I was frozen in some fragmented reality,
fearful, frayed, and in flight when Dylan
reassured me that after the first death,
there would be no other.
we knew that others would die,
but mercifully each only once,
only one agony to go around,
and that’s how it always is
when the sun stops shining, light breaks and thighs warmed by
candles thrust toward new beginnings,
new horizons, even as skin drops
from bone, even as hope sizzles
on hot pavement.
But there’s pleasure
yet in the death spiral, the free fall
into summer, or spring, or winter
where we are always surprised
by the break of light, the answer
from the dark, and my boy Dylan
grinning under the shroud of
some, well, maybe it is just a
Maybe this time
a halted dawn is literal,
and we will only limp
to the last break of light.
“But can you imagine a worse fate for your declining years than being read aloud to by Simone de Beauvoir?” ~Elizabeth Bishop
Other people were Sartre’s idea of Hell,
but Elizabeth Bishop’s idea of Hell was Simone de Beauvoir.
And somehow these three, brimming with radical freedom
and unconventional relationships, illuminated my way
to my own path of mediocrity and obscurity punctuated
by poor, if unconventional, choices in lifestyle and relationships.
From their inspiration, I was driven to write sporadically,
love without enthusiasm, and live quietly on the fringes
of a friendly but disinterested community surrounded
by an interested but hostile society of blame and recrimination.
In some unjustified fantasy, I sometimes imagine that Sartre would
approve of me or that Beauvoir might wish me greater freedom.
Elizabeth Bishop might mourn my dim light but not think it a disaster.
But still, I imagine myself in their shoes, standing on a balcony
overlooking the Montparnasse Cemetery before writing in a cafe
on the ground floor. And here I am, just like them!, sitting with my lover,
writing in a notebook, drinking Beaujolais, and munching quietly on a fresh galette.
The words neither flow nor drip but must be pried out, singly, and with great effort.
But still, you can feel the energy, can’t you?, where fertile minds spawned the
great works, and I have spawned faint evidence of mental effort, in their shadow.
She didn’t witness black and white wings dropping in the tree.
No, she didn’t see the magpie, but gave a prophylactic salute.
Her superstition never fell into complacency.
She didn’t witness black and white wings dropping in the tree,
but she was alert to danger in every contingency,
and her intuition was always alert and astute.
No, she didn’t see black and white wings dropping in the tree,
but even without seeing a magpie, she’d give a prophylactic salute.
The lotus blossom represents enlightenment,
but most people take it as a symbol of relaxation,
an icon of a religion of indifference,
but Buddha told us to let go of desire,
not to be pacific in the face of suffering.
Loving kindness and limitless compassion
motivate us to relieve suffering as we
recognise that all suffering is our responsibility.
Desire is destructive and separates us from others
while compassion joins us to all life.
Mindfulness is shilled as a tool for corporate success,
but such success is only an element of ego
and can never be a byproduct of mindfulness.
To be mindful is to be aware of suffering,
and to suffer is to be filled with desire.
Buddha didn’t want us to be free from distraction,
he wanted us to be focused on suffering.
To imagine a universe free from suffering
is only to imagine a universe free of life,
and desire is nothing less than a life source.
Late one afternoon, I sat and watched a beautiful
wave crash against the rocks on the beach.
Finding such beauty on earth, of course I wanted
to find it again, to relive my joy and enlightenment.
I followed the wave out to sea, only to be consumed by water.
When you do a good job,
people say the floor’s so clean
you could eat off of it,
but no one really eats
off the floor, so what’s the point?
Everything we shed goes to the floor:
viruses, old skin, loose hair,
mucous, spit, parasites,
and random would-be nourishing
particles dropped through
slovenly food preparation.
So the floor fills fast with refuse,
and something has to be done about it
from time to time with care and precision.
It’s important work this scrubbing, this tedium,
but I never feel threatened by the floor
unless it is rising to meet my falling corpse
at a rate sufficient to be alarming.
Though I use the standard mop and bucket,
this task brings me to my knees every time.
Is everyone’s floor covered with such
persistent sediment demanding severe scrubbing?
Or am I the only one grinding old bones
into hard tile while bleaching my skin and
cursing the damned and damnable
to leave me in peace once and for all?
In the end, this sparkling masterpiece is something
to behold, and I stare at it in minor amazement,
imagining briefly the pleasure I could have
eating off the floor for once, until the first steps
into the sterile field remove all illusions of safety.