Some Summing

This has proven to be a very active time of threads coming together and making more sense than usual. And still I don’t know how much I can write down. There is always a quasi-superstitious fear of upsetting a delicate process that is still ongoing, but that is not quite it; and of course, it’s all complex and constantly moving, but that’s not it either. It honestly feels like it’s all a bit much to talk about, as if I were making suspect claims. But I know where that voice comes from–that’s the same one that always tries to shut down anything that threatens to get actually spiritual. Its mockery gets planted within so early on. Resist!

As has been told, I had Big Dreams about poetry and a great obsession with it from my early teen years on. But when I was about 22, I read the Tao te Ching for the first time, and then the next several times right away, and had a conversion experience. Still the strongest one of my life, although mushrooms, when they came, were as revelatory. What to do with this? I was floating, so happy with the rightness of everything as it was that being ‘creative’ seemed too silly too countenance. I thought about it until I knew I was getting nowhere, then I went off to school at last in my mid-20s, with the intention of studying Chinese. When that didn’t work, I turned to Latin. Eventually I moved to the Oregon coast, and here I am today.

After living here for years, and after the work with the Holy Children was sufficiently advanced to be perhaps done, my recurring thoughts of Taoism, and then Buddhism, led me to join a local Dharma group. My teacher’s lineage was Tibetan Sakya. Vajrayana had always been an obvious fit with my nature, and the group was good, but I was still too obsessed with the work ahead of me as a poet to sink in there.

Since then, so much has happened that I have had to reconsider my position in this world and even as a person in a human body many times. It’s all cast in verse, and will continue to be for as long as I am able. I know that because…

Lately the poems have showed me the same woman we’ve been seeing–struck by lightning. Nothing remains but a black crater and some wisps of smoke. She’s gone, man, solid gone.

When I went in a hypnagogic state to learn more, I was shown a soft rain falling and filling the crater, and then the full Moon rising. The Moon reflected in water is such a basic Buddhist image that I can’t start there, I said; it’s a cliche, and I’m still an outsider. Keep looking, they said. Of course: My Big Dream of poetic initiation involved swimming through a lake to a cave beneath it. They are showing me my own story beginning over again, but with the non-dual philosophy that means so much to me incorporated. Entwined, all of our most important and beloved threads. That was part of the Taoist conversion experience–such huge waves of love for everyone who had ever walked that path and ridden the wind. I cannot have done that–but perhaps the poems can? Their sources have never seemed identical to myself, which is good because we don’t attach much importance to identity.

30 March 2021


The Pages That Remain

Where she was standing–there’s now a black crater.

A last wisp of smoke, and then silence–and stars.

Her long-trained attention had been–translocated,

and lightning got into it, leaving some scars,

but likewise removing a few marks and emblems

of earlier vigils that longed for an end

till finally–something was utterly rendered

sufficient. Child, take what the good Night Mares send;

the one who assigned herself heavenly mother

has heard your laments and received your pain here,

in the depths of the heart in herself like a lover

residing in folds of a garment so sheer,

you can read as it’s all written down, all the magic

love yearned for and made–till it met in return

love-letters criss-crossing a channel in fragile

dimensions of oncoming loss fit to burn

with the prayer on the altar where lightning is welcome

and shines in the distance each wide-open night.

One of your own restless kind has been telling

the signs as they rise and reveal the stark light

that takes root when the storm is both torment and harbor.

Once it has struck, and grey smoke flows like grace,

lightning reveals to its lover in darkness

not signs in translation, but those taking place

where a lake has been steadily forming since morning

when dew fell, then rain. When the crater is full,

and the mirror of stillness it is meets the bourne of

remembrance, a spirited Moon in a lull

between stations of change amid tears and a casket–

six carrying hands, a torn page in each one–

and two in her bodice, the one who lies gasping–

she’s struck but not dead. Would she still want this done?


About J

formal verse poetry and commentary at
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