Six hours of restless sleep. The baby keeps stirring. Doesn’t she? Husband, gone. Fighting. We’re fighting. First there was not enough love making and then that changed and for a long while there was the new erotic pull, sex as if with a hidden god. Usually I am Artemis. She is my guide and my shadow. Every story, not a myth – something I have lived. I know the warmth of Actaeon’s stag-blood as I praise my sated hounds. The rivers, as they wend themselves to the salt sea, are my whispering friends, and my companions love solitude as much as they love me. Wild white skin, slender and virginal, protective of the feminine urge, in a round round wooded world that says: Beauty is safe here, unviolated, self-creating, sexless yet whole.
But then I became Aphrodite, all smell and shared flesh and pull of the body. Sensation. And sensational. He – husband – loved it, loved me more, I think, because of the opening and the grasping sort of love. But she is mercurial – she is born from the seeded sea after all, and as jealous in her way as Artemis, and rage is as much a part of her bones as fucking and beauty.
So now, the rage. And the empty bed. The anger seeps and drips. Without the protective garments of love and touch we realize it: we are in a damp blackened cave, blind and wet and cold. Better to be the water loving hunter, contained, controlled, all long neck and watchful eyes. Better to be the goddess who protects the childbearing woman than the woman who bears the child.
Many years ago on this day a girl/woman named Amy died. She died and she was young so young no one could even believe in the touch of death. But it came and now she is dead.
I don’t dream of her anymore.
But I remember her voice. And the wordless cues of her long body, her oddly long legs and pale freckled skin. She was sarcastic. In the mornings before school I would watch her flip her head upsidedown and take a strong firm brush to her already bizarrely thick hair. She would brush and brush, while singing to an LP (Bowie, Byrne, Beatles – so young as to still be on the B’s). When she brought her hair up, a brown black aura around her full-lipped face, it looked like an afro.
My grandfather’s family received land from King George. A large farm in the hills of North Carolina. I remember his voice rolled like those hills, lulling and slow. His family, they owned slaves and sometimes I think there is a brutal inheritance to be seen in my black-girl lips, in hers too, and her crazy kinked hair. Except her lips, her hair – they burned along with the rest of her.
Burning and burning and burning. All the human race desires to burn. In my practice this is called Tapas, a Sanskrit term relating to heat, both of the literal biological sort, as well as the burning intensity needed for spiritual birth. We take the ashes of the practice, all the embers and all the heat, we lift them up to the effulgent sun, and make an offering. But the offering is emptiness, no-thingness; it has burned or it was never even there.
The emptiness is a relief, a freedom, a liberation. It is an either or an or. It is neither. Because language itself is incinerated by the heat of practice.
Is this then the origin of spiritual pain? The body aims itself, a perfect arrow. The mind absorbs and melts into the soul, the Atman, like a rainless cloud. Language gestures and refers – language is like an old gossip sitting in a dark cafe out in the banlieues at dusk, discussing everything in which it cannot participate: the dying away of itself, the fading, the fading, the fading from belief in meaning to the certainty of its opposite.
No. That is not quite right. The certainty of meaning’s opposite is only another meaning. Language twists itself like white linens in the wind: this way, then that way, and the settling is only a momentary pause between the pendulum. Or it is rather like the writing and reading of these words. Somewhere, some day, someone might read these words. He might have an understanding of them, but the understanding will be his, not the author’s.
Is this, then, also the origin not only of spiritual pain, but all pain? We grasp within our small subjective minds to reach one another, touch to touch, word to word. And yet the very method of our reach is an objective construct, using symbols meant to be universal, but forever understood individually.
Tapas also refers to solitude.
Nothing is in and of itself. Artemis and the Angels of Milton, Jesus and Buddha and Patanjali: ideas about ideas about ideas. All existence an infinite regress, a contradiction built upon a riddle.