I shrink back from my lack of direction. I blink once and come to months later, in the same exact location. Either I admit my honest terror in the face of barren obscurity, or I lock my soul in a windowless cell, and call it job security. Help me keep the faith I’ve never had. Help me feed the hope I’ve tried to kill. Hold me when I sweat through every pore, releasing the toxins that block me from breathing in your perfect air. Without you I become my song of lonely longing in the Texas night. If I must gnaw this bone without you, then send me deeper into the valley of separateness. Help me remember my thirst, whenever I pull from the well. Remember my hunger, whenever you ring the bell. Remember my poverty, whenever I cling to time. Remember my nakedness, whenever you house my mind. Remember my homelessness, whenever I find my home.
She lifted me up,
Mended and filled my cracked cup.
Lack left. Hope walked in.
I resolved after my separation from Hope to stand at the window like a fire lookout and never to turn my back on the east. I wished to follow my own destiny the way a widow follows the arc of the sun over the course of a June morning. But it was winter; the days were short, and the sun was hidden.
I decided instead to hide, and I refused to confide to the beloved the contents of my discontented heart. It was not a wise decision, not a decision unanimously agreed upon by the internal jury. It was a split decision, an incision, if you will, that took me from the center, made a hole where there was once a spacious wholeness. What was simple became complex and convoluted, and I struggled with the words needed to greet people. I knew that most people greeted others with, ‘Hello, how are you?’ I also knew I could not do the same. It was not in my power to greet others in such a way, so I gritted my teeth and pretended I was deaf when my soul-sister asked how I’d ever bridge the chasm that separated my ignorance from her magnificence.
Once I removed myself from those who assured me the chains attached to their heels were benign, I wondered what to do. It was so much easier when I had a task, however deplorable. What could I do now that I had been commanded to be free? I asked a hunchback wearing a crown who was dragging his chains up a steep hill whether he wanted any help. He looked at me with the kind of vicious glance a king gives an escaped slave who, after being recaptured and hauled back to the castle through the mud, spits at the feet of the queen. After my offer of help was denied, I spat at my own feet, resolving to never again offer my assistance to a hunchback.
However, what I had been handed by those who had overcome their own uselessness, and were no longer hunchbacked, demanded a response. I recognized the paradox of futile effort met with unanswerable grace, yet I could not stop searching for the mirrored room without darkness, where through the blur of tears I hoped to witness the self stripped of what it wasn’t, but my weeping obscured the clarity of the possible. I heard a paralyzed voice, stuck in a dreamland of judgment, shout down that my words only added to the general absurdity. I claimed the paralyzed voice as my own and shrunk into a den where a lion was devouring its’ own tail.
Do not forget to tell them about the dance, whispered the voice of unreason, a voice I noticed rang clear and true and without distrust. Yes, of course, the dance. But how could I tell them? I would never be able to tell anyone about the dance. I could only show them. Everything that came to me from the voice of unreason told them about the dance, without my having to tell them anything.
Hold me, my invisible master turned mistress, as my trespasses hold me captive, as my addiction to silence produces its’ noisy hangover. I came to you to be held, and you did your job well, but I was not satisfied. I moaned to be held more tightly, and you told me to be silent. I did as I was told and was silent, and you told me to speak, to let everything out, withholding nothing. Nothing was all I could hold in and all I found when I looked in or out. To be without nothing was the only way to be, and my violent feeling that I existed without something essential made me question whether I really existed at all. If I was certain of anything, it was that I lacked everything. I especially lacked certainty. I did not know what I lacked. If I had known it, would I have lacked it? “Be still, and know…”
I knew enough to trust that my lying and cheating business partners would get me through the rough stretches I scheduled out on the calendar, the coming weeks in which I had allocated plenty of time to suffer from inexplicable grief. I boxed out certain hours of the day to be overcome by the urge to weep, and this I did during the prescribed periods, which came in the hour before bed and the hour after waking. During the rest of the time, I feigned an exaggerated grin, which was trusted by all but one. Because of this one’s flawless perception of my incongruous state, I trusted she was the one, and without flaws, both conclusions as false as her intuitions were true.
