Parallel

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Parallel
One of the great failings and discouragements of my intellectual life is that I can’t write politics. I admire and love astute political writers and commentators; without them we would have little guidance and insight into the broader reaches of our society, other societies, history, indeed the human condition in general. The best writers offer perspective and context, always, and they are usually the least read. But it is my habit, gift, failing and need to turn most events, whether personal or the furthest universe away, toward metaphor and the reflective patterns of what humans repeat again and again and stumblingly again.

Donald Trump’s egregious election and administration, if one can even call it that, has erased my higher, broader mind, taken it captive. In its place is an inarticulate rage, a helplessness and disbelief, that is a truly useless attribute when attempting to comprehend the selfish idiocy of this person, his political groupies, and the pathetically ignorant (or purely self-interested) people who elected him. A racist showman who began the blushingly backward “birther” distraction, a father who spoke about fucking his own daughter, and who was caught on tape admitting to assaulting women – we took him on, swallowed his nativist lies and race baiting fear mongering, drop by eager drop. My Buddha heart wilts and falls away: I cannot find compassion for people who support this person, and what he has done, will do, to his own country and, more importantly, our dying Earth. I hate him. Part of me hates every single person who voted for him. There is simply… no excuse.
I was thinking the other day, as I often do, of Barack, and how innocent and silly I became during his administration. I loved him – I still love him – despite his failings and overly intellectual pondering on humanitarian crises like Syria. His failings are rooted in a deeply refined intellect and sense of humanity and grace. This country responded to such a presence in a manner so violent, so racist, and in a way so utterly, there is no other word, idiotic, that I don’t recognize myself here. I am ashamed upon hearing the broader, wiser commentaries from black people, brown people, anyone not white and comfortable: “Wake the fuck up. And so it has always been. Trump just gave public permission for these people to more openly align and vent their horrible, ignorant rage and fear. It’s nothing new.”

I am a mother of three children. Most days I am a broken record: “I am single now. Broke. Single mother and fucking broke and as lonely as I’ve ever known.” But then I think: “If I were a black woman… with a black son..” how would I go on? Shame. That’s the primary emotion I feel. Shame, all my love and pride over Barack and his brilliant ambitions shattered by the blind seething larvae that lay beneath that whole damn time.

In the 80’s Barack was going to Harvard, head of the Harvard Law Review. He did community work, and then, as everyone knows, went to Chicago and met Michelle at the great law firm Sidley Austin. (In the oddest personal aside: my grandfather many decades earlier did the same, attending Harvard, Law Review etc, then worked at Sidley… I used to love the idea that a black man with a mixed race background could follow the exact trail of a white Southern boy working his way up in the early 1950’s.)

And, as we all know from such erudite publications as People Magazine and the New York Post, the 80’s Trump was snorting coke and making shit deals to ruin the landscape of Manhattan or New Jersey or Florida or wherever his pathological narcissism led him. The pasts of the two men reflect precisely what they both brought to public service (or public destruction). One, a humanist, an intellectual giant who understood the forces of history, the ugliness of nationalism and the belief that being forever a solitary ascendant world power was a dangerous belief indeed. The other: no belief at all save the most primitive kind, like an Id stripped to its basest form: money, power, more money, submissive women, ownership, and fuck the rest and whomever or whatever got in his greedy way.

Barack is as dignified as the current occupier of the White House is vulgar. Where the latter can barely put two tweets together, and never coherently, Barack is a brilliant student of strategy, history, politics, music, and literature. Who would ever imagine we would have had a great man for president who can also sing like Al Green and reads Alice Munro, a name Trump might hear and think, “Didn’t I fuck her once?”

And so in parallel I place the two together, and compare, like a child handed two toys for evaluation and preference. But unlike the child I can feel the veins of bitterness move into my heart: this administration does so much damage to everything it touches, and is in power at a moment of such profound importance to the planet, to the stability of other countries, that I feel myself grow exhausted from my own hatred. And this trait is, of course, the old and easy path that allows oneself to become mirror and puppet to the thing one least admires. This is the common way of history, of human emotion, of attachment and the desire to see life unfold in ways beyond the control of an individual’s egoic passions.

