“Below Her, Another Self”

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

“Crouched Creature of the Plains”

Do I have it in me to write a poem tonight?
Some poems are written like an elk hide is tanned.
I fix my posture, sit up straight in this chair:
A straight-backed poem, coming right up.

Not strait-laced but shame-faced,
Dismayed that this need to write these words
Will not let me rest, will not let me alone.
What is it in me that will not let me alone?

Now that I’m sitting up straight, I wait
For the poem to come.
Some poems are written like a gazelle leaping over a fence,
Other poems are written like a lion devouring a gazelle.

Will the lion in my heart devour the lion in my mind?
No, more likely they will meet as estranged sister and brother,
And one will chase the other through the savannah in the noonday sun
As I sit here in the midnight darkness, waiting.

To chase yourself is to admit both your speed and your lack of speed:
The self you chase is fast, while the self who chases could not be slower.
Then again, the self who chases can run as fast as it is possible to run,
But it will be never be fast enough to catch the invisible self he pursues.

The problem here can be stated quite simply:
There is a self that chases and a self that is pursued.
And there are many more than these two.
Why this multiplicity of selves?

Why can there not be one self, one man?
If the man were one, he could let himself alone.
He could make great efforts and enjoy his work,
He could rest and enjoy his rest.

But there is a self that chases and a self that is pursued,
And these are only two of many.
One self gets out of bed in the mountains at midnight, sits up straight in a chair,
As the other self gets away, a crouched creature of the plains hidden in noonday sun.

Longing For No One Still

A whole multitude of birds part me from sleep this morning. They sing me awake but they cannot sing me to stillness; still, I do love to hear them sing; for a few moments I give myself over to the listening. I do not want the sun to rise but would like Time to stop moving so I can remain in these moments that flee from me as the sun finds its way into my room. When the sun rises the people also rise, and whatever peace I had felt within me will turn to conflict, what clarity I had felt will turn to confusion as surely as the day begins, whatever light in me the darkness had helped to rise will fall again with the rising sun. But perhaps I will have a few moments shortly after the sun has risen when the other light lasts past its usual time. That is all I can ask of the other light this morning. Then I will willingly return to the darkness from whence I either came or willingly walked into one time, having heard that only there is one truly lit.

And who was it I heard that from? Someone who had been lit then burned and then finally cooled? Or someone whose burning slowly grew and was not extinguished? Was it someone at all who told me that? Or did no one itself tell me that?

I can be told nothing by those whose passion, though it does not have to be visible and outward, I can nevertheless clearly see has cooled or whose fire has extinguished completely. Would you believe that I can be told nothing by most people? For instance, would most people tell me to “wait for no one”? No, they would tell me instead to “seek out someone to love, seek out your soul mate, find happiness in love, find satisfaction in work, spend time with others, get out of yourself, pursue your desires and your dreams, live in the moment, do not think of the past or future, sleep well, eat well, work hard, hold on, be free, be still, find comfort and shelter, keep moving, be moderate, let go, dance with pretty young women, talk with wise old women, laugh with women always somewhere from ten to seventeen years older than you, and above all do not wait and allow all opportunities to pass from you. Above all go after what you lack, do not wait for it to come to you.” But I lack no one, and how can I go after that?

Would they harass me to speak before I am ready or would they allow me to be silent until the words arise out of me on their own accord? When finally I find someone who will tell me nothing, then I will be willing to listen. This is why I am waiting for no one. Someone is always telling me something. I have the feeling that only when no one can find me will I be told nothing. I am always listening closely to be told nothing, and that is why I wake up early when only the songbirds are up. They sing of nothing and I listen closely to their song. They tell me nothing and if I could listen to them telling me nothing all day and night as I wait for no one, I feel I would soon be given all the wisdom of the ages, which I would keep within me until the one I wait for, who is now not a one, finds me and in doing so becomes no longer no one but also still not someone.

