced among strangers who did not feel like strangers to me. Or perhaps, as out of body as I was, it was the singular Light of the sea that drew me.

(A memory: one evening I sat on the beach, wearing the smallest of bikinis, my hair long, sun-lightened salt-tangled, a cigarette dangling from my mouth, writing, as I have since childhood, in a journal. A ridiculously vulnerable image of exposed girlhood. Two aggressive men approached me, and in one abrupt lightning flash of affronted and protective anger an elegant old woman dressed in white was upon them. She shamed them away in the most aggressive and proper French I have ever heard, and then turned to me and said in perfect, clipped English, “These boys. Whatever is wrong with them?” Then she smiled and walked away. I continued to smoke and look out over the sea. Safe.)

I count in my inner life three mysteries, which through therapy are not all that difficult to solve, though the Key, if there is one, remains just out of reach:
~ Why I did not pursue a professional career in dance, when my heart, gifts, and body were so obviously meant for the dedication to this Art.
~ Why I did not become an academic.
~ Why I did not move to France when I could.

The former two at this point are navel-gazing; I’m done with those regrets.

Where and how one lives, however, particularly for those who are acutely sensitive to culture, beauty, environment: for us living in a place that does not feel like The Place forms a wound that is akin to a sickness, an absence, a death.
 The rather grotesque differences between where I live and where I feel I need to live in order to Live is almost comedic, and reveals to me the uncomfortable truth that most of my existence has been ruled by fantasy and fear, which often are the same thing.

One afternoon after a long but awakening Ashtanga class with Kia Naddermier, an  otherworldly teacher and woman who serves more and more to me as a beacon of practice, I wandered for many illuminated hours throughout the city. I walked slowly, like a flaneur, all the way from the 11th to the tourist choked Rue St. Honore, through the brilliantly green Tuileries, over Pont des Arts and into the 6th, stopping only to take photos and stare. Particularly along the river, the city is too beautiful: no amount of looking will take it in. It is never enough. For the wide skies above the Seine I am insatiable.

 

 

It was in Paris I realized my marriage was over. It was in Paris I grieved my marriage, missed my children, and realized I would have to create a life in a city I loathe living by myself in a culture (tech, fitness addicts, bros, hipsters, Mommy-Land) utterly alien to me. It was in Paris I met the astonishing woman whom I knew on sight would be my next teacher, and it was in her shala I sensed an instant thread of profound, unfamiliar yet somehow comfortable connection with fellow practitioners.

My root teacher, Richard Freeman, speaks often of the Jeweled Net of Indra: an invisible but palpable web that ties us together, even when thinking we are most apart. In Paris I see more clearly the Net, and in joy want to stay for all my remaining days of existence in this incarnation.

I cannot pick up with my three little children and move to Paris. And so there is a fixed tension in my heart: my home is where my children are. My home is not where my children live.

It is not here, in dry, colorless, over-developed Denver, Colorado where I will ever experience a sense, existential or spiritual, of returning: this is not a place that aids in lowering my soul into the depths. The becoming, however, is up to me.

And is this not Practice? Is this not Yoga? The understanding that it is not location, or beauty, or Place, or preference that creates faith and Unity with the selfless Self. Nothing in the Yamas or Niyamas of the 8-Limbed Path dictate one must live in harmonized beauty in order to evolve.

 

 

 

There is no evolution without tension. Tension – of desire, of the wants of the ego, the great but illusory needs of the Heart – is a tool that, if used with skill, helps to sculpt and shape a spiritual practice. Discomfort is part of the dance. Karma is too: we live with our choices, and all those many years ago I made a choice to turn away from what felt like home.

I’ve been an exile all my life.
Perhaps it is the life of the exile that will help to guide my children toward wholeness.
And that is worth an infinite Paris springs.


 

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The Best Love Letters are Brief

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The Best Love Letters are Brief

To my son, who is grieving –
To my son, who is brilliant –
To my son, who is too small to be this sad –
To my son, who is too young to be this worldly –

when you were conceived on a bright spring day many years ago, this body, my body, already knew you and your History and your Present and your Future.

It takes a long time to learn that you are only Infinity.

You must humble yourself to storm clouds, bow to poisoned lakes, and honor the fish who live there as your brother, your sister, even as you might slaughter them.

Wholeness comes from Wholeness, and the attempt to disassemble a piece (of Soul, of Flesh, of Story, of Family) will not disrupt the Whole.