This evening, after a particularly painful day of loneliness and fear – sometimes I feel I can only wake for a moment to the huge pressures surrounding this new identity of “Single Mother of 3” – well, this evening I poured a lovely, small glass of sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley, and it promptly spilled all over my freezer and floor.

Anger, frustration, Small Mind: I became the muttering middle aged woman complaining about her lot in life, and I knew it, which made the moment all the harder and all the more comical.

Suddenly an image flashed through my weary mind. First I saw the smallness of my anger, the waste of it. But that was a micro-second. Next came a picture, a real picture, though still impossible to describe: indelible, real as flesh, a painting, but a truth, too.

There was a god. The god was holding something in his hand, something I could not quite see, but knew. He was holding the body of the Earth. And it was a true body, corporeal and shaped, as if the molten core had emerged but was no longer a supporting sphere. The god was watching with just one eye the slowly writhing, tiny creature, our World, our lives, our Planet. And he said, in the softest voice, “That was a good death. It was peaceful, short compared to some others I’ve seen.”

We are only a passing, quicker than a leopard at hunt. All the parallels, all the loves, the raging battlefields and the awesome peace of a high desert moon; even, dare I say it, the silken first touch of the child just as she emerges from her mother’s hard-heaving body: Passing. Passing. So fast we never know it. Not really. Maybe at the end, maybe at the last breath, when the god breathes us in, and we might share his sight before – oh! – the mind shuts the eyes the heart the heavy lungs.

There.
It’s gone.

 

Advertisements

At Play

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

At Play
I

Too wide the eyes, the usual truth
of beauty and deformity.
Inhuman and unblinking,
though still black orb’d with youth.
Eyes somber and new.
Eyes of a long dead artist’s etching –
The child perceives some totality
that was born and dies within him.
Vast the vision, open and proud
as the last rose of autumn.
The world
as we agree to it
intersects rarely
with the kingdom of his creation.

He is his own
best invention –

and though I am Queen to his Pawn,
moving freely, but for
the protection
of a constrained King,
in Truth even at birth
he was already gone.

II

There is no myth between us
no distance and no intimacy.
We take strange turns, as
the one who entered this our world
regal, tall, never born,
and the one whose searing pain
transformed wild and wise ether
to beautiful form.
Ours is a rhythm violent and tender
and this is the way
of all Love
and other ancient games
of skill.

(When you emerged from my
exhausted groin you did not breathe
and then you did.
For three years I held you
hard to my swollen breast
until I realized your love
would forever be
far across a windy field
and this field had no end
and therefore no capture.

From birth you cared it seemed
only for the difficult
the strata of what could be
 dug up and in-to
layers upon layers of solitary play
 reveling in pale puzzles of palimpsest.

You spoke in tongues when you dreamed.)

III

Recently I watched you play.
But there is no play
in your play,
there is only a going in
further
further
a depth of exclusion so precise
to see it makes one lonely.
Where are you, Prince?

But there is no prince, no soft lines
that might allow for
the inheritance of
improved repetition.
In this game,
as with this child,
there is only
one chance, but
there is also no chance
only cunning,
only the going in
finding the untouchable
point of pure mind,
where gentle dreams are slayed
by some force impersonal,
sharp and cruel.

Pawn moves first,
then the ruthless knight.
Castle quickly,
move the stunted King
to Queenside
and do not neglect the busy power
of a conquering Bishop.
All good Bishops
cast sidelong glances,
and use their influence
in ways that seem to skitter
across the board.
I do not trust them;
it’s the sad Pawn I love,
and the straight talking Rook.

This is what the child sees
especially vivid
now that his White Queen lives
in solitude,
and devotion to his dark King
has become a matter
of severed life
and blooded death.

His mind is a sun,
heart buried in blacken’d ore;
he sees himself as Pawn
even as the grieving Queen
her hair and robes undone
for days, speaks of family lore
and paints a picture drawn
from battles hardwon:
“Beyond the hidden door
of War, Grace and Strategy,
there lives something more –
Love. Illuminating Love. My son,
You are with my mirror-eyes truly Seen.”

—  For A.M.
and for Nabokov, master of hearts and games

Courtyard – A Moment

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Courtyard – A Moment

I.

Two winters ago. Paris, daily rain for three weeks. Stolen passport, stolen money. But not lost, or scared, not really. It is Paris, after all.

