Ode to a Quaggy Mire

comments 19
Poetry

I’ve done it now.
I’ve stepped into It.
It’s gotten all over my shoe and
It’s made walking a squishy awkward.
Also, a certain quantity
of the material
ended up in dollops
on the rug in the front hall,
like a band of slugs that
woke up and had no idea
where they were.
Too stunned to move.
Just laying there like a constellation
of invertebrates collectively embodying
a deeper meaning.
Like tea leaves.
They must have come-to
and seen one other located just-so:
everyone splayed out on the rug,
and said each to each,
holy shit, man,
you seein’ what I’m seein’?
Nobody move.

Now the other pant leg is tainted.
From trying to pop the bad shoe off with the good one.
From trying to minimize the damage.
The damage was mostly psychic in nature,
but resulted in the urgent, instinctual need
to get that bad shoe right off there,
and played itself out as a kind of manic shuffle
that started in the hip and by the time it
got down to the good foot was like a
man teetering on the edge of the cliff
trying to pry the whole cliff up into the sky
by leveraging it all against a little stone
which had adhered to a certain insidious material on his shoe.
My foyer is full of grimacing angels.
We are never alone.  Remember that.
Consciousness solves one problem,
but still, It gets shaken all over the walls, anyway.
Some painters capitalize on this instinct,
but I don’t have quite the right mindset
to call this a job well done.

I’ve done it now, you see.
I’ve taken the bait.
I’ve considered the evidence–
and it would seem
I have a choice to make.
Maybe.
I might have a choice to make.
Maybe not the one I think?
You know how these things go:
a good mind can run with one choice
for a couple decades if you give it
some room to work.

Where does Love fit into all this choosing?
Funny thing that, isn’t it?

The heart chooses like this:
One of Everything, please.
Hold the slugs.
I love you and the world
you rode in on.

Without my heart,
I’m just making choices
like this:
A – B > Scenario 1.278
to the natural log
of my bitterness.
(Footnoted)

And that’s, well,
that’s a tad disconcerting.
Jesus has suggested
via various mind melds
and the suggestions
of mutual friends
that if I want,
I might go out later
and get myself a mohawk.
That’s how serious
things have become
around here.

19 Comments

  1. Poopy slug enlightenment. You never cease to amaze. No footnote required!

    Funny story. This past summer, my kids rescued a baby bunny fretting away in the front lawn. It was the size of a large mouse, and so cute it was hard to assimilate the fluffy-bunny sensory data it emanated to my brain. We later found its attacked burrow and a dead sibling. Of course, after much debate, a brown shoebox and several phone calls to unconcerned wildlife rehabbers in the area, we decided WE would save our bunny. She was quickly named Dingo, and deemed female by my daughter to solidify the decision. Interestingly enough, rabbits need two major things in order to survive (beyond food and water). They need love, (snuggling, warmth, heartbeat, rhythmic breathing, closeness), and they need, here’s the kicker, to eat their mother’s feces. The mother’s poo has bacteria and enzymes of some sort within it that the babies’ bellies need, else they will die. We did our best; carried the bunny in our shirts for heartbeat and breathing feelings, fed her egg yolk mixed with goat’s milk and a high quality probiotic and crossed our fingers. Luckily, she had spent enough time with her mother before the attack, and she was a tough little thing, and she survived!

    What I found most interesting about the whole affair was that, in order to survive, she needed love, and shit. Literally. And perhaps, so do we. Perhaps we need the poo on our shoes, and to allow it to be there, to see its value, in order to have our hearts, and preserve them, and see their value. We really don’t get to be selective on this planet all the time. Sometimes love is love. And perhaps Jesus has a mohawk and poo on his shoe as well. Just to show how beautifully it can be done.

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    • Thank you, Andrea, for reading and offering so much in reply. You’re right: we really don’t get to be selective all the time. Just now as whatever moon passing through the twilight of my consciousness shifts phase, or is tucked behind some streaming clouds, the sensation arises that these moments of turmoil and angst are precisely what is desired. Not in the sense that they are desired in perpetuity, but perhaps contain the grace of catalysts urging the depth of love within us to make its way fully to the fore.