When you were a very young child and could still hear about Love, I used to say to you:
“I Love you more than there are Stars in the Sky.”
But it was a lie.
You are the Love.
You are the Stars.
You are the Sky.

And it also takes a long time to learn that language is an affront to Infinity.
There is only Love.
Let us sit with it.

Corvus Corax

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Corvus Corax

Is it not a relief,
as the faithless years pass,
to wake with the dying
night? Dawn muted and brief

before the desert light
shakes shadows from spindled
limbs of thin trees who live
like starved saints. Venus bright,

infinite sun. Cacti
of Rainbow, Horse Crippler,
King-cup and Prickly Pear.
Bone-root of Pinon, dry

as smoke. Ravens gather
in a regal cluster.
Purple, Blue, Onyx
robes of oil-slicked feather,

Earth’s omniscient conclave.
Eyes deep as blackened jade,
tufted down ’round the throat,
still wings drift, wave upon wave –

 

Silence & Song: Motherhood

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Silence & Song: Motherhood

After the third breakfast of the morning, two broken dishes thrown away, one spilled and mopped bowl of freshly full dog water; after the new doll’s head has been replaced upon slender shoulders and the plush Easter bunny (ears gold, neck ringed with pink silk, already stained) has been rescued for the fifth time from terrier teeth; after the headband “with the bow” and the tulle skirted dress have been located along with the underwear that says “Tuesday” because it is “Tuesday, not, Mama, Wednesday, God,” and musical requests fulfilled (“no, not Afro-pop. The Police. I want the Police,” not yet knowing the tragedy of whatever Sting later became) – after the small child with the impossibly beautiful face and absurdly wily demands settles into her small throne of play and pop songs and small books hiding huge ideas,

I make my way in a secret silence (I can hear it beneath the Copeland percussion) to water. My head has not known water in three, or is it four? days. The heated rivulets are a Paradise. My body uncoils like the finger-leaves of a thirsting fern. My skin turns a happy pink from sugar scrubs and coral colored cleansers. Oh. How I miss their smells.

The child is quiet and happy.
I am quiet and happy.

Mama. I think I broke only one egg.”

And so the song resumes.

What is Practice?

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What is Practice?

The length of my exploration of Yoga has precisely mirrored the length of the most important relationship of my life, that of my affair and then marriage to my (X)-husband. In those days of my late 20’s I was almost drowning in gifts and newly discovered riches: finally I had left Colorado, I had broken from the coked up party people upon whom I had stupidly wasted the previous few years, I was in love with a kind, generous man who was lonely and complicated and knew everything a human mind can know about soul music – and I found Practice.

Yoga is analogous in many ways to erotic love or hard drugs: many people can walk into a yoga class, roll out a mat, tolerate or mildly enjoy the class, and then leave it behind. Like a one night stand or quickly set aside experiment. For others, the memory of that “First Class” burns all throughout one’s life, and serves as an occasionally sorrowful, sometimes joyful reminder of what Life feels like when lived fully awake or open. My first love affair, with a beautiful boy from Athens, Georgia, was like that. My first line of coke was like that. And my first Yoga class was like that, but even more so: I was caught, but I knew not by what. Yoga, above all, is Mystery.

As I grow older, and Practice weaves itself in and out of my life, its presence shifting according to differing levels of chaos, depression, discipline, and traditional “householder” needs, I find my understanding of Practice and Yogic discipline changing, though not necessarily evolving. This is due in part to the choices I have made over these many years: instead of the life of a semi-renunciant, to which my nature is in many ways highly suited, I married. And moved back, profoundly against my own instincts, to Colorado. I had a child. And then another. And then a third. My partner never practiced, and indeed held a slightly contemptuous attitude toward Practice, and during the gorgeous years of tiny babies and worlds awakening around me, my own world became smaller as my marriage fell apart and the reality of my own self-created imprisonment became clearer to me.

Discipline faded, even as I grew stronger as a teacher of asana. Oddly, the more hesitant I am in my own faith, the more artful and thoughtful my instruction has become. I am a good teacher. A gifted teacher. And not a particularly good yogini.

Strange, the contradictions we hold within our hearts and hands.

