Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ceremony



These great comings-together

These slight turns you made
even as a child toward this place


The scratched slide
of your mother’s record
falling from the stack,
up toward your heart,
moving in you, nearer
with every minute revolution

Ax splits wood,
separating vertical grain
it never knew it possessed

Salt water clashes on stone,
new velocity hurling
every atom with totality
of first or last time

Sure foot of your grandfather
dancing the sneak-up
lifts the unbearable weight
of a hundred generations,
reassuring earth she is seen,
known, pursued and chosen

Curvature of the mounds
one thousand, million layers deep,
bones and the exacting timbre of
each of your ancestors’ laughs,
reaching up toward your lonely back
and rolling you down the new-cut grass


The night you left camp
and climbed the wall
at the border between
these lives you could’ve led,
had you believed everyone then

Gun in hand of the robber
who haunts your house
glints diamond hard
in the moonlight streaking
through glass, your sweat,
your sun-starved skin

Stowaway spirits
in the particle smasher
lunge for each other’s throats,
the one that is for you
tearing at the jugular
in a violence of mute beauty

Steel sparks and grinds the track
in exquisite tension,
keeping the whole train
from plunging off
the edge of the world

The cracking whip
of your hair on the wind
as you spin around
to chase the demon
running after you








Sunday, June 16, 2013

Prosthetics

A very old spokenword poem.

Coal miners, Ladrymbai










I hate that you had no dad.
No father, yeah, like a missing leg,
he should’ve been there but gangrene
was eating him. He cut himself off,
and now you hobble, magnificent, on your
one, muscle-strapped, overworked leg.

There’s no going back.
No one can sew those dead flesh years
back on your healed-over stump.
No one can make the fire-sharp pain,
the mad, thumping pain, the now dull pain
that aches in damp weather go away—
no one can make you forget he’s not there,
even if you don’t remember him.

I want to fix it. I wave my arms
furiously, muttering incantations over
the thick, synthetic trunk of a limb
deep in the night as you sleep, detached.
In the day you never seem to mind
your fake leg, but I do. Cause I see you
try to get up in your sleep, try to walk
to the kitchen on a phantom limb. I see
you cry when you fall back on your bed,
reaching for what isn’t there.

So back in the daylight
I wince every time your heavy leg bangs
into the asphalt on one end, bangs
into your scarred, hidden stump on the
other. All the things that try to keep you up
bruise you. All your highs that come down
with a crash—all your people who let you run
on them for a second and then yank
themselves away with a laugh and a bang—
yes—I wince.

'Cause I can’t walk for you, I can’t
donate one of my limbs. My dad’s my dad,
my past’s my past. And you are you.
We lose every three-legged race cause
you’re too fast for me. But here are my
arms.












Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Inner Landscape of Beauty

Connemara tree
I first heard John O’Donohue’s voice during a profoundly dark season of my early adult life. I was sick as a dog, barely crawling through a brutal depression, and shut up in a proverbial dark night of the soul. My quest to save the world had been sharply aborted and turned upside-down by a mystery illness, and I’d been pretty much shipped back to a country I thought I no longer had a home in.
So there I was, very alone in a new state, working temporarily in a part-time office job someone had kindly offered me as I attempted to get treatment and maybe heal.

As anyone who’s suffered any kind of non-incidental depression knows, it was a crapton worse than any of the physical suffering I was trying to survive. I could barely think; I could barely pray; I could barely hear God or sense any kind of presence that was once so natural to breathe in. Every day after work, I’d drag myself outside to the forest by my house and trudge through the woods for half an hour in a desperate attempt to stay alive on the inside. Those days when spiritual books seemed full of dry, muted words, trudging through the forest was about as good a prayer as it got.

And then, one day a random newsprint catalog was being passed around the office advertising random overstock stuff sitting in some warehouse, calling our names. Did we want anything? I didn’t see anything interesting—except...there was this audiobook on cassette called Anam Cara. I had no idea what Anam Cara meant, but there were a bunch of Celtic knot designs on the cover along with a photo of what I [very mistakenly] thought looked like Stonehenge, and I admit I'm a sucker for Stonehenge (primarily because I’ve never seen it in real life, so they say). 