      I loved the bunny story and chuckled at your recount of the unconcerned wildlife rehabbers in your area. We had a similar experience once. It was almost like, why are you calling us about that? You realize quickly: there’s economies in play all around us. Bald eagles and peregrine falcons get top billing. We have enough rabbits. It’s confronting those strange economies– the algebra of scarcity which you guys so lovingly imploded– that is the trick.

      Following that logic, we are driven to choices. The mohawk and the poo go hand in hand. Reminds me of this scene from American Hustle where Jennifer Lawrence is describing the scent of a certain “topcoat” on her nail polish…

      Michael

      Michael

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  2. Ed Harris played Pollock well. It’s an interesting phenomenon that in deeply concentrated states one can appear to both change form and mind-set. I’ve never done this volitionally, though I have otherwise. What if tonight, in a dream, you played Jesus with a Mohawk? It’s an audience of one, so convince just them and it’s job done.

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    • Hariod! I never saw the Jackson Pollock movie, actually. I confess I’m not entirely clear on what you mean by changing form and mind-set. Would you be willing to elaborate?

      The dream sounds lovely. There is a certain change of inner scenery that is indeed required sometimes. Even recognizing the need, it is almost as if there are addictions to ways of thinking, to the deepest thoughts and beliefs we carry about the nature of things. Sometimes, they lie at the bottom of a clear tank. Other times, there are triggering events that seem to stir them up into difficulty. But how else would we know the mud was still in there? There is a gift in confusion, I think, if we can be patient about things. Never an easy task. Here is another definition of a miracle: turning the stirred up mud into a joyous snow globe…

      I love this poem from Hafiz, transl. by Ladinsky:

      If you have not
      Been taking your medicine lately
      By saying your prayers everyday,
      How can Hafiz seriously listen
      To all your heartaches
      About life
      or
      God?

      Michael

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      • As perhaps you are well aware Michael, in deeply concentrating the mind in silent prayer or contemplation, the mind may gather together a power that remains dormant in daily life. I understand that this is well documented in various occult practices, as well as in other more traditional religious or philosophical doctrines. In orthodox Buddhism for example, some of these powers are outlined in the Pali Canonical text. [See Samadhanga Sutta: The Factors of Concentration] So, for example, as regards the changing of one’s mind-set, that text states this:

        “If he wants, he knows the awareness of other beings, other individuals, having encompassed it with his own awareness. He discerns a mind with passion as a mind with passion, and a mind without passion as a mind without passion. He discerns a mind with aversion as a mind with aversion, and a mind without aversion as a mind without aversion. He discerns a mind with delusion as a mind with delusion, and a mind without delusion as a mind without delusion. He discerns a restricted mind as a restricted mind, and a scattered mind as a scattered mind. He discerns an enlarged mind as an enlarged mind, and an un-enlarged mind as an un-enlarged mind. He discerns an excelled mind as an excelled mind, and an unexcelled mind as an unexcelled mind. He discerns a concentrated mind as a concentrated mind, and an un-concentrated mind as an un-concentrated mind. He discerns a released mind as a released mind, and an unreleased mind as an unreleased mind. He can witness this for himself whenever there is an opening.”

        Just as these changes in mind-sets are representations occurring within the concentrated mind, so too similar representations may occur in respect to bodily form. Some say these phenomena are ‘something’ other than appearances in one’s mind, whilst others say they are just that. It surely depends on what precisely we mean by ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’. I have known those who believe they can pass through walls for example, taking their passage to be in some fine-material form. On the other hand, one might consider these effects to be extensions of awareness – either a free-ranging, unbounded exploration of that non-local awareness in which *somehow light particles themselves present as awareness, or perhaps they are what one might dismiss as imaginative effects, delusions. One takes one’s pick. For the (apparent) subject though, the effect appears utterly authentic, and some claim to have later verified what has been ‘seen’ in these states upon having returned to an un-concentrated, everyday awareness.

        Hariod.

        * This may not seem quite so wild if it eventually turns out to be the case that consciousness is a fundamental property – some sort of panpsychism or akin to Giulio Tononi’s “Integrated Information Theory”. It may even transpire that light itself, knows of itself, and creates a matrix of that knowing between particles? It appears that the universe is evolving towards becoming self-aware through the connecting of nodes – axons, dendrites, whole minds, on to electronic data flows – and perhaps there are more links that we simply are currently unaware of?