Over the last couple of years, circumstances in the strange, sickeningly commercialized world of Western Yoga have further isolated me from Practice. I practice both Ashtanga and Iyengar Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is particularly fraught with minefields of ego, historical myth, astonishing moral and physical judgment, and a sense of cultish superiority. It is also a beautiful art, the most beautiful I have seen in the world of asana and pranayama. My relationship to Ashtanga Yoga usually looks like an internal Robert Motherwell of dark and white devotion mixed with rejection, often blended together within seconds of one another.

In the Mysore room (the traditional form of practice is thus named), I have experienced moments of true passage, in which the dull, limited “Rachel, age such and such, of this body in this time” fades to the background of illusion and ego, and in its place is…. the numinous, whatever state is beyond language, beyond the reach of human description.

I have also experienced the opposite of this state, which is of course to be expected but presents its challenges nonetheless. In any engagement with art, one runs into obstacles – teachers who are totally misguided assholes, interior struggles that prevent evolution, insecurity, self-doubt.

Lately, however, it is not the struggle with Practice I feel so much, but more an overarching, long-lens conflict about the Western interpretation of Yoga.

We are taught that Yoga belongs to no one. It is a spiritual practice. It is a physical practice. It is a practice one can approach from myriad needs and perspectives, from the desire to thin one’s thighs to the burning zeal (tapas) for Enlightenment and Awakening.

As a woman (yet another problem in the history of Ashtanga Yoga) who lives profoundly within the Western realms of aesthetics and analysis, but who is also strangely overcome by true expressions of faith, I wonder more and more if… the whole project isn’t an ignorant commercial experiment, doomed to failure from the start by conflicts inherent between both cultural norms and good old American greed.

In the next year or so, when my children are just a bit older, I intend to, finally, make my way to India. I hope some of my questions might be answered, or at least addressed in a manner that brings me out of my myopic tendency to lean heavily into the cynical and the impossible.

In the meantime… all I can do is observe what is here, in this country, in this city. And this is what I see:

there is very little Practice (whatever that is, right?).
There exists, instead, an Industry. We even call it such: the Wellness Industry. And it is growing at a blinding pace, more than 10% in the last two years alone.  Spas and crystals and workshops and retreats to (always stunning) far-flung places. Fashion, asana sequences that are TM’d with laughable monikers (Yoga with Goats, anyone?) and almost offensive branding: “Mindful Vinyasa,” or “our signature … ” fill in the blank.

I love Practice. Some of my teachers are the most brilliant people I’ve ever encountered, and they reflect an intensity of discipline and devotion that is a gift to observe. I am not spilling any secrets when I tell you that Manouso Manos has not missed a pranayama practice in all the decades and decades he has been learning Yoga. Does this mean he has scraped his way through all the kleshasovercome samskaras both personal and universal? I doubt it. But he is closer than the rest of us.

And the teacher from whom I have learned most, partly from example, partly from listening, reflects a transcendent beauty that is a combination of natural brilliance and steady practice. Many thousands of people have seen their lives changed by a mere lecture or two from Richard Freeman, and if this is not the Yoga of transmission and compassion I do not know what is; to me, and to many, Richard is Embodiment (an opinion which I imagine drives him mad, but that is another essay).

The end of my marriage, for reasons I do not yet understand, is also bringing about an end to Practice, or Practice as I have known it. There is a great, new and frightening scale of questioning I have never before known about the very essence of Yoga as it has been adopted in the Western world.

Here: I don’t know if I like it. To admit such a thing, after identifying so strongly as a teacher and yogini for so many years, should be terrifying. But it’s not. It’s interesting, and fresh. I feel an honesty coming over me that I have never really known before. And a fearlessness.

I cannot stand the modern industry. I find most teachers to be so ignorant as to be irresponsible at worst or just silly and cheesy at best. In the Ashtanga world, there is a Puritanical devotion to mechanics and the imitation of practice in Mysore, India. But things have changed in Mysore. No longer is one supposed to linger in tadaka mudra, and people argue constantly over the type of breath used in Utpluthih. And may the gods help a teacher who attempts to teach Ashtanga Yoga without being Authorized. But to be even more frank, a lot of Authorized teachers are terrible, and become Authorized because they have made the requisite trips, paid the necessary funds, to the Institute in Mysore. I know an authorized teacher who told me that he’s “not an alignment guy,” which is a bit like a ballet teacher saying he’s not that into music.