Soon, I was driving to the doctor or grocery store and sitting longer than necessary in parking lots, because I was listening to this voice with the distinct cadence of a native Irish-speaker speaking words to me about the soul, about God, about story, about pain, about connection…that I could actually hear and understand.


I probably listened to those tapes a zillion times. 

Since then, I’ve still yet to read a single book by John O’Donohue; Id get the book…but then find that I just wanted to listen to him talk about all the things he was so excited and inspired and enlivened by. (Because reading big abstract words is a shifty business, but when John O'Donohue says them as he means them, they're authentic and pulsing with life.) Somy experience of his ideas has been solely based on listening to his voice on audiobook. And because of that, when I finally heard The Inner Landscape of Beauty,* Krista Tippett’s monumental 2007 On Being interview with him shortly before he passed on, I felt I was listening to a friend. (Although I’m sure everyone else did, too.)

Anyway, beauty is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. As in beauty will save the world beauty. Of course beauty draws every human being (whether or not we’re aware), but I don’t know that you look for it or recognize your need for it quite as desperately as you do when you’re in pain. Because it’s not simply a pretty landscape; it’s a landscape of power and presence that you see as it is only when your inner eye has been opened. And that landscape can be anywhere, strangely. So…this evening as I was driving home, I listened to John O’Donohue read his incredibly profound 2003 treatise on beauty for a few minutes. And suddenly, I had to shut off the stereo, because I realized I wasn’t really seeing anything, and I needed to see. And then the light hitting the leaves on the trees lining the freeway nearly pierced my heart.

This preamble is way too long, but I had to at least try to explain a little of why this one relatively short conversation/interview meant so much to me. I could be wrong, but I think it was the last time the voice of this philosopher/poet/scholar (who really stayed a priest even after he stepped away from official priesthood) was recorded. So tonight, I couldnt help but return to it and distill a bit of his voice into another “found” poem. (Although Im not sure you can really distill his voice.*) The strangest thing was that I couldnt see these words without hearing them as hed say them...I guess his voice is still uncannily present.

Again, none of these words are technically mine—only the spaces and dots and dashes. I do take full responsibility for playing with the connections between the words to create new sentences and thoughts (and any possible mis-juxtaposing that may have occurred). So if you don’t think something works, oops. But hopefully the heart of this great poet's wisdom comes through with the same refreshing voice, just in new form.


*If you've never heard it before, listen to the whole unedited interview. Absolutely worth your time.


If you love what you hear, consider purchasing for yourself Longing and Belongingthe brilliant collection of John O'Donohue's wonderful narrated books, available through his official posthumous author website. To say tit's worth every cent is an understatement! (Although, if it's too much for your budget, let me know and I may be able to suggest an alternate source for much less, depending on your country of residence.)


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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Last of the Basketweavers in the Last of the Wetlands


When you go to gather the grasses,
you better listen to what they’re saying.
To you.

It could be: wait, wait, wait, wait.
Better to burn us. Harvest the new shoots.
Watch for a brushfire.

Or: You are the keeper of worlds.
You are the creator of thresholds.
You are to weave us into intricate keyholes
no one but the wily will see.

Even: We wish we could use your strange heart as
a form to wend around instead of the whiskey bottle
your grandfather left. We wish your fingers felt
more in their nerve endings. We wish you
felt less before splitting us in threes.
We wish you sang like you once did.

And yes, then you can sing your low register
track over the bridge that holds all the sweetness,
all the power of a moment of water beneath it.
Not everything you look for will hear you.
But the one that recognizes the unrepeatable timbre,
the fingerprint in the air, the underbelly of
a molecule’s frame—this is how you will be drawn.
Not to the strands, but to the final shape, the
lovely curve you will be the first to discover
in this medium; the interlock of age and use
and color that never touched before you thought
them into movement.