Horizon

music brings you out of bed like a puppeteer retrieving her showpiece from its box / old stories and new stories are all the same but you still love them especially when dawn is foggy and the dog complains that you are a don quixote of sorts / your lovers complain you are a tracker of your own self that you spend too much time doing this tracking but you pay it no mind because you know it’s what drew them to you in the first place / your life appears to be informed by world myths not the daily news / if people paid more attention to the myths you think the contents of the daily news might begin to change / pilgrim of roads wanderer of open distances your heart is magnetic and you’re pretty certain the Horizon is the best thing you’ve ever seen the most beautiful thing the biggest thing the place where you’re bound to arrive / feathers crowd your pirate-smile mouth your birthmarks ripple and glow / you come from a long line of shapeshifting storytelling compass-reading card-shuffling fire-eating boundary-penetrating contortionists / you explore landscapes borrowed and abandoned / territories uncharted and unknown / trails overgrown and forgotten / if they think so much as one tiny detail has escaped your notice they are radically off-target / details do matter they say someone is always looking / that’s why you are a book and will always be a book everyone is a book everyone has a spine a cover a type everyone has chapters highlights cross-outs everyone has a contract with something someone somewhere / at times you are open at times you are closed but inside you always have a story / this is who I am you tell people take it or leave it and so they set about taking you or leaving you and you’re pretty certain they must have misunderstood / but it’s too late to worry about all that now so you burn the newspaper put dynamite in the TV leave the den of dogs and no-sleep behind / you set out to do all the things everyone has always said you shouldn’t but first you go out for a walk and listen to your new playlist that makes you feel like you just hit a homerun in the biggest game in the history of baseball / with paintbrush eyes you take in the world you canvas it with all your heart you take it in over and over like stars brushed across someone’s forehead as if the sky were the world’s forehead / knowing the time will come when you have to leave and return to your Horizon / knowing a departure time will come for each of us who it has not yet come for / bringing our heads up from whatever we’re involved in / bringing our attention back to the most basic thing we know about our lives here as we scramble to quickly review whatever it is we feel / whatever we think we believe / beliefs are prison guards who have us convinced we’re free / meanwhile we’re living in confinement

 

 

Stanley Kunitz’s Poem “The Layers”

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

 

 

Pilgrimage

All day long, I see things a painter would paint. What is there to complain about? Even my own pain has been endured by thousands before me, and depicted by master sculptors.

Pilgrimage, penance, failure, learning to hold one’s self tenderly, in friendship – all these have relevance to my experience of life. Honoring the earth, or a Saint, or a God, a parent, a personal hero, the wind, rain dripping from trees.

Turning to look into one’s own heart, seeing what’s there. It is a brave thing to search your own soul. You will endure accusations of selfishness from others, and from your own mind.

We all just want a door to open and let the light in, but what if we are the door? What if we are the light?

To the world, I say I’m sorry for so many things. To the world, I also say thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

Basho’s Traveling Companion

On the jade-colored plate, yellow fruit.

Between the window and folding screen, a bed, some clothing.

In the stillness of the forest, water flowing.

On the mountainside, plum blossoms.

In the rain and mud, wild horses.

From a bowl in the hermit’s shelter, steam rising.

In the iron stove, embers glowing.

At the edge of August, all that I am.

 

 

Big Sur

A whale spouted by and I dreamt of the story my life could tell.  I remembered many loved and lost, I received the world, had a conversation with the cosmos.

A whale spouted by, the vastness deepened.  I sat, hands in lap, left over right, palms up, thumbs touching.

A whale spouted by, I smelled sagebrush.  I watched the buckwheat sway along the sea cliffs, became hungry.

A whale spouted by and I contemplated the fallen.  Standing among fallen acorns, I too am a fallen one.

A whale spouted by and I stopped searching for things.  I vowed to stop searching for a horse while riding a horse.

A whale spouted by and my fingertip touched itself.  The blade of my sword cut itself, I ate two bowls of soup.

A whale spouted by, it came and it went.  Sounds come and go.  Wind, rain, pebbles in a pool.  Time to chop onions, prepare soup again.

Dragon Gates

While drinking cold tea from a glass jar and dividing your thoughts between Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Neruda, you cut a kiwi in half the long way and consider the oval ring of black seeds at its heart.  You always see Our Lady Of Guadalupe there, proving that eating a piece of fruit can be a private ritual, an example of eco-psychology, a rite of passage, an odyssey.

It occurs to you how disposable – though indeed miraculous – your body is.  To your mind it is sacred, almost holy, containing all the memories of your life, your ancestry.  You sit there, sipping your tea, and contemplate how not-sacred your body actually is.  How it is an idea that exists only inside a human mind.

You shed the illusion, leave it behind like a shipwreck you swam ashore from, like a prince giving up all worldly pleasures to go be a hermit.  You decide to relax into Being until the time comes for you to pass into Non-being.

Finishing the kiwi fruit, it occurs to you that when life becomes too fixed – too rigid – the Trickster god comes in some form and rattles you to the bone.

Wiping your mouth on your shirt sleeve, you remember that in Hong Kong there are architects who build skyscrapers with huge holes in them “for the dragons to go through“.

Merlyn

The mountains are alive with fire,

transcendent breath, vigorous and endless.

Though they have been given a name,

a part of them will always be nameless,

and I could say the same about myself.

I heed the call, after all, of mist-laden glades.

I walk among stones with broken blades.

I come to you, mountains of fire,

full of so many things that matter,

yet they will not matter to you.

I come to you as a whittler of days,

a world-worshipper who knows he cannot fool you.

I come to you as a man who has a boy still looking

out from behind the bars of his rib cage.

I come to you with an owl on my shoulder

who comes and goes as she pleases.

I come to you as a failed magician,

with iron, ash, light, dust, rain

on either side of my skin.

I come to you as a failure, but at least I am a great one.

I come to you with the meaning of my name,

do with it what you will.

I come to you as the recorder

of my small life, pockets filled

with scribbled notes

of little use.