The wait was long, for the passport. The French like to do things properly, and time moves in slower waves there; it is one of the countless reasons my love for the place runs so deep: my true nature is both slothful and awake, qualities that seem unable to intermix in the either-or of the United States. It is possible to be both sleepy and piercing, Godard proved it.

Grey skies that turned pinkish blue every evening, as the lights of the City refracted against the heavy clouds. Headlights were blurred stars, taillights the brilliant tips of embers.

That winter I had been married many years, none of them particularly happy, and as each passed there grew more and more polluted space between us,  tiny toxic rivulets carving intricate gulches throughout the landscape of our life. His life. My life. Joined, by then, only by the three iron threads of children. They formed, poor innocents, the dangerous bridge between us, and the bridge served as a mirror in reverse to our growing offspring: the more they grew and thrived, the thinner and more rickety became the passage between us.

Passport, gone. Money, gone. Concern or worry from my lover, gone. (No. Not lover. My husband.) It was his moment to unmask the years of rage, the years of perceived betrayal and impatience, even hatred, that had grown in him like a shadow turned, through its neglect, to something solid and corporeal.

II.

Trip extended for the wife, which created anxiety but of course also joy: Paris! She was trapped in the web of embassies and papers to be filled out; she became friendly with the head of security at the U.S. Embassy, who on the last day told her she was “magnifique,” and gave her a perfectly timed wink.  A man at home with three children. A man at a home that didn’t feel like a home, waiting for a woman who didn’t feel like a wife but a series of necessities, unexamined promises, lists gone stale through repetition:
1. Save the vulnerable wife.
2. Save the vulnerable wife.
3. Have sex, never enough.
4. Fight about the children.
5. Fight about the wife’s constant lateness. The disrespect.
6. Fight about money.
7. Fight about money.
8. Just in case (6) and (7) were not covered in full, fight with more vitriol. Over $.
9. Feel guilt because – despite the debt – flowers, jewels, remembrances of any sort
have never been given.Ever.
10. Fight about not going out.
Which the wife now understands was never about
money, but the tedium of the wife. (Knife-pain, shivering lips, still, to write that
particular Truth.)

Now the wife is not a wife, and knows she has not been for many years. What is a wife anyway? Now the not-wife thinks often of the etymology of husband – from the Old Norse Hus, or house, and bondi, peasant, householder. And of course, Husbondi as Master.

Now the not-wife understands that she hates living in and owning a house, and keeps the days marked on her office wall until she can rent a studio in some ancient part of Paris. And she is certainly not a peasant, either in antecedent or taste. The Master element… this is more complex. Perhaps the now-not-wife was searching for a Master. Someone to lay waste to her appetites, her peripatetic nature, her groundlessness. Perhaps the now-not-wife wanted to slaughter (husbandry) the delicate ether of her half-embodied nature and become a woman, rounded and busy, unafraid to touch the Earth, beast of burden to Hus and Master.

Tame me. Slay me. Put your hands around my neck on Friday; I’ll join the corporate sisterhood on Monday.

III.

It didn’t quite work out that way.
When I was in Paris that year we fought. By text, by email, occasionally by phone. I could feel the messages delivered to me. Not the messages sent through crude technology, but the messages of the invisible companions who have always traveled beside me, within me, and have been silenced to an alternating grief and bemusement at what their charge has (not) been up to all these many many years.

As he typed furiously the words
“You are a selfish bitch.”
“You only think of yourself.”
“I have lost hours of work trying to get a card/money/ID to you”
those Daimons slowly stirred, and their song, inseparable from action, woke me to the loneliness, the nothing-ness, of attempting to shape-shift my shapeless Self into little more than a sweet smelling mare in a well-kept barn.

The Daimons sent me a cruel gift, or was it a test? Both.
They placed my bodily form, tiny and freezing in the early winter twilight, at the very center of the Louvre’s Cour Carree, which still bears stones from its early life as a 12th Century fortress. The light lifted, the courtyard seemed alive from every angle, every height, as tourists took photos in the precious brief glow of the soft sun.

Sound. Light. Cold facades briefly blond-white before the coming darkness. Lovers. Space. So much space, but of the joining kind; I felt held close to the city and its most charming hour.