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        • Hi Hariod,

          Thank you for adding to your previous. When I look back at your earlier note, I surmise now that you were referring to the depth to which Ed Harris “became” Pollock in making the movie, though somehow that simple and obvious connection of the dots was lost on me at the time. My step son is a film student, and home for the weekend with his girlfriend, and last night we went to see Nightcrawler with Jake Gyllenhaal. On the way, I much enjoyed his regaling me with anecdotes from the film industry, such as how Daniel Day Lewis once intimidated an actor clear off the set of the movie There Will Be Blood, simply because he stayed wholly in character whenever on the set. One of his colleagues couldn’t bear to take his lunch across the table from a sociopathic robber-baron oil tycoon muttering threats against his life under his breath. So, yes, I agree with the power of consciousness to embody, transform, and become… 🙂

          As is evidenced by the remarkable talent of actors to embody characters of nearly every sort, yet struggle deeply in their own lives with addictions, anger, depression, relationships, and other very ordinary (in the human sense) challenges, there is clearly some deeper switch within us that must be thrown to effect authentic transformation at the deepest level. To pretend to be somebody else, versus cutting the threads that bind us to a limited and ephemeral self we think we are, strike me as two different types of movements somehow. The latter requires a departure from the known, without looking back. Maybe, on the other hand, giving oneself completely to a role produces the unwanted realization of how fleeting particular aspects of self can be, and a veritable Pandora’s Box is opened. I cannot say. To discover unexpectedly that a made-up identity is anything but permanent, and that one’s egoic identity is in fact made-up, would put a bit of strain on anyone. Where is the terra firma?

          I think there is definitely something to the notion that the full spectrum of capabilities of consciousness are somewhat more advanced and far-reaching than the everyday variety. Too much has been witnessed by too many to deny this sort of statement. What the precise mechanisms are… who can say? That which requires no mechanism has given rise to an infinite variety of them, but the foundation remains hidden from view. I often find discussion of the mechanisms exciting, and enjoyable and even helpful at times, but find myself at the end of the day perplexed and returning to the simple– to the cultivation of the one super power of consciousness from which all others spring… the willingness to see through falsehood and illusion, to cultivate a heart and mind unfettered.

          Walking through walls wouldn’t help me right now. Everything hinges upon striking a match in the darkness.

          Much Love
          Michael

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      • Thank you for your response Michael; and yes, I was originally referencing how Ed Harris, in a sense, ‘became’ Pollock in the same way that you describe Daniel Day-Lewis doing so. This, as you say, is all conscious pretence though, play-acting by means of trained or innate skills; it is a different category though – I think – to the same happening without volitional intent (my original point). How does an untrained one, in a finger snap, appear somehow to totally inhabit another being? [Rhetorical question]

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  3. Jesus with a Mohawk – yes!
    I have a barrage of questions for you Michael –
    Do you find that you write all your poems sitting in the same place?
    Do you find this place takes on a sacred space?
    Do you find you again and again return to the same state of mind when you sit down to write or even before?
    Your poems always read like such a devotional practice to me and I suppose I just want a little bit more of a peek into the Mad Mystical Mind!
    Hugs,
    Amanda

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    • Hi Amanda!

      Your questions are great. I don’t actually write my poems in the same place. Sometimes it’s the kitchen table. Sometimes outside in a patio chair. Sometimes into a voice recorder on the ride to work. Sometimes in bed. Sometimes the chair in the den. But the inner place I would say, is the same, if that makes any sense.

      Writing for me is a form of access, a practice for tapping into something. Often I sit down to write out of a desire to touch a deeper place, so in that sense it is always devotional. And if I’m having a difficult time with something, it is absolutely a form of prayer– a way of touching the difficulty more deeply, seeing through it, even if just for a moment. A way of responding and healing. I began this poem here in the feeling of being tugged in twenty directions at once, of being utterly confused, of feeling as though I was facing a heavy decision. There was not a lick of laughter near the fore when I sat down. Then I ended on mohawks. A meditation can do the same thing, navigate from the surface mind into a broader or deeper reservoir of being. Dissolve the weightiness we assign to things.