Still I am not sure if I am even someone at all, and moreover I am not sure if I want to be someone, if in being someone I no longer wait for no one. Actually, I am quite sure I do not want to be someone. “Sure you do,” I hear from those ones who are always telling me something, “Use your talents, go after success, receive the credit due for the work you put in, give people hope, give them a reason to live, inspire them to greatness, inspire them to be someone as well. When people say to you, ‘now you are someone,’ then you will know you are someone. When people say to you, ‘you have given me the freedom to be someone, and who I have become has provided security and certainty in my life,’ then you will know you’ve done what you were put on this earth to do.”

But still I say I was not put on this earth to do anything of the sort; I was not put here to inspire anyone but rather to wait for no one. Certainly I was not put here to provide certainty for someone! If you do not understand that, you are probably someone yourself, hoping to be provided with certainty, which may well be the end of all hope, which I am not certain even exists in the first place. You’re probably always telling me something you’re certain is true. When I say I wait for no one, I am not telling you that. I am telling no one that. Remember that no one is my audience. Remember that I hope (oh yes!), yes I hope that no one reads this and comes to meet me in the place we decided on before it was decided by all those not me that I should become someone—like them. Then I was still no one; now, still not yet myself, I wait here for no one still. I feel like I’ve waited for many years, even when I did not know I was waiting. I have been waiting for no one long before I was told to be someone, and I will wait for no one long after everyone has given up on me, convinced I will never become anyone at all. By all means, I would say to them, go on being someone; I will continue to wait for no one.

I used to think I was waiting for someone. There were women I thought I longed for. Perhaps when she returns, I thought, I will be able to be myself again. She let me be myself, she loved me for the whole of who I was and also for the splits within me. If she returns I can again be the someone I no longer am. But although she brought out the someone in me, when I was with her I was no longer waiting for no one. I would forget about no one in her presence, forgetting also that before my search to be someone began I had been waiting to meet with no one, who was absent; I had been waiting for no one until I was sure I could meet it everywhere.

When I was with her, everything seemed indeed to be all that I had dreamed of and more; it seemed she was the one I had waited for, though she was not at all no one; she was someone, and someone as beautiful and fleeting as the purest snow falling in the night before the desert sun melts it the next morning. If I could not be with her while still waiting for no one, then I could not be with her at all. But it took me some time to understand the longing, time I spent longing for some woman, or other, time I did not yet know what I truly longed for, which I came to understand was for no one, in time. But how I still long!

Waiting For No One

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.

The Fly: A Short Story

It started when I woke up and heard the fly in my room. I did everything I could. I read, I meditated, I sang, I did push-ups, I typed on the keyboard, I even tried praying to relieve the burden of this fly. The fly was still in the room. Sometimes it would stop flying and land somewhere. These were peaceful moments. Most of the time, though, it flew around. Those were hostile moments. I left the house for a while and forgot all about the fly. When I came back I remembered. It was still alive and flying! I tried a few times to kill it, but I could not manage to do so. It’s hard to kill a fly by simply clapping your hands. Flies are elusive and exasperating insects.

I could have left again, let the fly buzz around until he got tired or died. I couldn’t do it. This was my house, not the fly’s house. It was cold and rainy, a day to sit contentedly inside and watch the rain fall down, not a day to be outside. But I could not be content with the fly in the house, it brought me to the end of my patience, I really couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand it or sit down with it in the house. I could do nothing but become increasingly irritated. I sat and tried to read again. Nothing doing. I could do nothing but think about the fly. It had completely taken over my attention. There was nothing else in the world but the two of us, the fly and me. I thought about why the fly had come. There had to be a reason. Flies don’t just appear out of nowhere without a reason. I thought about it some more and could not think of one single reason why this fly was in the house.

Was there no reason for this fly? If there was no reason for this fly, then did that mean there was no meaning in this situation? The dread!

The apparent meaninglessness of the entire situation filled me with horror and forced me into action. The meaning here would reveal itself, I was sure of it. I needed to be sure. I would learn what this whole thing meant by killing the fly. From the death of the fly the meaning of the situation would come to life. But first, the fly must die!

I went again into action. This time the fly would not get away. I followed him into the bathroom and shut the door. There, let him fly around in there, I thought. That settles things.