My phone lit up with many letters that formed just enough words that I finally understood. Despite Daimons and books and poems and travels and children, I am terribly slow to face the realizations handed to me. But that moment, I saw.. I felt.. I knew. I stared at the hard mean words and grew colder, deep in the bone.

I am sure many thoughts drifted about my frightened mind, but mainly they settled like small birds with tired pale wings on slender branches:

“Over.
All gone.
Or really
never
was.”

With thanks to Anne Carson, without whose tangos I don’t think I could go on.

Nina

Tags

, , , , , , ,

This morning I listened for hours to Nina Simone. Sometimes it is too painful to listen to Ms. Simone. Too much pain, too much truth, too much prescience, too much beauty. She blinds one. And then forces one to see. And then blinds again, witchy and sexy and one of the sublime American soothsayers in this country’s entire bloody history.

During one electric moment with her audience, Nina said, “They are gunning us down. One by one. You know they are.” And a man shouted from the rows (pews), “We love you Nina.” And she said, and we all believe it, “I love you too.”

I saw her a year before she died. Now, I am almost relieved she is gone, though she saw this coming with such clarity she would have been the least surprised of all of us.
This picture was taken yesterday, of course. Not 50 or 60 years ago.

I know only shame and anger about the United States. Then I think, well, Nina came from its haunted depths.

But her pain was shaped in large part by the forces depicted so crudely in this photograph. And she left.

All these words: tolerance, progress, peace, acceptance: empty. The words of a white world, blind to the reality of our history and history’s constant repetition, record on repeat.
Nina became ill with rage.
Or was it Sight?

The Best Farewells are Brief

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Best Farewells are Brief

On an afternoon in July,
I read the following:
“Decree was granted early.”

For a moment
I imagined a telegraph,
$1.00 a word.

 The sexiest men
are always the most succinct.

And polite.
No one can say
he did not wait
and wait and wait,
Until the only thing left in him
was to fasten tight his boots
and wander into the cold clear quiet night.

And now I am crazy again,
he even said so this afternoon,
after I threw a tiny golden shoe,
at his retreating shoulders.
As it pivoted in the hot summer sky
the sequinned sparks became fire.

“What the fuck are you doing,
 you crazy person?”

Two days ago we made love and he said
“You are the missing puzzle piece.”

But now it is my mind that is all
a puzzle,
and sure to go missing
once again.

A Letter to my Teacher

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Letter to my Teacher
The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing, to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.
— Keats, in a letter to his brother George, 1819

Dear Manouso,

A couple of days ago you gave a dharma talk. It was primarily about aparigraha, or the cultivation of intense focus that leads one closer to Realization, or at least a glimpse of it. In your singularly wry manner you mentioned the fact that your guru, Mr. Iyengar, believed that with disciplined practice and total dedication, it should take one about 3 and a half years to master the entire canon of the asanas. And although your students treated this statement with laughing disbelief, the idea of mastery, what it means, and perhaps more importantly what it does not mean, caught my attention enough that I have thought of little else since.

It is commonly thought that the creation of a ballet dancer, particularly a girl, takes a full 10 years, and these 10 years must have behind them almost impossible prerequisites of talent, correct character, shape of limb, length of muscle, resistance to injury etc.  When I think of the technique necessary for the speed, the lift, and the precision of ballet, it does seem true that Terpsichore more than stage mothers grant the gift of this art.

Here, however, is the poignant tragedy of dance, and, perhaps, almost all art: a girl at 18, perfectly trained, is ready to dance. But she cannot understand the secret meanings within technique; these are insights granted only with the passage of time, the softening and opening of the mind as it passes from the ecstasies of narcissistic youth to a slower pace that makes way, if one is lucky, for a comprehension and appreciation of the subtleties of art and existence itself. Such awakening is available only to an intellect that has the capacity for patience, for stillness.

Great dancers who have the luck and temerity to make it to “the end,” never later than her mid-40’s, often say the same thing: My mind understands now, and my body cannot express the understanding.

This is, of course, a parable for the manner in which we all live and age, no matter what the gifts of our life: first the coming forth, then the shading of color between the lines of character, personality, a life lived; then the fading away, often just when the colors seem their richest.

