Grounding Oneself…

…On a Peak of Petals…

First thoughts after rereading the piece to follow: How does one feel grounded, knowing the real ‘ground’ is elsewhere? The poems get pretty far out there sometimes–even I wonder if they will make any kind of sense in a year. They do, let me assure you or myself. But sometimes, while composing, I wonder.

I do all I can to work by what tradition calls inspiration. I focus my attention on a sort of empty but articulate place inside where the Imaginal begins, shift my own felt presence to that place, and write down whatever words form in my mind. I guide the process; I am an active participant. I don’t try to tell the words what to say or figure out where they are coming from. I have done this long enough to know by feel if they are from a place I want to hear.

My personal relationship toward my work and its sources has changed in many ways over the years. I was always serious, even reverent, toward Poetry and those who had made inspired work before me. My interest was obsessive and my dreams reinforced my devotion, but I still felt too small to take it on. My early poetic self was already afflicted with impostor’s syndrome! It took decades to get over. I gradually learned to let the work speak for itself. It is meant for something; whether I recognize it or not, it comes with a purpose.

These days, I am old and feel pretty sure than I am a real poet and not an impostor. The work I thought I would never live to compose I have in abundance, and it is still coming. I still think about who I am in relation to it, and feel I have much left to do. The work has taken us on a far journey, and we’ve returned most of the way to tell the tale. The reception of the hearers of the tale is what remains in question, and my responsibility there. Hearers will hear what they will, of course; what their own story has taught them to hear. Even so, successful work reaches people and creates a place for change in the way of growth toward access of one’s own to the imaginal, the spiritual, the dream-worlds–the places that offer healing to the here-world where it is so easy to feel trapped in gravity and to feel trapped feelings as pain.

My old seriousness in working is lighter now. Making a lyric simply for the joy of it is enough, and if the lines come in high Victorian purple or pure highland hillbilly, I write it down as I hear it. Who cares if it’s dignified–it’s here to be fun. If a poem wearing a bordering-on-disgraceful costume comes to sit by the bedside of my suffering spirit, welcome to my world; we’re always dreaming awake. Something will still feel undone, though, until I know how our messages are received. As long as I am still here to work toward any elucidations that might be helpful, I can reach in and try again to record more faithfully. Poetry is magic, as we all secretly know who are drawn to it. Magic has to bear results in the waking world, or why go there?

Visionary insight was enough, and more than enough; then understanding began to come with it. Now healing is why we are here.

16 February 2021


Sometimes You Just Know

Peak of Petals

The mountain grew taller the while we drew nearer but as we approached for our final ascent,

the snow on it melted, then so did the surface of stone that was–rose petals, roses she’d sent

who kept watch on us always. We gathered a few of them there, at the foot of–the red running sore

that the petals were fast turning into. The heat of the day is too much; we can’t bear any more.

The story goes on like a river and turns dreadful mournful and sad without warning, so please

release in as many kind ways as you’re able the reins that entangle the ankles and knees

of the one who would dance, but she’s spiraled all round by a species of serpent her pain knows by name.

And it’s leaking its poison and while she remains on her feet, see her swaying. A primitive claim

has been laid on her good reputation, and she must defend it. And so in the night of false dreams,

something entwines with a feverish whisper its own sordid lies interspersed with her screams

as they echo in ears she can see as a face slowly shifts to a shadowy glare on the wall

and she knows what she’s seeing the moment she wakes–it’s a face very ghosts hesitate to enthrall

because nothing remains of a purified air when it’s breathed out full force, leaving no ghost behind.

Fetch me a broom from the closet I closed after winter was over and what will you find

stored away there as well but the end of the story as was–in the telling I’m leaving to you,

alternate endings will tempt you, and possibly even require you to help them come true–

if you’re up to it. Here, at the base of the mountain, the staggering number of rose petals grown

by a similar number of once-living rose-bushes–how can that number be witnessed and known,

if it’s larger than even the mind of the penitent angel who’s knowledge directs the great choir

by which grander and more-living roses assembled their knowings together and laid the great fire

that you glimpse even now–sheets of water-like flame as they ripple between lifted petals and air.

She’s still as patiently watching as all of us wondering here if ascendance will wear

the gown of a saint or a goddess or merely the translucent shadowy dream of a ghost–

one I could scarcely retrieve without too-poignant loss of her profile. Her features were most

familiar before they grew clear as the weather before us. Our climb will be over too soon,

she tells us. She goes alongside us; she’s gone here so often. Each mirror-like turn, a new Moon

shines over the crest where the petals rise up to a peak, then red-river-like–freeze into hail.

We have stood frozen and looked on in awe as the watery red becomes liquid as pale

as the face it is meant to convey through the gathering storm–oh my insight, you pain me sometimes,

but she is still silently, smilingly watching and shedding a tear for dear love of good rhymes,

and she’s leading us on–but we’re happy to let her. Whose was the hand by which these roses grew?

Nobody planted them, nobody tended them; they had a purpose they always just knew.

The following was meant to be part of yesterday’s post, but was inadvertently left off:

Poetry exists for itself, but if it has a purpose, this might be one–that those in any kind of pain, in need of a paradoxical sudden shift of view, should be able to find one here and follow it through–at least in a transient mental way–to a place beyond pain. It’s a window, and what I call a Paring. It’s also a practice. One gets better at it through patience and persistence.


About J

formal verse poetry and commentary at
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s