Before too long, I had forgotten about the fly and settled in to read. Sometimes I would stop reading and bask in pure contentment: the peaceful stillness of the day, the mix of rain and snow gently falling on the window, the warm cup of tea in my hand, I needed nothing else. The simple pleasures of life! What else was there to need? Needing was for unhappy people, the ones who were always intolerably irritated with absurdly minor issues.

Intolerable was the word. The irritability of other people always exasperated me to no end. How could anyone be so irritated! And how truly minor the issues were that made them so upset. I didn’t see a bit of sense in it. There was no meaning in it at all. What disturbed everyone all so much was as pointless as a fly. I was glad to be rid of those constantly irritated and discontented people, glad to be rid of all my burdens and worries. As the cold rain fell down on the window outside, I felt arise within me the warmth and sunlight of true contentment!

Soon, having drunk a pot of tea, I found I needed to go pee. Serenely, I opened the door and walked in. Immediately the fly flew out. How quickly the mind forgets of its troubles!

I forgot right away about having to pee and went to chasing the fly for a second time. Again, I tried to trap it in the bathroom, but it was too smart for that, so I was forced to look for another way to remove the loathsome pest from my presence.

I chased it for a quarter of an hour around my 350 square foot room. In such a small room, with such a small insect, such a vast and endless problem! It was madness, and it needed to stop. I chased it above the sink, I chased it under the table, and finally I chased it to my bed where it stopped flying.

I stood on the bed. The fly was in the far corner, on the ceiling, and I could tell it was afraid. The fear in the room was palpable. I stood there and waited, my entire attention fixated on the fly. This time it would not get away, I was sure of it. I thought about what I would do if it got away. I could not fathom the possibility. It was simply unimaginable to me that the fly would live for another minute. I pushed the thought out of my mind.

The fly took off again, while I clapped frantically like an epileptic at a piano concert. Did it hear my clapping? More to the point, did it understand the intent of my clapping? Above all I feared that the fly was under the misperception that I was clapping in support of it. On the contrary! I despised its very existence! I wanted to nip that misunderstanding before the whole situation got completely out of control. I wanted nothing more than to end this fly’s life, to kill its buzz, and not to give it my support by clapping, that senseless human form of expressing non-verbal approval. But the only way I knew to kill it was to clap it between my hands. That would be the last clap and the final curtain. Whatever misunderstanding my clapping might bring about would not matter after the fly was dead.

With the rage and fury fitting for such a critical and crucial moment, I roared at the fly,

“I clap to kill you, not to praise your efforts!”

Still, the possibility that my intent might be miscommunicated was too grave a threat. The complexity of the situation made my head hurt. I wanted the fly to know I was trying to kill it, and not be under the misperception that I was trying to express to it my approval. I wanted it to be in fear in its last seconds, not basking in unwarranted and nonexistent admiration.

I picked up a book. This way there could be no misunderstanding. I would kill the fly by use of the book. I tried that for a while without success. No, that could not be the way. I could clap the fly faster than I could hit it with a book. Anyways, what if the fly imagined that being killed with literature was more flattering than being killed by flattery? Misunderstanding be damned! It did not matter how this fly died as long as it was very shortly dead.

Well, what can I say? Something changed in the manner of my pursuit. I became more focused, more driven. I readied myself, I zoned in on my target. It became more of a chess match and less of a bullfight.

The fly took off away from me, and I took a desperate lunge. I clapped one time, opened my hands, and saw the fly fall below me to the ground. It twitched once, twice, three times, and then it was still. It would no longer torture me with its insane buzzing.

I took a deep breath and sat down again. Outside everything was the same. The mix of rain and snow was still falling gently on the roof, the trees shook gracefully in the wind, and the deer and coyotes roamed the hills. I waited for the contentment to come back, the way it had been hours before when I had forgotten about the fly in the bathroom. I waited to bask in the glow of a task completed, a job well done.

But something was not right. Why did I not feel more alive now that the fly was dead? Where was the freedom from every care, the loosening of all my burdens that I was sure would come when the fly was gone? I was free from the fly’s odious existence, so why did I not feel free? I had been sure the reason the fly had come into my life was because of the freedom I would feel after its death. But I felt no freedom! The dread!

In the fly’s absence I could still feel its presence. In death its hold on me was even stronger than it had been in life.

I waited.