I think this is one of the exquisite jewels of the yoga given to us by Mr. Iyengar and, now, by you. Perhaps a practitioner, armed with great intensity, ego, vigor, physical capacity, can master the asanas presented in Light on Yoga, but the essence of the practice does not align itself with physical mastery so much as the far more difficult inward (some, myself included, would say spiritual) understanding of what the practice is, why it is, and in how many infinite ways it can be approached, no matter one’s age or health. In an odd way, the yoga you teach, as sophisticated as it is, and as demanding as it is of one’s physical and spiritual attention, is also the most open and embracing, despite its reputation for exactly the opposite qualities.

Yoga seen from its purely physical perspective is analogous to many of the arts that have a poignantly limited life. There are the inevitable failures of the body, even as sensitivity deepens. Taken as the truly internal practice it is, however, and the fading away of the body, of health, of the people in one’s life, finally of life itself: this is the vast, intricate tapestry of Yoga. And in this way, the practice you teach is an encompassing one, like an ouroboros: here is the body, what insight can we gain from it; here is the breath, what can it teach us; here is the departure, and what have we learned, truly, as we leave it all behind?

In reverence,
your student, R

Counting

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Counting

It is 1 day after the last day, but there is no last day, only, as the mathematicians say, the Lemniscate, the circular 8, fallen to its side, inescapable infinity.

And on the 1st day, which was 2 days before the final day of 2000,
they made love
almost before they met.

She, the seducer, because he was the 1st man, and then, somehow, the last man,
(marriage is contradiction to the pencil point of infinite regress)
in an abacus of men she thought worthy of capture.

They were 1, and then, logically, painfully, 2.
So she tugged the dangerous curve of
2
back to the steady road of 1,
and they married.

She, the wizard of increase,
he, the patient accountant,
never quite able to catch
the equation.

1 became 2,
but the 2 died
at 9 weeks,

and her heart threatened
to make them only 1/2.

1 again became 2, but no! After 6 weeks, the discovery of another was made,
and so 1 became 3, 2 boys of = DNA. But upon their glorious 6 month birthday, they, too, died, and so 3 became 1 once again, but the part of the 1 carrying the 2 began to curl into a 0, so despondent was she.

In the 6th month of the year 2007, 1 (the 2 of them hardly conjoined anymore, except, perhaps, at the wide base) finally became 2 for the 3rd time, and he was born on the 28th day of a late winter month.

18 months slid down, or over, the slipstream of love, marriage, time,
and 1 girl came to them, and then they possessed, for a brief handful of happy years, what every symbol loves: mirrored symmetry.

2 boys
2 girls
2 dogs
2 cats

As in all good fairytales or equations that cannot be solved, even on a scroll that has
no end
and no beginning,
the mirror contained a crack, a flaw, a number overlooked.

She saw it, but did not see how
the mirror would shatter, and turn her mind to bloody ribbons –
she reached through the singularly complete reflection, over and over
and over again,
rather like a tall autistic child counting out her secrets in a corner of a lonely room.

She almost died, her mind decayed, and somehow out of the rotting
less than 0
issued forth 1 child of complete and total perfection. Check. Mate. In 9 months of play. In the sheering of her brain,
the child’s mother had granted every perfect wish:
1 health
2 beauty
3 great intelligence
4 the will and charisma of a queen

Love was a flood, swollen and rushing madly from her breast, her heart, the ruin of her brain.

The ruin was patched by:
12 months of therapy
200$ dollars every 60 minutes
1 quieting yellow pill
1 mellowing pink pill
3 astonishing red pills, that plugged the holes, and did a little extra on the side.

Shrinks:
1/3 heart/brain surgeon
1/3 contractor (body, soul, brain, no job too small or big)
1/3 drug dealer, and you are lucky if you get a good 1. She did.

It is known, now, that if enough atoms are
split
then the chain reaction that results makes everything else,
as those who leave like to say,
“too little too late”

The story became a skipping record
and love, which all sadhus say is
Infinite
does have an expiry date after all.

Mine was Solstice, 2017,
21 days into June,
450 days, give or take a 10 or 2, past the smoldering chain reaction
that even practiced habit cannot bury forever.

