Waiting in poverty

The muse has left me, so I must be patient, I must wait in my poverty, but not make a cathedral out of it. I do not wait in a magnificent cathedral, I wait in the rain, I wait naked and alone for the muse to return, not to give me comfort, but to be with me in my discomfort, not to give me unexplainable happiness, but to be with me so long as I am unhappy and cannot explain why. Cars drive by as they so often do, the day has begun without me, while I waited for you, while I wait, the day does not wait for those who wait, the day does not wait at all, but moves along as a pace it sees fit. And here comes the guilt, here comes the thought, ‘should I be doing this, or should I be doing something else?’ here comes the thought, ‘what is the best way for me to pray? Should I pray like they tell me to pray, and how do they tell me, and who is telling me to pray in a certain way?’ Should I sway today like your play has come like a truck and demolished me, should I fall into disarray, should I plant a seed in the heart of she who does not notice me, come now and tell me what exactly I should do. I am perplexed by my own death, that it will occur, I confess that I have a too high opinion of myself coupled with an impossibly low one, and it is difficult to continue when in such a bind. I believe vanity is just a word for death, and a wrong kind of death, but I’ve died and lived so many times I think I should play a trombone because of it. Your words no longer have the same ring to them, they are growing brittle, flat and absent from truth. The truth is you, but you are not where you are, you are nowhere you can be, you are where you cannot be, for you are where there is no reality. Why did you go back there? Who did you expect to find there? You will die, but why make a scene out of it? Why find yourself deemed deficient by someone who pretended to know? Why worry about the concierge and whether or not she thinks your suit is proper for the occasion? can you blubber that the world owes your supper, and believe your cuddled thoughts? your protected heart is not the true heart, your directed thoughts are directed at no one in particular, but you must keep writing, do not let the fear enter, or let it enter and then say hi to it, what’s wrong? why are you afraid, young one? because you will not complete the task? because the task you will complete will not be good enough, not exceptional enough for your ridiculous standards? but of course, that is a part of the curse and the gift of the true striver, for that is what you are, and later perhaps, when you are wiser, you will see the futility of all your striving, but until then do as you must, as is deemed proper to those lacking trust in the grand scheme of things. The land seems to be dragging a dead walrus behind you, a bloody and torn seal deprived of its horns or its tusks, but who are you to swear you will come back and be healed by your own wholeness? who are you to forget how to remember your true nature? I rehearse what I will say to the god I do not understand, and all I can do is stand there, trembling and sweating throughout my entire body, and unable to experience the calm and untrembling soul that stands behind my standing. Man, the words keep coming, and nothing goes the way it ought to go, but everything goes the only way it can go, and I go my own way, not knowing where I am going. I am where you went when you had nowhere else to go. I go where you wish you could go, and I envy where you are going. I go where no one else could possibly go, and I wonder why I am the only one there.

Advertisements

A Gentle Rejection

The day is past understanding,
the pink clouds at sunset surpass my poem,
and the word of the little child, ‘wow,’
surpasses in truth the words of the poem
written to surpass, written for preeminence,
to impress a woman, perhaps,
a woman beautiful in all ways,
especially in the way she receives impressions,
so much more like the child than the man
that she, so gently, with such complete understanding,
rejects.

Restless Words

Come expecting answers and you’ll be left disappointed, but keep knocking, keep knocking, there are as many doors that will open for you as there are selves, but do not think that anything you do will allow you to be at one with yourself. That will come much later, if it comes at all. I’ve come to bear this wound, to endure these flaming arrows that sing in my pierced heart of all that comes and all that goes under the all-consuming terror of being no more.

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

What more is there to say? It may be time to rein it in, to wait for rain to wash away these sins, to sit here as leaves are blown past by the wind. The end is never near, the way is endlessly long, the soul’s been dissembled by sorrow, yet the feet keep pressing on. When I press up against myself, who is it I press against? what am I up against here?

“Majestic shadow, tell me: sure not all
Those melodies sung into the world’s ear
Are useless: sure a poet is a sage;
A humanist, physician to all men.
That I am none I feel, as vultures feel
They are no birds when eagles are abroad.
What am I then? Thou spakest of my tribe:
What tribe?”

I wonder what I am doing here. Mystery overwhelms you when you try to solve it.

“Within you there is almost no space; and it nearly calms you that in this constriction within you it is impossible for something very great to find room.”

Who is the one who became himself when he stopped trying to become himself? Who is the one who struggles to notice himself struggling? I shrug my shoulders, the same shoulders that could not force open the door that closed long ago, shaking me just a little, taking me into the center of my centerless gloom. What gloom! I must conclude this nonsense and move on to other things, things that make more sense, things I cannot touch. Not things.