And these concerns address only, for me, the more surface questions of Practice, safety, authenticity. The greater and more subtle issue has to do with Interpretation, or the manner in which the West has morphed, altered, and adopted these practices that are thousands of years old, and were often only given to male Brahmans who spent their lives reciting and memorizing the Vedas, or engaging in debate over the dualism (or not) of Samkhya philosophy. This has about as much to do with the overly franchised Western studios as the making of Epoisses in Burgundy does with Velvetta.

And yet. When the seed is planted it is not quickly killed off, even by cynicism, even by witnessing how bastardized Practice has become. Perhaps it is true that the West, with its Cartesian DNA of an intellectualized “I” sense, and its cultural history of money, success, and greed, will never be able to adopt the ethos of authentic Practice. But this does not mean Practice does not exist. Perhaps the turning away from the culture of Practice, toward something quieter, more intimate, and personal, is the first step toward really knowing, and then absorbing, the teachings of Yoga.

 

Ten Stories Up

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Ten Stories Up

I have the flu.

This morning I was so sick I could not make it to my children, who now primarily live at their father’s home while I take care of them during the days and evenings. I was so consumed with fever I could not see from the pain behind my eyes, and so have spent a strange solitary day in bed, the restless vision of illness my only companion.

Nothing fits anymore. Not on the widened scale of our shameful puppet in the White House, the numberless and numbing atrocities that drift past our gadgets like so many hallucinatory vignettes; and not on the personal level either: so many people I know are in the middle of illness, transition, pain. Myself included. I cannot remember the last day of respite, or deep sleep, or a simple absence of injury.

I know that somewhere in New York right now, or down the street from this apartment, there is a couple falling in love, or a woman enjoying a fine dinner out by herself, or an old man walking his dog in the snow. These things still happen. And that is a joy, no?

On other days, when my mind is not so muddied, I write about memory, illusion, and the manner in which desire and current circumstance reshape the past, so the past itself becomes something that never really happened. But today, a day of freezing snow, my body chilled and then coated in sweat, covered with five pale-rose comforters and cashmere only to kick it all off, frantic from heat – today I am nostalgic and soft and sad.

I made the aching, horrible decision to not own a home, to not “provide” a home for my children, so that they might stay in one place. Because my X has the temperament and money for a house, and owns one the children love already, I ceded that part of the endless battle to him. I cannot tear my children’s minds down the middle, demanding they sleep here, now over here, simply because their parents are selfish fuck-ups.

So they stay. And I flutter around them, a little like a nanny. And I am homeless, there is no center for me. I wake, I drive to them. I pass the day with the littlest or wait for them to be done at school. I hate my apartment, as beautifully as I’ve designed it – the beauty itself feels hollow, like something staged for someone else’s life. And I hate, utterly loathe, the house they inhabit, because it is his, not mine, and I am some cross between a mama, a housekeeper, a beggar, and an uninvited guest who must from necessity return to the table.

If this were a fairy tale, which I suppose like all life it is, one could say that I used to be the queen, sitting at the head of the table with her first born prince and two beautiful princesses. My fingers were draped in diamonds, and in my vanity and worship of the prince and princesses the king grew angry. Finally his anger brought a curse on our kingdom, and now I have lost my crown, allowed still to own the title “Mother,” but only as a handmaiden, bended knee, praying he does not change his mind.

For a few weeks I lived in terror of banishment. Until I realized that the banishment had occurred already, and that in trying to appease the angry father and tend to the suffering children I had unwittingly turned myself into a strange old witch, begging to be let in.

There is a modern term for this kind of parenting. It is called “nesting.” However, in this understanding, both parents sometimes live in the home. In my situation, I am a permanent visitor, so that, for instance, upon falling ill, I return to a lonely bed ten stories high. There is a bedroom next to mine with three adorable beds.

They have been slept in once.

This afternoon I dreamt that I emptied the apartment. All my clothes, all the absurdly gorgeous, art deco-bohemian furnishings, gone. A couch. A place to practice. A pair of jeans and some books. Why?

In tears, hours later, it came to me:
memory.
My children will have no memory of this place. It’s just where Mama goes at night.
No Christmas.
No homework fights.
No movie nights or political diatribes they recall to their own children after I am dead.
No dinner table or heirlooms or a place to rest a tired body on holiday from University.

What will they remember?
The smell of their sheets on a hot summer night. The sounds in the hallway as their father turns out the lights, at exactly 11PM every night.
The kitchen with its gleaming black quartz and brilliant white cupboards (that I designed), and the hideous, comfortable table where they draw and fight and make endless messes.

