Mythology

Some say I look like a walrus

with my faded apricot shirt and untrimmed moustache,

but here’s the thing:

never has my mind been filled to such an overflowing

with such an uncountable number of things

flickering through me at an untraceable speed,

equal only in their ranking

as items of stunning insignificance.

In any case,

I’ll meet you at the corner of Vanity and Age,

where the brushstrokes of dawn dress casually

and a lone star stands, unobtrusive,

before taking its last drag off the night

and flicking the roach away

to the opposite curb of the world.

And me, spilling out onto the street with two Mary’s –

one bloody, one virgin, singing:

Goddess Pele, purify me with your volcano fire.

Help me remember to see and embrace

what is before me,

and not search too hard for what isn’t.

Help me to not strain my eyes

trying to look too far ahead,

not stare back behind me for too long,

hypnotized by what has passed,

mesmerized by the highway lines.

May I be like the cat

who practices heliotropism so effectively,

who lounges and, smiling, is ever hopeful

about his next meal.

May I not get so tangled in thought and emotion

that I bind myself.

May I honor desires, dreams, fears.

May I remember things are just what they are,

on either side of any hill,

and that there are no sides,

no hills.

 

A Note On “Awakenings”

My previous post, Awakenings, was written in reflection of my step-dad’s recent passing due to pancreatic cancer.  Paul Hout was a great man.  Throughout my childhood, he and my mom had a tumultuous on-and-off relationship, and were married for a brief time.  In those days, Paul had some serious anger management issues, but he never stopped trying to work through them.  By the time I was beginning high school, he had begun studying Buddhism.  My mom had grown terribly sick with cancer.  We moved in with him again and he became her caretaker, 24 hours a day until she passed away two and a half years later.  It was a tremendous loss for him.

I was blessed enough to be able to visit him a few years ago, and I could tell his heart had found a good measure of peace.  His little shrine with a Buddha statue on it was set up in one corner of his apartment.  He had a loving way about him that felt fresh, as if his heart had opened up profoundly during all the years since I’d last seen him.  I’m grateful I had the opportunity to visit him.  I loved him very much, and I will miss him dearly.

 

Awakenings

We can see so much more with closed eyes, as if in closing them we are truly opening them. We see our story, the story of ourselves, our human-animal birth, all the way through to the opposite gate. It’s not in color or black-and-white, but some strangely familiar quality of light, striking chords and nerves, born of the memory of music filling up our chests, born of turning over shadows to see what lies beneath.

This life, this breath, will be leaving this body in a final sighing exhalation. It’s all we know, all we can count on. Into a place transcendent of this conscious realm, we step, fall, go, return, are given, taken. And afterward, maybe this, maybe that, maybe no this or that. Maybe find something and hold it and let it go, maybe no holding, maybe no letting go, maybe no finding anything. Rain is extraordinarily bright, sunshine can be heard falling on the roof. The sound of lightning catches our eye, heard with something other than ears, tasted, yet not with tongues.

The narrow creases of our eyes become the hollow shell of a crab we once picked up and inspected. We stop trying to make sense of things, stop asking so many questions. All the stones hanging around our necks just fall away. The narrow path widens, broadens, and we can’t help but wonder if the earth might call us back like a mother standing in a doorway, waving to her playing children with hands of soil and stone, with hair of water and wood, calling us into safety, calling us in from the mounting darkness.

And, heads lifting, we stand. We stand and we run towards the light. We run, laughing, toward our greatest awakening.

Starlight Stay

Starlight let me open to you, to the space between us. Please don’t go to bed early. Stay up with me. Stay up late and let me not wither. Let mystery not be ponderous, but held lightly and without the use of my hands.

Stay into the deep hours when my mind’s simmering viscous broth gives way to cool clear water and my heart burns at a high and reckless temperature. Watch the fire blaze through the window of my chest, sweet smoke rising through the bars of my rib cage. Stay up with intricate whispers, elaborate cravings, convoluted borders of shadows, an astounding thirst, calypso music, earlobes hanging down, genie-like.

Stand balanced on the edge of the blade dividing sleep from awake, and marvel at how alone and not-alone we all are, how the spirit voices are always there but do not just obediently come when called, how the tide is the sound of the ocean breathing.

And only once the marveling is done, only once I have been properly astounded, sufficiently rattled, let me surrender to the unremembered temple of well-fed lions – the drawn cloak of sleep.

 

Gratitude and Grace

The hills, how they roll. Softly sloping emeralds bejeweling the crown of August with its high corn and sunflowers drooping their heavy heads, like me, in silent celebration, a noiseless halleluiah.

The world, how it glimmers. How it appears to be sitting still, beneath the fingertips of the sun, as if some new form of incredible light has just sprung into being and is shedding itself over the garden of the universe.

My mind, how it flickers. Static with the commotion of its ten-thousand children. Thoughts whirling, dust rising in the wake of a stallion’s hooves, the crackling energy of a storm at sea, bending me as if I were the bough of an evergreen. The flailing curtain of rain opens its mouth to speak: “What have you lost sight of? Reclaim your honor. Fall to your knees. Be true to your journey, your gateway, your Self.”

Summer’s fragrance, how it settles. How the cool sheet of its kindness comes to rest against my feverish thighs, as I try, all the while, for a little gratitude, a little grace.   

Strange Dead Heroes

 

Though I never knew you, I love how – in the old photographs – you look up into the camera lens at what always seems to be the perfect time. You look up from the dials of an antique radio, shadows falling from your eyes across your gorgeous hands. Shadows of patience, humor, vitality, stillness. You look up with a face like an open road along which poetry often travels.

 

I wish I could see how you moved, behaved, truly, outside the claustrophobic borders of photographs and video cameras. You, and all my other strange dead heroes. The subtleties of your way with driving a car, falling asleep, drinking, smoking, making love. Did you eat rice with chopsticks, a fork, or your fingers? Did you storm out, or gently go your way? Did you wipe your feet on the mat or just walk in? Were you irresistibly transcendent, or just plainly human like anyone? Or were you both things at once, and how many others are both things, and how many others could be, if they could only pull it off?

 

Seeing reflections of others in yourself, you looked up. Sidestepping with the ease of a professional dancer, you looked up. Beauty and pain in your chest, your abdomen, your arms, your spirit, your throat, you looked up. Sitting on a bench like a weather-worn rambler who drifted into the city on a fortunate wind, you looked up, and watched the pretty people, in the park, among the trees, beneath the sky. The big sky that – whether you were inside or outside – stretched above you all the days of your life.   

 

Going Sane

Forgive me for being so plain, but all things aside – including the alchemy of eternity being the steady stream of each moment pouring into the next – my purpose for being here today is to plunge into the water, as far as I can tell.

This lake, viewed from the sky, takes the shape of a long crooked finger. Or you can go higher, to where the atmosphere brushes its backbone up against space, to see that finger as a fleshless bone. But from here, submerged in the warm and cool pockets of earth’s embryonic fluid, the lake is smooth, polished, for the moment undisturbed, except for the fading ripples made by me. It exists in a moment of perfect silence sought by many, found by few. If you listen closely enough, you can hear it whispering:

“May my breath be your breath. My heat, yours. My fluid strength, my supple resilience, yours. May you give up your crowded loneliness to me, press me to your forehead as a cool cloth easing a fever. Nothing but the chest can contain the heart, nothing can protect it but the rib cage.”

The lake’s words ring true. Sometimes the walls of alone-ness press in on us, even as we long for solitude. Sometimes we long for something we think we don’t have. Sometimes we forget that we too are part of nature – that we, too, are included in this thing that so often astounds us.