Be still, and know that I am not. Not all-knowing. Not always forward-moving. And not ever still. And still not—what? At ease? At one? At home? At odds with the one who is, I fizzled out in the drizzling doubt that veiled from me your kingdom. Not my kingdom. I am the veil; unveil me. Let me see my own face. I am the seeker, but how can I reach you if I remain at odds? This is no game, and there is no one to blame. Not even the one who is never still. This is no game, but that doesn’t mean there is no room to play. I play at writing, and I pray when writing. To truly play is to pray, but who of us here can play in that way?
For eleven months I have not taken a drink, he said proudly and with a strange trace of foreboding mixed with a lethal dose of malice. He heard a voice question him, ‘who has not taken a drink?’ Perplexed at this line of questioning, he said again: ‘I.’ He heard, “The ‘I’ that is afraid to die—that is the ‘I’ that has not taken a drink.” Why yes, he replied, of course. He heard nothing further.
The same sun shining through the window in this place I must have been before, this place a blue-haired sea-creature left and I returned to only to remember she could only dance alone. Always leaving and returning, always dancing and sitting still. Always looking for the ‘always,’ for what remains, for what is ceaselessly here and does not need to leave and return in order to be here without ceasing, what does not cease but whose activity is not meaningless. For what is more confusing than unceasing and meaningless activity? Doing in order to escape being, working in order to be paid for one’s efforts in fleeing the self. Yet, what is the flight I undergo as I rip apart “what constrains my heart to this prison from which I’m fleeing?” So I ended a poem. Is this a different sort of flight? Yes, for it involves ripping apart the chains, not simply avoiding the chains or going someplace where the chains aren’t nearly so painful, a place where one can forget the chains altogether.
The flight I undergo must go through rather than under or over the chains, cannot avoid them; must go through the self, cannot flee it. It is not a flight from self but a flight from the fleeing of self, from whatever forces the self to flee; it is a forcing of the self to remain with what it wants to flee and be free from, to remain chained until it is able to rip apart what chains it. It is a flight into and then a fight within, rather than a flight away from and a fight without. The outer fight is only ever a flight away from, can only ever put distance between me and what I must come near to, can only disconnect me from myself, from the flight into and the fight within.
The absolute necessity of this flight into and fight within can make me uncomfortable in any situation which requires me to flee away from and into the outer fight which never has made any sense to me. This is why I have a lost look in my eyes much of the time, or in overcompensation I have the driven, focused look of one who pretends he knows exactly what he is after. But do I know what exactly I am after? Would it be exact if I said I am after what brings me before my essential self, what brings my false self to its knees in agonized supplication, what brings me to a place where I can share in the agonies of others, seeing through the distorted expression of the soul and into the essence of their agony? Or would that be a poetic misleading, a flowing veneer like a roaring river just before it is dammed?
Is it possible for me to be exact? What exactly is possible here? What should I hope for? Should I hope at all? Some say hope sits with love on the top shelf of the most essential virtues; others say it is an illusion and inessential. It is essential that I see through illusion, but first I must know what is illusion and what is truth. Is hope essential or is it an illusion? Or is it an essential illusion? But there are no essential illusions; the two terms are contradictory. There is much in this world and in the self that is contradictory, however, and there is much truth in contradiction as well.
There is contradiction in that the self needs to undergo the fight within yet wants to engage in some outer fight so as to avoid and distract itself from the more essential fight. Is it right to call it an inner fight? It is a fight with no victor, no one standing over the others. It is a fight that ends in reconciliation, and the casualties of the fight were never alive in the first place. It is a fight that ends in aliveness, leaving dead and forgotten on the battleground only what never had existence. It is a fight that ends in soul after going through distortions. But the outer fight leaves on the battleground bodies whose souls had the potential to become fully alive. The casualties in that battle were not yet fully alive (for who is fully alive?), but they could have become so. Now they cannot. It is a fight that ends without any sort of true reconciliation, for true reconciliation is inner unity. The peace treaty only signifies that one side was more successful at fleeing the self than the other side.