17 Years
6200 Days
1 Marriage
5 Children, 3 Living
1 little embryo
3 dogs
3 cats
2 Lawyers
4,000 Days of Love
4,001 Days of Fights

You do the math.

— for Alexander, the love of this life, and probably all the others too.
May you find great joy tremendous peace and exquisite love in whatever number of days come after The End of these, Our Days.

44

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

44
avidyasmita raga dvesabhinivesah klesah
 – – Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2.3

“Lately, it’s all contradiction
 Lately, I’m not here
 Lately, I lust over self
Lust turn into to fear”
— 
Kendrick Lamar, Lust

Today I am 44. When I turned 40, I went through the familiar dread and dismay many people know with the arrival of that arbitrary yet mysterious number: youth is dead, officially buried by some cruel cultural agreement that the only thing left for men is sophistication and wealth, for women a gracious turning inward to make room for her smooth skinned, more energetic young cohorts. Unless, of course, she insists on being noisy about career, sexuality, beauty, misogyny and children, in which case she is either a slut (cougar – a more wretched epithet could hardly be imagined) or a shrew. Today, especially, in the wordlessly tragic days of Trump and his henchmen, it seems men are encouraged to rage against the dying of the light (or rage against anything, really), while women should keep their fight squarely centered on an expanding waistline or missing a Botox appointment; we elected, after all, a man who freely calls women disgusting pigs and thinks nothing of raping the cute ones… but boys will be boys. And girls will be girls, until they are 40; then they are old.

When I turned 40 my inner world was transformed into a depressed charred landscape. I went through what one can only call a catastrophic, near-death breakdown. The collapse was due to many internal weaknesses, but certainly part of it was due to exactly how much I lived in tune with our obsession over youth, over the new and forever fresh; I was past my expiration date. I knew, too, that my marriage was somehow dissolving, or that perhaps it had never known solidity to begin with: my world became a mirage, an illusion that I saw, with my newly acquired antiquity, as delusion. People with greatly unrealized potential might suffer this turning of the decade more acutely than others, although success brings with it untold problems of its own unique nature. How, I often wondered during this time, did a dancer like Wendy Whelan cope with being ever more soulful in her dancing, while surely her body had begun its subtle show of cruel betrayal? A famous dancer once said, “Now my mind knows how to dance, and my body cannot.” A beautiful summing up of a life lived with intensity and discipline. What, though, of the rest of us, those who could have danced, but somehow always found reason to sit on the sidelines?

Those myopic questions occupied me for a couple of years. Now I don’t care. Today, when I began my day, I knew it was my birthday, but for several hours I couldn’t remember my age. Not out of the senility that is sure to come, but out of indifference. I am a middle aged woman. And that fact, or more accurately that label, has no meaning to me. The sad attachments to beauty, lost years, the ideal of who I was meant to be remain, but they are more and more blurred, like a Pointellist painting left in a soft rain. This morning I woke up in a small casita in Northern New Mexico, my beautiful, deeply troubled 7 year old daughter sleeping at my side. “Gift,” I thought, and then drifted back to sleep, vaguely wondering how she, not I, will weather the difficult months and years ahead.

My life, seen from quite literally any angle (in the so-called developed world, at least), is a sunken wreck. My health is faltering with deepening asthma and auto-immune issues. I’m about to lose my health insurance and wander into the desert of Trump’s poisoned maze of non-coverage. In just over one month I will be divorced, and the home to which I am moving, a sweet little Victorian bungalow, is a pathetic mess, having been half destroyed by a corrupt contractor.  The city in which I live is toxic to my health, and causes my asthma to be ever worsening, but my estranged husband and I were never able to settle on a place more conducive to the healing of my struggling lungs. I am in terrible need of water, of damp air, of air that doesn’t carry with it every particle of dust picked up from hundreds of miles around. I will be a single mother who knows a little bit about a lot of things, and almost nothing about the things that make up the practicalities of life. Money. Career. Material ambition. Living on the fucking ground. How does a woman who has her entire lived with ghosts in the ether or shadowed and lost souls in the ocean’s depths, suddenly live on the dry cracked Earth?

