After inhaling doubts baked in a furnace with a hint of daylilies,
after the rhino leaps the river, tracing the shadow of the ark
below vapor currents tailing the new doves behind the sun,
its palpable flare a rising mirror of sublimated hopes, someone
at the other side of the banks dares to stretch wide palms––up,
and again, as if to touch the hem of a garment and be healed.
When you are small, she said, you can move around and between what the big ones cannot. You will never carry much you call your own and can be easily lifted. Whatever comes your way will only be found, and you will not confuse it with something earned.
No hope is real comfort when you will often have to go without it. Same for inspiration, same for confidence. What you want to keep, she said, is what is left when hope and confidence and self-respect are gone. When all the rest collapses, notice: what is here, still breathing?
Accept its life and protect its breath. It is not distinct from your own, only infinitely more vast.
Between dreaming and waking.
The original void, they called it, and we thought like a womb and imagined ourselves a sort of placenta but who can say. We might have been the baby or the amniotic fluid, because where in that space do you find enough context for measurement?
What grows here cannot happen outside of time, they said, and we had no reason to argue; besides, who would listen? We couldn’t even name ourselves beyond we, beyond here, beyond you, and we used these interchangeably, depending on what fit the mood. Our words were the music we held between us.
All movement begins here, they said, and we had only known ourselves to be ever floating with it, in this space that only exists because it is empty enough to hold whatever comes. One evolving over time might decide to call the growth a contract between years and intentions, and who can fault them for this? It’s easy to forget this space, where the names of what we are keep sliding between us.
Reflecting pools of vision.
There is the seeing eye of the creature accustomed to being ruled by reflex. When it suddenly stops to look, the gaze seems to hold all in its trembling peace. It becomes like the lake, the eye of the landscape, by which the cosmos beholds itself.
Yet another passage inspired by (and with borrowed images from) Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space(“Intimate Immensity), a work so rich and layered, I learned to take only tiny sips at a time, as I do this morning.
One problem, when it comes to beginnings, is that it is difficult to pick a point of origin when you are dealing with a substance that seems more wave-like than particular, when even if you could separate particles, there would be so many.
But it’s hard to resist trying to identify these points of emergence after the fact and harder to know how and when to jump in. Still, a wish to know and name is innate. Maybe this has something to do with pride, or a misplaced survival instinct. When I was five or six, I hatched a plan for counting raindrops. If I could isolate the amount that fell in a given measure of time before the five or six inches of my face pressed against the window, then I could multiply this number (about 15-20, I supposed) by another number to get the number of drops that fell in the square foot in front of our house in the space of––say, a breath. I measured a complete breath to be about six seconds (inhale: one two three; exhale: one two three). Then I would know what it was that was falling before me in the span of a single breath and then I would know––
Not much, apparently. But I couldn’t help myself. I needed a place to start, some foothold that would allow me to do the climbing that everyone was always talking about, except that what I saw before me was no ladder or stairs, not even a climbing wall. It was glass and falling water and the only response I ever seemed to have when it came to noticing anything, was wide-eyed awe, and it was clear that this wasn’t going to get me anywhere, not by the standards that were quickly becoming apparent. Among the adults, there seemed to be a consensus that expertise was valued above all else, and I seemed to have a natural immunity to it. This was terrifying. If I couldn’t be an expert in anything, at least I could learn to climb, I thought, so that I could manage to pass among the other climbers.
But this experiment failed. I couldn’t hold the drops in my gaze long enough to count them, not even for the space of a breath. And absolutely nothing about this solemn revelation seemed to relieve me of the pressure to find some way to begin.
First lessons in topography.
As a child of wartime, she remembered her grandmother’s hunger, the bombing and blood, and the flat expanse of the plains. Looking out, she imagined Earth as a wide plate and Heaven as the dome that covered it, and believed that if she walked to the edge, she would find the place where they met.
Later, she saw her first mountain. This was a shock.
Later still, she would think how well this prepared her for what followed, because what good is an education that does not continue to jar you from whatever it is you presume to know before learning more?
Inspired by a section of this conversation between Judith Plaskow and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, in Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion Vol. 29, No. 1 (Spring 2013).
Here is a tundra. There is a village. You are on your way and keeping on, but you never get closer to the village. It is said that the art of withholding enables a reader’s discovery. Consider the example of Socrates, how he used to feign ignorance.
Here is a spirit forever approaching infinity. But reality is no obstacle. There are plenty of maps to the center of the world, but all are missing some critical aspect without which no one will be able to find the place, so what can the earnest seeker do but handle them so often that each page becomes transparent, and then lay them on top of one another like bed linens, and continue to dream?
You find the garden but only accidentally, on your way to somewhere else––so you pass through it, having no idea what you are missing.
Adapted from Jared Marcel Pollan’s article, “A Box Built in the Abyss: On two new fictions by László Krasznahorkai” which appears in the most recent issue of ASTRA.
There can be no contradiction between paired images, only connection, and so little that is true will conform to the expectations of available language. There is a certain sadness that smells of oranges––or nectarines? and it holds a horizon inside itself, complete with sunrises and sunsets that only one at a time may witness. The challenge is how awe wants company to verify its origin, as something other than madness. Lacking any, a witness is burdened with a weight that denies its own release.
On the day of the dead, among this cloud of witnesses, someone here whispers, help me find it again, that joy I once had in looking. Instead of an answer, this space, and the hum of a motor nearby.
We love the old trees of our myths for the spaces they hold inside themselves, but also for the way they know to keep it around them, this cushion of shade made soft by the absence of another tree.
In the eruption of any given birth, a core could easily splinter, and yet here we are, faces dappled by the light and noise of becoming, learning to make room for what would breathe.
Laughing in the basement.
If revelation is marked by unknowns, happiness by suffering, ease by difficulty, then it’s not a stretch to recognize that those serious truths everyone has been so steadfastly seeking were under our noses all along, hiding among the stuffed jesters and the Lego bricks in the carpet. If truth’s constant companion is the absurd, let us sit in the dark and laugh.
No, but seriously, you said, and raised self-doubt to the level of moral imperative, and at the crossroads between Either and Or, you boldly announced, neither will do–and chose anyway, as one must.
In your good company, we sleep no more in this underground of mirrors and toys; instead, we are awake with the question of whether we are, after all, in or out, as relates to the houses we once took for granted as ours. And now, you said, for my final performance, I shall confide the meaning of life to this scrap of paper, which you cleverly managed to lose.
Easy come, easy go, you said, while continuing to insist that neither would do.
Earlier in the week, some other search reminded me back to some of Søren Kierkegaard’s ideas, so today I am appreciating his teasing sense of humor.