“Just as the earthly lover fears abandonment and rejection by the beloved and can be possessed by jealousy and hatred, so the soul, in its intense thirst for love, feels forsaken and as dried up as is the lost wanderer in a desert wasteland.”

When I touch the woman I long to touch, why do I still long for her? When I begin to know her, why do I feel I’ve lost her, and myself?

“Besides my numerous circle of acquaintances with whom, by and large, I maintain very superficial relations, I have one close confidant—my melancholy—and in the midst of my rejoicing, in the midst of my work, she waves to me, beckons me to her side and I go to her, even though my physical frame stays in place; she is the most faithful mistress I have known; what wonder then that I, on my part, must be ready to follow her on the instant.”

The self I live beside, as if I am in contact with it, is like the powerful hand of another that goes limp when it touches my hand, is like the limb of a black oak that has broken off from the tree and sits splintered as a bridge before it collapses like a marriage into a dying river, is like the crib of a baby whose crying is not heard, is like the toothache in my heel that seals me from the sky.

“Ain’t talkin’, just walkin’
Carrying a dead man’s shield
Heart burnin’, still yearnin’
Walkin’ with a toothache in my heel”

The hound that hounds me provides no relief but I concede he knows about heartache. He is the heartbroken one, the one who will never find the one, the lone one who finds glory only in that state when he is in fact alone. There is no glory in being the lone one around others. That glory is lost as the true self is found, the glorious self that no imagined glory can match, the unimagined self, the unimaginable self, who is not the tragic self.

“Let us acknowledge our misery. Let us yearn for that place where no one can scorn us. I’m thinking of the words the bride sang in the Song of Songs, and I see that they apply perfectly here. It seems to me that none of the contempt or tribulation we endure in this life can compare to those inner battles. If we find peace where we live, there is no conflict that can disquiet us. But if the cause of our strife is within ourselves, then no matter how much we desire relief from the thousand trials of this world and no matter how much the Beloved desires this tranquility for us, the results will be almost unbearably painful. And so, Beloved, please raise us to the place where the miseries that taunt the soul relent. God will free the soul from suffering when he delivers her into the final dwelling, even in this very lifetime.” 

There is glory in being the tragic self, but it is the kind of glory that kills you finally by driving you off a cliff. I do not wish to be driven in that way. I wish only to hear the undivided silence that rests in my breast like the remembered song of a bird before dawn, heard in the December of the heart.

“While I am writing, I’m far away;
and when I come back, I’ve gone.
I would like to know if others
go through the same things that I do,
have as many selves as I have,
and see themselves similarly.”

Start on this path and you will not ever complete it. Start noticing your contradictions and you will be busy for quite some time.

This Fog

She is so beautiful, but I cannot see her in this fog.
I remember her, I’ve known her, and I’ve known her beauty.
But something happened
and we were separated from each other,
and now she too lives in the fog.

We cannot see
each other.

The fog seems to lift in the middle of the morning,
but look closely and you’ll see
that it never lifts. It is always here.
I fear I will be in it always
and never see her as she is.

If only loneliness could move mountains.
But who wants to move mountains?

Some nights I consider everything,
and it all looks futile.
Other nights I consider nothing,
and it all looks all right.

If only she sat beside me, I could find
some other reason to be dissatisfied.

Some mornings I wake up before even the monks,
and God is all.
Other mornings I do not wake up at all,
and God is not.

One red light blinking.
Two blue eyes yearning.
Ten pale and frantic fingers.

Each one of us is so beautiful, but so few of us can see it in this fog.
I remember a place where sight is granted,
but I cannot remember
how to get back there, I cannot remember
who I saw there, who saw me bare and naked, and did not laugh.

But I remember laughter too, full and hearty,
I remember you, you were there, laughing with me.
I cannot remember why we left,
why we came to this place
where we drift without sight in this fog.

The Place Between Before and After

Who brought me to this vale
where I travel or travail?
Who said be, and a valley
appeared below to tempt me?

Lover, I notice you are weeping
as if through a heavy veil.
Why not take off your dark shawl
and reveal the real beauty of tears,
of joy seduced by sorrow?

Did you expect me to repress my joy
because you’ve expressed your sorrow?
Take me in your arms,
and together we can unite joy and sorrow.

Who fought me when I was still
and praised me as I began to struggle?
Who said do, when I could not be,
and do more, when I had no more left?

Lover, I notice you are laughing
as if through a light veil.
Why not take off your bright shawl
and reveal the real beauty of laughter,
of sorrow seduced by joy?

Did you expect me to repress my sorrow
because you’ve expressed your joy?
Take me in your arms,
and together we can unite joy and sorrow.

