Do not let me fall prey to the mechanical animal in my brain that calls me away from you. It looks and acts the same in me as it does in any caged creature. This beast is always ready to sever links with its human family, being altogether in pieces already, at the mercy of the crashing seas of circumstance. It cannot remain at home on its own shores, nor can it bask for long beneath the strong rays of another’s sun, for it lacks both an anchor to hold it steady, and an ark to take it safely across the river. Hone this loss-addicted, lusterless machine. Release the cold hand from panicked demands for another’s warmth, so the man can remember whose hand holds the key. Though I am eons from any final clarity, let disparity itself become fuel. Do not let the mud of confusion bury the blessing, but let the perishing puddles evaporate into the western wind; and, as the sun begins to set, let the spirit of beauty spearhead my inward evolution.
I am up to my neck here. I am upstairs, and afraid to go back down. I have forgotten, or maybe never learned, how to descend gracefully. I am not Cinderella, lovely and pure, tip-toeing down the spiral stairs as if floating on the zephyr wind. I am one of her spiteful step-sisters, and I hate her beauty. I hate that she loves someone, and someone loves her back. Why does she get to be loved, while I rot here with my rotten twin and hideous mother? I was supposed to be the beautiful one. I was supposed to be the one touched by a magic hand, woken from my trance with a kiss, but I was living in the wrong fairy-tale.
I wanted to be white as snow. I wanted to go to ground and hibernate inside my soundproof den all through the long winter, watch the snow come down and wait to be transformed into the sleeping beauty who is kissed, and who lets herself be kissed, and so wakes up. But why would anyone enter this cave and wake me with a kiss? Who over there cares that I am not awake in here, but sleeping? Who would it concern if I slept my whole life through? If I cannot find the will to attend to my own unlived life, why should I expect some princess to abandon her kingdom, drop her own cares for a moment, and kiss my own away?
I am on my own today. It is not the way of the warrior but the way of the worrier, the way of the soul bound not for freedom and glory but inside the horror story of contraction and resistance.
As a boy I wept on my first day of first grade. In the home video my brother bounces down the stairs with a big grin on his open and curious face. He is a happy child, so young and so excited for his first day of kindergarten. He cannot wait to meet whatever Life has to store for him that day. It is impossible not to love him. He is Joy made flesh, Hope in the human form.
In the video I am curled on the couch, my face pressed into the pillow. My whole body is shaking, and I keep repeating, ‘I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go!’ I am a distraught child, so young and already so frightened of whatever Life has in store for me that day. I am Sorrow made flesh, Anguish in the human form.
And this day, as I sit here now, it is the same, for the fearful patterns of that six-year-old have stuck with me all these years, have kept me stuck all these years, although my body has grown much bigger now, and twenty one years have apparently passed.
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
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.
From the Latin, abundare: to overflow;
I have never lacked the capacity to feel,
but to feel abundance itself,
to feel filled, to welcome
and accept my own lack—
this is rare.
True abundance includes lack;
the abundant one feels fully her deficiencies.
In her fullness, she does not repress her emptiness.
In her wholeness, she invites the pain of her imperfection
to be partner to her joy.
Spirit of Abundance, show me the heart so true to you
that it embraces its own lack and limitation,
the soul so full that it loves its own emptiness.
Grant me vision, Spirit of Abundance,
allow me to see you
when my nature sees lack, and lack only.
Show me the one who loves with you in her;
I will love her in her loving.
If I cannot love the seeming lack of perfect love within myself,
let me love her, the abundant one,
knowing she too experiences
the same lack that I do.
Grant me hearing, Spirit of Abundance,
let me listen for your music, music that erupts
like a fountain out of the body, overflowing
from the abundance of song in the soul.
Let the mad river of my heart stream out in dance
when I am overwhelmed by you, in me,
a dance of my emptiness and your fullness,
a rhythmic embrace of the whole.
Never am I closer to your abundance
than when I dance in time with my emptiness.
To find you there, at the center of that deep hole.
You can hear the Trumpet of Escape beckon you,
you can feel the Iceberg of Loneliness sink you,
you can suffer as the Whale of Dread swallows you whole.
You can still know abundance in the midst of it all.
Don’t ask me how. I’m no expert here.
Somehow, beauty weaves through it all,
and beauty, in truth, is always abundant.
Beauty is the tremendous weaver,
and abundance the hand with which she weaves.
Below her, there is another self, the self she searches for,
But will she ever learn to receive, to let the other open the door?
She searches for one to save the self she wishes she could leave
How long in her loveliness must she search ‘till soul and body cleave?
She and I, we once were one, but split apart like conjugal twins
Racked with the pain of Catholic guilt, she asked pardon for her sins
“Pardon me,” she spoke in French, “je pense you’ve lost your sense,
Forgive my greater intelligence, I’m sorry you are so dense.”
So that was that, the thing was done, I wept and laughed by turns
Though many years have come and gone, the sting of loss still burns
A friend told me he met her in Japan, working as a geisha
If he had the choice—Cat’s Claw or her—he said he’d choose the Acacia
Below her, there was another self, and that self eluded my reach
Like silence in the city, like a distant island from the rocky beach
She was like Nietzsche: she hated to follow, and she hated to lead
She could live with very little, for to be herself was her only need
If I cannot be with her, at least let me find her likeness
I’m nowhere near midlife, so why am I always in crisis?
By the cypress trees, I feel the breeze touch me, like a long-lost soul
Touches a lover, desperate to feel the sensation of being whole
In a time of silence and waiting, I waited for a moment too long
Since my body lacked clear weakness, I was praised for being strong
In the darkest moment of the shortest day, I awoke to the nature of light
By the bark of the oak tree in the shade, I decided to rest for the night
I long to be at ease with another, the way I used to be with her
Alone together, we remained ourselves, neither needing to defer
Below her, there was another self, and such beauty is far above words
I hope she is free, free and unfettered, that her spirit soars with the birds
For the mid-morning light that streams through the window as I write this,
Making even the cobwebs that span the length of the windowpane beautiful,
As they both reflect and let through the light,
Allowing the spiders to reside with me in this space.
For the chance to sleep in a bed, rising without alarm, when the body feels rested.
For melting snow that falls from cabin roofs
As sun warms January mornings in Arizona.
For the meeting I went to last night,
Men and women talking about falling,
About warming up to themselves,
About connecting to the Source of all warmth itself.
There is much to be grateful for this morning.
For the bike I may ride later today,
For the physical strength I feel when riding,
For the time spent climbing up the steep grade,
And the time spent rocketing down.
For the time spent with those in the process of climbing up a steep grade,
For their path of salvation through pain.
For the hard and harsh road, the rocky road, the blocked road.
For all those who feel blocked and stunted,
For the passion and fire hidden in them that will not die,
For those who do not know who they are or why they are,
For those who knew and then forgot
And now are forced to seek to remember.
Remembering late-May days spent on Delaware beaches,
Remembering late-December nights spent on black couches with cousins,
Remembering laughter and good food,
Remembering tears and good-byes.
For sitting still on a train that is moving on,
For the westbound train that moves to the sea,
For the southbound train that moves to the desert,
For the northbound train that moves to the forests and mountains,
For the eastbound train that moves back to the hometown.
For the restless excitement felt in a new place,
For the opportunity to uncover new facets of oneself,
For the sense that life is beginning anew.
Gratitude also for the sadness that underlies the excitement,
For the future departure that is attached to each arrival,
For the thoughts and feelings that come
When one stays moving, remains a traveler, an eternal transient,
Just passing through.