Aftermath

In the dark between destruction and rebirth.

After the promise, before the fallen fruit, love was so loud that what followed might be called nature’s reproach. We suspected it was. But our memories of watercolor flights stayed anyway between water and sky, and us gliding in wide-winged pelican formations­­––long after their welcome, ignoring the new signs warning against the trespass of our breath.

After the storm, our eyes fall into these empty hands and roll across the wreckage around us until they are soaked in the sludge of charred remains. 

Only this silent plea between us now, strong and invisible; and time no longer ours, and in the dark hours before dawn, it may echo an inquiring trinity, Love, will you make the world here again? and then Hear, again and Love, here.

Magnificat

Song for the unseen.

Let’s remember to hold one another in this moment, reveling in the possibility that what really is, is still invisible. And may we never forget––our dead, our not yet living, and the true purpose of these wild hearts. To celebrate what seems utterly worthless in this world, including everyone bearing witness to the unseen, those other dreamers and the lonely and those crazy fools on the corner––and in the next room, and in the mirror, and all the tiny creatures underfoot and hanging on in the distance. The strongmen and the celebrated seem to hold the world in their fists, but they will lose and be lost amid those who have nothing. Let us remember this always, to remain empty, seeking home with others, hands open and ready to receive what comes––yesterday, today, and tomorrow––not to keep and hold

but to give it away

that we might remain

forever vacant

and ready to receive

the opening notes

of its next

arrival.

***

German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the Magnificat (from the Gospel of Luke 1:46-55, when Mary greets Elizabeth) “the most passionate, wildest . . . most revolutionary hymn ever sung.” He was executed by the Nazis. This morning, I learned that these verses were considered so subversive that they were banned from public recitation in several countries, including Guatemala, Argentina, and India. Naturally, I was moved to revisit the text. I am also reminded back to a comment by artist Mariko Mori, on Botticelli’s iconic painting of the meeting of these women (The Annunciation), that they appear to her “like two Buddhas bowing.” 

Stranger Still

Through a glass darkly.

In love with an unknown intimate briefly glimpsed, the stranger moved so steadily towards the source of longing that he became transparent with time. Suspended in its liquid, the desert salts of his waking form dissolved in her waters until he knew himself at once known in the shadow of the apocalyptic cherub.

I am surveyed, he admitted, but it was good to be untethered from the demand to be any sort of self in any of the atomic cities, to join the games with no winners, to keep company instead with a chorus of loss, its abundant ache seeded in the silence of this elsewhere when the voices that will be heard choose themselves

***

Inspired by various morning readings, including Thomas Merton by way of Richard Rohr. Italicized phrases above come from Thomas Merton’s “Day of the Stranger,” first published in The Hudson Review, summer 1967.

Here is Splendor

Aesthetic aspirations of an avian artist.

Deep in the forest, on the floor where the art risks trampling by a large mammal or easy pillage by interested parties, the bowerbird assembles his offering. His shrine is an elaborate risk of time, energy, and attention, a seemingly superfluous display of beauty.  

Here, a passageway built of two rows of arched sticks bending into one another. Here a wide arc of blue feathers, blue bottlecaps, blue plastic knives, marbles, a costume ring. At the center, a wide-eyed doll, arms splayed and open-mouthed.

The offer comes with no promises beyond the pure beauty he makes visible by this daily art. He makes no pretense of protection, procures no food for the young. You will not catch him visiting the babies in a nest. The audience observes, moves closer, weighing the draw of what beguiles against the risk of being fooled. 

This is his hope: to put forth something so dazzling in its excess of devotion that the ideal witness will find it and be moved, close enough to offer some hope of continuance.

***

Inspired by reading about the beautiful structures built by  bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea (by the males of various species, in the interest of courtship), which brought to mind Robinson Jeffers’ observance of “divinely superfluous beauty.” 

Among Shadows

Treading light.

As I look again 

for a light in the dark, 

let me remember 

how the quality 

of its glow

will shape what 

I can see. May I 

find one to teach 

me to bear 

examination, 

which also allows

for shadows 

to magnify 

some of the shapes 

I’ve been missing, 

that I may find 

language 

and architecture 

for what is barely 

here, to coax 

its becoming, 

feeling edges 

with slow hands,

careful not to break 

the fragile wing, 

for the response 

of some soft give,

breathing.

Fragilities

Considering emergent occasions.

Common practice refers to any “I” with consistency, but there is no monument here, only these constant aberrations. A body may be well one moment, wounded the next, then ill. Same for soul, spirit, mind, and whatever else we try attaching to this ongoing flux.

Also common, at least after a certain point, to wonder each morning, how now? Check pulse, blood pressure, eyes. Are the dark circles back? I remember the years I could not look because I knew. How cold, this seeming indifference. I was angry at her, for being so much less than solid. And possibly more, too; more than I wanted to imagine. I wasn’t myself, we commonly say, looking back on moments like this. And yet, I never asked, who are you? I never asked, how is your name? or what form shall we take, next?

We move more gently now. I check the pressure, coaxing encouragement. C’mon, I whisper, while I wait. Don’t let up. The translation might be a little prayer, some invocation to this small, quaking of tentative flesh and fluctuating fluids, to hold. We are still emerging.

***

Inspired while reading John Donne’s opening meditation in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624).

Tree Service

A life of devotion.

He sleeps at the edge of the nursery, spends his days in the shade of the mango tree. He keeps the planks for his future coffin nearby. Old friends, the tree will ask questions. They keep him up some nights.

He has brought her branch after branch, hundreds of varieties. She shows him how you may begin with the same seed and grow two very different fruits. Like children, he says.

This is a place of study, he says, for the mangoes of the world.

We are fleeting, he says, but the fruit is eternal. We eat and stay a little while, and then we leave.

I am no scientist, he says, just a servant of this tree.

***

Inspired by (and with borrowed phrases from) recent New York Times article (by Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar) about Mango Man, also profiled here

At the Shore

A conversation in the interim.

With the tides coming and going, finding the hidden treasure is often a matter of patience.

Which ocean?

This mind, or whatever you call it. There’s something I am trying to recover.

So now what?

Now I wait.

Hmm. It doesn’t look like you are doing anything.

Yeah. But remember those seeds we planted?

I love those trees! It’s amazing how they went from––

Yeah, but before all that, remember? After we planted, it looked like nothing. Root growth always does. But the tree won’t take if it doesn’t happen.

Wait. Is this about the ocean, or tree growth?

I’m mixing metaphors. It’s about learning to wait when you are trying to make a thing happen.

Got it. What’s happening now?

Plea

From a branch over unknown waters.

If I am to be severed from my first attachments, make me a bridge between relief and this emerging specter, too terrible to name.

Let me accept what may follow this request, including instructions for rooting this body as an anchor in what it dreads––or else I am no link, just a floating possibility.

Let me brace against what may yet be, extending out over the dark deep, to this unknown shore: the craggy, silty, boggy knot of its broiling terror. 

Lend courage to this limb, that I may hold. If I am far from the tree, let my spine be the crossing from the land of none to the place where it might yet be.

Hold

Notes in the dark.

In a dark room, a tiny flame is enough to live by. All it takes to extinguish it is a momentary deprivation of oxygen. Snuff out, they call this. Here is why it matters: to carry these little lights out: small, steady, slow moving, especially into nameless places that look like nothing. None of us, not one, can light ourselves. This is what it means to keep watch. 

What are you doing?

Keeping.

Keeping what?

Watch.

For?

Life. 

What is the point?

The living.

And when I can’t see it?

Still, the living.

I can’t today.

Then wait with the dead.

And do what?

Wait. Keep the candles lit.