Who sought me when I was soft
and left me as I began to harden?
Who said die, when I could not hear,
and live, when I began to pay attention.

Lover, I notice you are,
but I have no words for what you are.
For what you are, I can only yearn.
I yearn to live with your love
in this unknown place
that has come between
before and after.

“Here in the Heart of Distance”

If I knew there was some place I could go to be reassured,
I’d be sure to avoid it.
I am not looking to be reassured.
I’m assured of nothing, so luckily
there’s nothing for me
to be reassured of.

I wonder, gentle-hearted reader,
if you are reading this poem to be reassured of something.
You could be looking for reassurance that you aren’t wasting your life.
I’d say: stop reading this poem and go make some money.
Having money may provide reassurance, and if not you’ll at least be kept busy,
and you won’t have time to read poems that fail to reassure you.
You could be looking for reassurance that you’re a good person.
Okay. You are a good person.
But then again I can’t be sure.

I do assure you of my love, today,
but once I’ve met you
my love for you
may fade.
This is, unhappily, what usually happens.
Indeed, when you meet me, you might wonder
who wrote the words you thought you loved.
Well, and who did write them?
The one you meet is not the one
who writes the words.

I am no mystery, I assure you:
I’m an open book.

Those are two phrases no one has ever used to describe me.
But for you, silent and solitary reader,
I’d lay the book of my life open wide,
I’d let you inside, to know me,
as I have never let myself be known by another.
I would let you stay unknown.
Is there any other way
to get to know
another soul?

Unfathomable reader, what separates us
is as beautiful as what brings us together,
the distance between us as vital
as the joining of lovers in passion.
I embrace distance;
I throw my arms around it.

I am sure of nothing
but the space I celebrate
here in its’ heart.

“Where Did I Go?”

Why do you look at me?
Why do you speak to me?
Can’t you see I am not here?
I’ve gone somewhere without going anywhere,
and where I’ve gone you will never go.

Don’t look for me,
don’t ask me where I’ve gone.
Go yourself where I will never go,
and you will know something
about where I’ve gone.

There is nowhere else to go
but where no one else can go.
Today I may go to church,
and maybe I’ll see you there,
whoever you are, I hope you are singing.
If I see you, do not ask me
where I’ve been since last I saw you.
Go yourself where I will never go,
and you will know where I’ve been.

I could go on a journey, I could
take to the road with these well-worn shoes.
I could go out planning never to return.
You could follow me, you could
go with me too, if it pleased you.
But though we’d be together,
you might notice, from time to time,
that I am gone, and that where I’ve gone
you will never go.
Go yourself where I will never go,
and you will know where I am.

I see you looking at me like a puppy dog,
as if you are expecting an answer
to your question: where are you?
How could I answer?
Where I am no one is at one
with themselves, no one believes in words.
The words spoken here are not spoken there.
Can you truly condemn anyone in me
for not believing in these words?
Go yourself where I will never go,
and you will no longer ask me such questions.

What should I believe in tonight?
Should I believe in the power of the unseen?
Should I go somewhere?
I can go somewhere without going anywhere.
Watch me be gone.
Be gone!
Be still, bewildered one.
And go some place where no one can follow.
Go somewhere without going anywhere.
Go yourself where I will never go,
and you will know where I am when I’m gone.

“The Struggle”

The more I struggle for humility,
the more prideful I become.
The more I struggle for equanimity,
the more reactive I become.
The more I struggle to be content and at peace,
the more restless and melancholy I become.
Yet I cannot stop struggling.

“It Is Time To Open, My Reluctant One”

It is time to open, my reluctant one.
When you close the door to be alone with your sorrow,
you close the door also on your joy.

Leave that door open, my despairing one,
let the plaintive cries of the others reach you,
touch you, bring you to your knees,
and let them bring you up again,
to the surface where a child smiles
at you in line at the supermarket,
as you take the change from the cashier
with her eyes so sorrowful, so beautiful,
so full of a hidden mystery
she yearns to express.

Express her yearning, my searching one,
as she tells you, in a voice so melancholy
and weary, so soft and precious,
to have a good day. If only you could
somehow make her day great, somehow point
to the greatness she has in herself,
then you could say truly
today was good.

Feel the wind on your skin, my inward one,
let this power touch you continually,
feel it even in the protected stillness of your room.
You are never so estranged from the world
that the wind cannot embrace you.
Open to it, and its’ touch
will not end at your skin.

“It Is Not Yet Time For Another”

It is not yet time for another.
It is time to be alone,
time to wait for grace
to pull me up muddied and waterlogged
from the turbid lake I chose to dive into.
Time to sit here, watch the world go by,
let my youth be taken from me,
take notes now and then as I am given
these resplendent moments, when I realize
that nothing needs to be changed.