Do you remember the opening scenes of Terrence Malick’s great masterpiece “The Tree of Life?”  The manner in which the Madonna-like Mrs. O’brien loved and mourned her children? The wind, the whispered phrases of love, grace, faith?
This. This is childhood. It is Origin. And birth. And Divine Love.

It is what I have known as a mother. It is all I’ve known.
The sky against a singing swing. The let-down of milk from heavy breasts. The grief-joy of each passing birthday. Small dresses and huge curls, minds of the infinite New.

Will they know?
Will they know me?

Circling

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Circling

1.
I do not write anymore.
I do not write.
Lists fill my mind, purse, journal, which used to contain
ideas.
The lists remain undone,
my hair shows strands
of silver.

I would find this beautiful on anyone
but this body,
the one I must live with, and watch
with the contempt of a house cat
who has lost her perch.

Do not worry, this is not a poem. Or an essay or a study
there is nothing scholarly witty or worthy in these lines
– a journal grants great indulgence. “It’s mine,” 
as my 4 year old might say.

These are the briefest jots of grief
I simply miss the act
of sitting with
and then dispensing with
thoughts along a digital page.

Here:
This is why I do not write.
In the last 2 months
I sold my house.
I searched for another
(43 unlocked doors for sale –
no sale)
And found myself with a full account
and an empty end point.

And this is why I do not write.
I have this Ex-Husband. Father to three
little children who grew within me
and now can somehow grow
without me.
The Ex-Husband (how does a person become an X?) prefers the three
small beings to be split down the middle,
two houses two lives two families…
and I am unsure
if this will not make for more than 6 huge problems:
Identity, Security, Consistency, Home(lessness), Displacement, Confusion –
in the age of the refugee
there are more than a few sorts…

And so I asked
begged bullied pleaded
for the little creatures to have 1 house life family. Avec moi.
“You’re dreaming.” He said.

Well… no one could deny or argue with that.

But… who is not dreaming?

My dreams are image and wisdom
pulled together by invisible synaptic string.
The string becomes a hum:
“the children need a home.
the children need a home, singular
Not in the singular, spectacular manner of fantaisie royale
just a simple home. One home. One room. One bed.
You must give this to them, as a womb outside your body.”

I did.
This is why I don’t (can’t) write anymore.
I took an apartment in a neighborhood filled with trees
a block or two from their fairytale school.
It is a flat with windows and a sunrise that
uncurls without impediment
every morning into my high bedroom
a wall of windows open
to the Eastern light.

The apartment is a place to sleep.
Keep my books.
My obscene amount of clothes.
It is a flat to hold my body during rest,
while I tend the children
at their father’s house (their Home)
during the days and evenings.

I have a beautiful flat
I am homeless
I am city-less
No country
or state
with this Ex
with this president
I have a beautiful flat
filled with boxes, neglect

My children have
Home.

And lest you think
I am filled with self-pity
or self-sacrifice
I beg the reader to remember:

a woman with three children
has lost her mind
to a complicated math:
three hearts, none
in her possession.
And as long as the three hearts
are beating as they should

steady
steady
steady

it does not matter where her frame resides.

2.
As I write these words
these petite
phrases
that reach for a meaning
the writer herself cannot grasp

I am text-fighting.
This is the primary manner
of communication, the chosen
form
of intimacy
my Ex

prefers.
Form
Intimacy
Two words
both sacred and necessary
and absent utterly
from gadgetry

Do you ever catch yourself
in the modern mirror?
Your reflection a recreation
and an editing
flesh-less,
like a weak and fearful
god
in the ether
of the digital world?

There is no love.
This, a cocooning comfort
to the man
whose rage used to grip my thighs
(“fucking” he always called it)

Do I hate him?
I do not know
what hate is.
But I do know
now
what fucking feels like.
A scar.

3.
I told
a psychiatrist
that my soul
is peripatetic
“ownership
is alien,”
and he stared at me
archly
the way they do

like dancers
they train for an expressiveness –
the grace of wisdom
even if they
stand naked
with stupidity
when the initials are stripped from the name.

This is what I needed to say:
I am cast
out.
There is no family for this life or body or heart
my children live in a home ringed with spiked wire
and all I do is bleed in the crawling
my torso is mud
vertical lines of blood.

