A Prayer in Black and Blue
March 9, 2012 in Poetry
“I love the rose that is not a rose,
but the second I try to speak it, any name
for God becomes so-and-so and vanishes.”
Calligraphy in the morning. A bell, a candle, beads.
Ink-stained fingers that ache and peel.
Breathe in the birdsong,
wrestle the silence,
A woodpecker hammers in the distance. The hollow, pounding echo
punctuates each thought. The evolution of desperation.
The desperation of evolution.
The clarity of purpose.
The hummingbird may appear frantic, yet how calm,
how delicate and precise she really is.
The honeybee spreads her bounty far and wide,
and each flower longs for her return,
aching with thirst.
Cinnamon, lavender, cedar,
cardamom, mint, pepper, rosewater.
A tangerine, freshly torn open.
I am awake. At last.
Steam from the coffee leaps in fine arabesques,
making its own plans before it disappears into the air.
Yesterday, a piece of sky came loose just as I was passing under,
like in some long lost book from my childhood. A book
so entwined with my consciousness that it feels like I myself
wrote it. I had dreams then, dreams that today appear
as actual memories—flying mostly, a particularly vivid kiss,
a long-desired gift placed in front of me.
Is that how this day will be? As I plant my foot in the cold,
I caught the piece before it landed. It was the size of a plate,
but heavy as an anvil. I could feel how much it wanted to
touch the earth. To let go. Give up. Give in.
In defiance of universal order, all consequence be damned,
to melt into something it could touch. Feel.
There was no one around to help carry it, so I lugged it back
here. Put it in a box, where it now hums with longing.
Clouds pass and call my name.
Each time I lift the lid and look at it
I am struck with a great, piercing sorrow.
And yet, I cannot help myself.
I do not know what to do.
The ink is transformed as it soaks into the paper.
From the deep black of conviction
to the softer, subtler shades of doubt.
It is the reverse of how I thought it would be.
The intended stroke is diverted by minute fibers,
the fickleness of liquid, its desire to be everywhere at once.
It would be easy to get discouraged.
Imperfections speak loudly,
even when unseen by the naked eye.
But perfection exists only in emptiness. In its potential.
Once there is contact, the possibility of it disappears.
Making way for what is truly divine.
Contact is everything.
The infant left in his crib, without touch,
without the rhythm of the heart, the heat of blood and skin,
without breath and voice,
“Lovers find secret places
in this violent world
where they make transactions
I stumble through these words,
only to find you’ve already drawn the map.
A lone, weary alpinist,
wind-whipped, frost-burned, bruised, choking
on the thin air, I reach the peak
only to discover the flag
of my great friend and rival
speared into the ice.
I speak and hear your voice.
With the Host on my tongue,
how can I not think of you?
You, concise and delicate. Eternal.
Its flavorlessness reveals all the flavors of you.
The tang and sweetness and sweat.
I want to keep you here,
smooth and wet and pale,
slowly dissolving into me.
But one must swallow sometime.
Pass to the other side.
I speak and hear your voice.
I want to take it all back.
I cover my mouth, but the words slip
right through my fingers.
Eyes roll back in my head and the sound
joins with the morning air.
But though it dissipates, I realize
that even cries I made as a child
are still out there, traversing
the endless depths of space.
One just now approaching
murky blue Uranus, mysterious and massive,
unbearably lonely, hiding in its own shadow.
He who lurks at the remote corners of our consciousness,
pulling at us with forces we cannot fathom,
whispering dark promises,
giving us dreams,
submerged in a gargantuan, crackling hush.
The residue of my voice knows
that it must keep going.
Nothing is ever lost.
Nothing good ever gets away.
Hunched over in the empty belly of night,
I wrote the words “burning surrender”.
For no clear reason. They merely emerged
from the dark well
and offered themselves to me.
I could not sleep.
The void would not take me.
Nor could I implore it to do so,
hands around its throat.
Shaking my own ghost.
So I wrote.
This morning, I found the same phrase in Rumi.
A poem I had never read.
“The prostration is not voluntary.
I have that in me that makes me always
like this, burning with surrender,
flat on my face.”
It is always there. Between you and the words.
Between brush and paper. The finger and the flame.
Notes and music. Ashes
A flash of light sears the silver halide.
The illusion captured, the moment defined.
If only revelation and memory were so aligned.
The ceiling fan stirs up the flecks of the world,
dander and dust and lint– the inner universe revealed.
This is what makes us. No single piece could be removed
without the threat of plunging it all into ruin.
One tiny screw out of place
and the whole chassis could collapse,
faith or no faith.
I miss you when I forget that you live inside me.
I search for you when you are right in front of me.
I call to you on the other side of the mountain,
not realizing that we are on the same mountain.
A single wave may live thousands of miles from land,
but the ocean never tires of caressing the shore,
roaring with desire, prostrating itself with pounding, aching
deference to the object of its love.
And then receding, only to return again.
The wave knows this and is grateful.
I am a hundred feet down, listening to the laboring of my lungs.
Just below, the blue plunges into utter black. It is right here
that the awe and wonder become absolute fear.
The great maw of the unknown.
Do not panic or you’ll get the bends.
Bubbles. Baubles. Beads. The yellow, sick rain
flooding your veins. Tiny resentments, regrets, the froth of guilt.
The ring that rolled into the gutter, the cruel words that once pried
your teeth apart, the loving hand that has no skin to touch.
Keep still. Avoid driving the lungs
like an ox, or letting them gather cobwebs.
Do not let the blackness take a living shape and enter your mind.
See the whole of it. Know that you belong as much there
as you do at the surface.
Teach me absolute light, not visibility.
The trees speak freely, without fear.
As do the stars.
The stars pull at the child in the womb, as the moon pulls
at her mother’s tides. This piece of stardust is beginning to know.
She is a matrix of gas and liquid and flesh and bone. Her ancestors
keep watch, they shift and turn, arranging pictures in the sky
that tell a story, that design the phenomenon we call fate.
They give her will and grant her mortality.
She absorbs nutrients and oxygen and blood, gifts from an unseen deity.
The thrumming heart, amniotic music, the murmur of voices
vibrate off the dark walls.
For what she knows not, but there is always the sense
of impending departure…
…into a new world, bright and loud and cold.
But then there will be hands, gentle strong hands to hold her,
and that voice, that perfect voice like no other,
which she has known since she was a mere shadow,
and it will be full of strength and joy and relief,
and she will quickly begin to know
a whole new way of being loved.
The day has only begun, and yet lifetimes have passed.
Anemic and sleep-deprived, I fall to my knees.
My breath is short. My throat tight.
To speak requires the full force of my will.
I call to you, asking for grace.
I ask, and expect the grace of an answer.
Your answer is an eyelash. Your answer is a button. A shoelace.
A scapula. A pursing of the lips. An adroitly painted fingernail. Tendons
and vocal cords and trembling hands.
This I can swallow.
“Everybody is so beautifully
Laughter in the garden pulls me from my reverie.
Neighbor children having a water balloon fight have spilled into my yard.
It would be funny to scare them,
to chase them off like a howling demon,
cursing, calling them terrible names.
To pull out the hose and drench them all as they flee.
To then forever be the ghoul next door
who always looks so frighteningly happy.
The object of derision and fascination,
always cleaning egg off the door and repairing broken windows,
his smile rising like the sun,
filled with powerful secrets.
So many things to be.
I pinch the wick
and release a thin black spire of smoke.
“Inhale autumn, long for spring.”