The answer is woven, intricately, into Practice. Meditation, asana, pranayama, prajna (insight), can lead one to a more and more insular world, or it can open one’s mind to the limitless quality of non-self, of actions made without all their usual attachments and agendas. Raga is the Sanskrit word for attachment; it is the true heart of practice. Why practice if not to engage with the deepest shadows, the most difficult patterns of one’s attachments, including all the beliefs we take to be concrete truths, and are in the end as solid as an eroding fresco.

It is evening. The grasses outside my window glow yellow in the clouded twilight; there is a storm to the South. It is my birthday. I’ve told no one, I’ve spoken to no one except my daughter. She just said to me, while I was writing the paragraph above, “Mama, will I die when I’m a teenager?”

I turned and looked at her.
“Look at me,” I said.
“No,” I said. “You will not die when you are a teenager.”
“But I could,” she said. “I could.”
“Oh, but you won’t. I know,” I lied.
Then I said: “You will die when you are a very, very old woman, filled with wrinkles like great-Grandmother.” She laughed when I said this.

“And when you die, you will be ready.”
“So I have time.” She said this as a statement, not a question.
“You have time.”
Avidya means ignorance. It is one of the fundamental blocks to practice. Without seeing the ignorance of the mind, one never sees the mind’s attachments. I suppose my attachment to my daughter, to her confidence in the exquisite Great Forever of existence that all little children have, spurs me on to cultivate a continued ignorance in her life. And, I suppose, my own.

As I grow older, and wander blindly into this new, strange territory of my increasingly alien life – solitary, stupid toward the simplest facts of daily needs – my practice, my willingness to engage with raga widens and deepens.

But the whisper remains: Do you remember? Do you remember the days when there was no gap between your body and the Infinite? Do you remember speeding down the highway with a stranger, or stargazing on LSD, or hitchhiking to Prague? Thinking, I cannot imagine Death; it is what happens to others.

The beauty of illusion and the speed of youth and the false connection of the body to the endless river of life…life…life and yet more life: it leads to such pain later, as the attachment is revealed to be a trick. Why wish it upon my daughter? Is it because I still yearn for it myself? Perhaps.

More likely though is that a human life has a trajectory, and it is a trajectory of limitless joy followed by limitless suffering, and then the slow, slow stepping away from the whole damn show. At 7 we are the shining star; at 40 we might grieve the departure of an audience. For me, at 44, I am content, for a moment anyway, to just watch the stagehands take down the set.

Midnight

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,


Midnight

I am looking at pictures of Palmyra.
The astonishing before
the devastated after.
If Palmyra was a ruin –
uncut jewel in the palm
of time –
what is it now?

The agora has been raided, again.

Palm trees looped the city
like a dancer’s arms
the smell of lemons
drifted to the theater
and the chorus lifted
its curtain of sound:
praise
and warning –

Upon my curled legs
a small child sleeps,
lashes long as a peacock’s
tail, fine and glistening
with fever.
It is midnight.
Her breath steady
as a tidepool
and her small body
(all scuffed knee and rounded belly)
is a living shadow of Love,
Divine and Perfect
as a memory.

I read this:
our skin, the flesh underneath,
is imbued with stardust,
and once a child arrives
in her mother’s womb
it is the same: cells within
cells, so the blood remembers
what the mind cannot.

Within the dead
shines the deathless particles,
a passage
through time
and the secret arc
of history:
Aramean to Greek,
Roman to Arab,
mother to child,
to star
to ruin.

– – – for Khaled al-Asaad

The Age of Abandonment, in notes

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Age of Abandonment, in notes

About a week ago I came to Paris. The world is an implosion: as the atmosphere thins and the sorrowful trees grow desiccated, weary of reaching, we do the same, mirror to mirror. Humanism is dying before it was fully born, and democracy seems to have been a brief experiment as we now return power to the powerful, poverty to the poor. Le Pen, Trump, Turnbull, Duterte, Maduro. There is a club to which only the murderous, the greedy, the obscenely wealthy and mentally pathological can belong, and we have anointed this club with the title “World Leaders.” All will fall, is falling, has fallen, the tenses only a pause now.

About a week ago I came to Paris. As my flight took off I learned I had no money in my account, my credit card was frozen, and I had not a Euro to my name. Fear. But I worked it out, sort of. The day after my arrival, which had been spent haggling with Western Union and banks, I could not get out of bed. So strange to be jet lagged. But I am never jet lagged. I am often, however, sick.