I cross him
every day to reach them
he is a man one does not cross.

I am on the run.
Therefore
ownership is alien
or dangerous
for a mother with no family
a stranger
a stranger
a stranger
one day I might hold them
in peace
and whisper the Gayatri
in their spiraling sleeping ears
hair damp with dreams –
I wide awake as dawn nears.

How to Kill a Category

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How to Kill a Category

“It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.

It is time.”
   ~~ Paul Celan, Corona

There are hints dropped along the way, as a particularly astute gardener might notice on a high summer afternoon: her plants have in a flashing moment reached the unnameable summit, and she senses a descent through the brilliant crest of leaf or petal, smell of autumn in the root.

When does it arrive, this crossing-over? How can one awaken to the fact of one’s own somnulance, and yet remain anesthetized? It is an act, or a process (and is a process a series of acts, stop-time, or does there exist a secret fluidity one cannot name or see or grasp….) of being patient, doctor, weeping relative, pain specialist, all at one time. And then the roles break apart from the pressure of their own deceptions and fear…. what remains? What remains?

I think of Paul Celan, especially these days, the days of loss so heavy it sinks beneath the net – there is no pulling this grief toward the light. The clown who dances on a prince’s grave, immigrants treated as vermin, flirtations with weapons so stupidly lethal we might be erased like chalk. Despair, despair, despair… language the only respite, which reveals itself, always, as Celan knew so intimately, as failed experiment.

His suicide, after so many years digging through memories unbearable – his mother, who taught him as a child to hold with reverence the language of her murderers, slaughtered at the camps, his father dead from disease – he raised to the light delicate insights, carved from the toughest brutality, that defined and gave shape to what amounted to a New World, the life of After: after the War, after the Camps, after the sight of what modern humans can do to one another. He stood, or crouched, and faced the blood-strewn storm, and gave us a language to surround, occasionally comprehend, an unimaginable context.

And then he turned from it; his suicide, to me, is a denial of language, a denial, finally, of one’s capacity for strength and endurance. He haunts me, as I see the cracks grow in my own psyche and form: my own suffering, the suffering of our brutalized grand Earth, of refugees of women of children, of my own children – when does strength become a facade holding up a long dead corpse, false scaffolding of Self?

And it has always been thus: language is an illusion, it is a mere category of invention, a graceful artifice at best, a lie of hope at worst. We need it. But do we? There are sculptures in India of Shiva wearing a necklace of skulls. Each skull represents a letter from Sanskrit, its connectedness represents finality, an impenetrable death. Perhaps the death is a metaphor, and when one accepts our addiction to language (the search to be other than Other) there exists a passing through to peace, internal strength, and acceptance. Or perhaps the death is literal, and when one realizes the false promise of our needed interconnectedness the soul fades, the body slouches to the highest bridge.

I am in the shadows of knowing-not~knowing. Divorce, the disability of my daughter, the stolen Presidency, all our rage and ignorance that seem to only grow with the years, despite our intellectual sophistication: it is too much, and yet we endure, sometimes even with a winking glimpse of Joy, Ananda, Bliss-state.

I do wonder what Mr. Celan would make of the white supremacist in the White House, what he would make of our astonishingly stupid forms of communication: twitter, Face Book, email, text. None of it human, none of it even language, really.

When I stumbled upon the full force of my ex-husband’s dislike of me, it was through the pathetic medium of text (the irony of the phrase – a text is rarely text), oddly not far from Celan’s home. It was a moment so filled with horror that life became, for a second or a minute or a day, electric with Pain. Perhaps it is this sort of electricity, the sort made of grief and struggle and rage, that spurs an artist on, despite the dullness of depression nipping at his heels. And when the current fades to black… what remains?

And now we are 4

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And now we are 4

Please tell me, winter moon or god or sun-at-dawn,
how am I to possess this
one
beating heart
two
exhausted arms
three
tight breaths –  intake, release,
the pause between –
four
aging limbs

and bring to fruition
three
small beings
each
to
each
to
each
in the effulgent
and Deserved Joy
of Life Unfolding

while I
my(self)
am an etching incomplete
no center
no touch
portrait of a Solitude

a more generous god
reveals
only during those
last few
precious… slow… breaths.

Tell me,
how shall I be
their marbled wisdom
and warm-ember-hearth

when all I know
is wind?