Who am I writing this for? No one. I am writing this for no one. Only if no one reads this will I be happy, for no one is my audience. The more people who read it, the less happy I will be, for then I would be getting away from my audience, who is no one. If you are reading this, you are not my audience. By all means, read on, dive right into my confusion with me and we can sink a little bit deeper, or perhaps you and I together can float along long enough to be to be rescued by no one, who was my audience in the first place. No one will be sure to come by soon enough to where we are struggling to keep our heads above water. Is it a mistake to call for no one to come rescue me from sinking? Regardless, neither no one nor anyone will come. Perhaps you should leave; remember I did say you were not my audience. I am not here to sink with you. Search for someone to save you, by all means, while I wait here for no one. But do not think I wait here for no one passively or passionlessly. It feels to me like I wait here for no one as no one has ever waited anywhere for anyone. I wait here for no one perhaps like one who still waits for a lover after many years at the intersection of Despair and Hope, where the train to Bedlam crosses the train to Bedrock, where the train that never stops running passes the train that has not yet begun, and the one who is waited for is no longer anyone to the one who waits except in dreams. Do not think I wait here simply thinking. I can no longer think. I think now only of simple things. Is it too hot? It is too cold? Should I go out? Should I stay in?
While I am thinking of simple things, which is all I can think of anymore, I feel the intensity of my longing the way I feel the unbearable summer heat of the desert, multiplied by infinite degrees. Yet who do I long for? No one. Not a single human being. Not even her. Not anymore. I know how that longing ends, and I do not want a longing that ends. Yet this longing for no one is beginning to sear me. Do you think I wait for a dream? No, I must not have made myself understood. Let me try again. Let me, without trying to make myself understood, again express my longing in such a way that it cannot help but be understood, at least by myself. Is it myself or no one who I’m writing for?
I cannot help it if you read this; just remember that I am not writing to you. Although if you are able to remember what you have forgotten, I hope you remember also that this writing is a sort of forgetting, though its final goal is remembering. And what is remembering but forgetting the present to return to the past? I have forgotten the gift which turned out to be nothing of the sort that you handed to me just before I turned from you and walked without a map into the heart of the wilderness, though I didn’t know how to find what I didn’t know I had come there for, and my heart was in such unrest that the silence of the desert could do nothing at all to still it. Had you forgotten that? I would not believe it if you told me you had, but who am I to say I always believe my disbelief?
You must for a moment suspend your disbelief, suspend yourself in mid-air with me as we circle slowly downwards towards the heat of the balloon that rises to meet us, though we are in different hemispheres and I cannot see you. Because I cannot see you, does that mean the heat that rises will not meet in the space between us? Because there is space between us, does that mean I cannot see you?
The heat that rose in me cooled the passion an unearthly sea-creature felt for me, once she realized that this rising heat was not directed towards her, had not risen for her, did not rise for any human being. Again let me remind you that I wait for no one. I know the heat that rises in me, though it may reach the space between us, will not reach either of us when there is no longer any space between us and we are in a passionate embrace that lacks the rising heat. When the heat has risen above it slowly fades from below. And as the heat slowly fades from below the one who felt the heat slowly becomes separate from it, becomes cool, detached, indifferent, without the intensity that is his greatest strength. To burn continually one must have faith that the fire will not come to the surface to be extinguished but remain where it can burn slowly but fully, ever increasing in heat. Faith and patience are necessary as well as an ability to allow oneself to feel lost, given over to the lack of gravity in space while remaining locked into the seriousness of the task, out of one’s hands yet within one’s self.