Not this sick. Fever vomiting dehydration a visit to a hospital IV fluids IV pain meds headaches so intense I cried out to my children, I knew I would never see them again. A sleepiness like death. No. A sleep of death, not rejuvenation, for I’m not sure how many nights, partial days were lost, are lost still. I miss my children. I want to hold their fuzzy heads, even the brilliant one, the one who rejects the holding and so most needs it.

I know the city. I arrived here, about a week ago, already knowing it with a fair bit of intimacy. City, I said, be my mother. Heal me. Light of spring awakening the secret beehives in the Jardin du Luxembourg, heal me. This pain, can it be prayed away? Can it be walked away, cried away? Music, then. Dvorak and Bowie and Denk playing Bach; Schubert quartets and the new Kendrick, the older Kendrick, the swoon of J.Cole.

It is difficult to be very, very sick in a city that is not, despite one’s most ardent wishes, a home. It is difficult to be so very ill all by oneself, to take the pain and cradle it, soothe it, reject it accept it breathe with it or against it; there is no one to remind you, except early Bob Dylan, that it is “life and life only.” Buddha does that too, but then I will pray, or cry, and turn Buddha into an idol, and he will disappear from my life. I don’t care if I turn early Bob Dylan into an idol; he disappeared from my life when he started making Victoria’s Secret ads.

I came to the city to study. To engage in spiritual practice with my teacher, Kia Naddermier. I adore her. I thought I needed this training, this Ashtanga Yoga training, more than anything else. But now I am a convalescent – yes of course like Proust, would you not think of Proust, to be sick and slowly wandering the boulevards of the 6th? I thought I would be practicing for days Ashtanga asana and kriya with a beautiful sangha.

Instead, I got this training.
I arrived in Paris about a week ago. All I know is leave-taking. My husband, who used to be my lover and has been my best, often only friend, for more than 17 years, is no longer my husband. My children are a fury; I am turning into a Mother, as opposed to mama. I always thought, somehow, I would be mama, and they would be my bunnies, safe under my soft, my infinitely soft touch. Money, home, health, my best girlfriend, who wrote me off as a hopeless bitch about a year ago.. sex, time, youth, family, Barack (fucking Barack, where are you? Stop accepting 400k fees for opening your beautiful mouth and fucking come back to us), love love love love love love

love gone pain here. love gone pain here. And here. There? No, further down. Neck. Here?  Yes, there, and lower, of course, always those low, still points, now untouched unseen just…gone. And Christ, even the italics, they’re just… me. Singing out loud on the sidewalks, talking to myself in print.

It is the age of abandonment. Everywhere. For the poor for the sick for refugees and migrants for the thirsty the hungry (why does no one speak of South Sudan?) for fine, cultivated minds, for women for the sensitive for lovers for lovers who conceive a baby and can’t afford to birth that baby for the young (here’s your Betsy DeVos, stupid and greedy as they come – enjoy, little ones, kissing goodbye your right to an education not owned by a fucking corporation), and may the gods help the old. And may the gods help all of us, because damn it may be this fever or this pain or this solitude but all I see when I open my eyes, or at least try to open them, is a farewell party.

And now I am tired and this was supposed to be brief. Brevity is not one of my strong points, a fact to which my ex-husband and his attorney might gladly testify. Maybe if I could just shut the fuck up, in my head, on this page, in the company of les autres, I would still be married. Maybe I’d have friends.

Somewhere does that world exist? For all of us? For me, for the mothers in South Sudan, watching their children die as their milk dries and the diseases come and the flies thrive; for those languishing in Duterte’s camps, for those to be deported by a man so stupid he governs by text, for the hipsters who ruin neighborhoods and for the solitary wealthy and for imprisoned black men and for their mothers and their lonely little daughters, does it exist?

Serenity
Light
Lightness
Feet quiet upon the tired Earth
Hands down
Hands down
guns down
fingertips soft
bellies as full as they need to be
not more
and certainly not less
there is music
somewhere
Can you hear
the whisper of Apollo
and the 9 muses
dance
No
No
not Heaven
Maybe
just
a softening
somewhere
along those suture lines
even the Earth has them
that softening
is a song
repeat
repeat
repeat….