      Space is sacred when we take up residence there, at least that is my feeling these days. We are sacred. The world strikes me as a swiftly flowing river, a bit heedless of these realities. We take a step outside our door, and it whisks us off our feet and we’re twirling through the rapids, caught in webs and whorls of rules that don’t seemingly apply to the sacred. It certainly helps to have sacred space to step into when we need to take a breath, when we need refuge. I think ultimately we discover we were only changing our minds about something when we stepped out from the current and into the quiet pool. And we realize we can make that shift regardless of where we are. It takes me a few weeks to make it sometimes, but it is always possible in the end it seems… 🙂

      Michael

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      • Thank you so much for taking time to give such thoughtful responses. I am leaving here with the idea that sacred space exists within, but for an Empath with a mediumistic sense of surrounding energies, this is way easier said than done. Either way, I am grateful for the reminder.

        SO thankful we all get to receive gifts from your beautiful devotional practice, in the car, den, bed, and any where else the Love manifests.

        Much Love,
        Amanda

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        • Hi Amanda,

          I understand what you mean, I think, regarding the empathic sensitivity to one’s surroundings. I am not trying to discount that type of awareness at all, Amanda. I would much rather write poetry by the sea than on a bench next to a jack-hammer crew. It brings up a question that is paramount for me these days, however– a question about the extent to which our interior settings influence the experience, interpretation and meaning we amass from our interactions with what is all around us.

          Do I really observe anything as it is? Or is it in fact quite impossible to see anything other than what we are “tuned” to see? Is the world so spectacularly neutral that it is literally capable of providing evidence for any interpretation or meaning we have endorsed within? And then, thinking about what I think you are saying regarding your empathic sensitivities– which I take to mean an ability to sense what others are feeling, or have felt, or have left as feelings painted upon a space that are still available eons later to be read when a sensitive person passes by– I think it must be the case that our interpretations and feelings ripple back and forth through our shared mind field.

          There is a great deal written in various traditions about seeing one another as we truly are– beyond all the suffering, in the real fullness of being. We can sense another’s views, sense their anger, frustration, depression, joy, and ecstasy, but how much of these are one another’s passing interpretations– changing impressions we each carry and which can be read, but which are all transitory etchings made upon the deeper and unchanging Self we share. The logical outcome of this type of thinking, which will sound trite and cliched, is that once we are relieved of our non-Loving interpretations of what is, Love is all we will see or know. I bring this up only in the sense that it is something with which I am wrestling, as our interpretations provoke reactions– provoke “choice” as a necessity– and if those interpretations have no more reality than we give them, it seems futile to make choices in reaction to what we are experiencing… if that makes any sense. I daresay it probably doesn’t, at least to the part that so desires to choose… 🙂

          Thank you for the writing prompt…

          Much Love Returned,
          Michael

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  4. Where have I been? This was days ago, and here I sit, time warp slipped into the wondrous reporting of Michaelman from days ago now. You have me picturing Thing One and Thing Two who visit when mother is away, and the pink sludge that gets transferred from the cake to the tub to attire – The postmodern (where are we? I’m not sure of the name of this place) Cat in the Hat is sporting a mowkawk – I pray for the full head shave myself, today, for out of the cracked shell, I am seeing the faintest hint of a sprout, accessing the local of the sun. We custom order these things, dial up the 24 hour delivery grocer and he runs right over, “full gunk on shoe treatment, keep the change!” (I trust you Michael to let me know if I’ve let myself fall too far down the rabbit hole. You get me going on some alternative vectors:) Thank you for letting me trip around here!

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    • Marga, I’m not sure there is a too far down the rabbit hole. At the end of the dream it is as you say, a sprout caught in the sun’s local radiance. The rest was cave paintings on the inside of the shell. I am weak in the Cat in the Hat Department, but thinking now… what better way to remedy a passing seriousness than to bone up on such truths?

      Wishing you profound photonic sustenance as you peek through the cracked enamel ashes. The 24 hour delivery grocer will have some polarized glasses for what comes next!

      Michael

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  5. Life is a messy thing. There is no getting around it. One time in my life, I started with what felt like the cleanest of slates, in a physical sense. We sold all of our possessions and moved onto a brand new catamaran sail boat. There was a mixture of gleaming fiberglass and virgin hardwoods – squeaky clean. It wasn’t long before I realized how quickly skin and hair and sea air and possessions started coating everything! This slate was the one eyes can see. The emotional mess of that time could have sunk many ships! Right now I am with you on the unseen floating vessels of life. The flow of this fall for me seemed to be about pulling out the buried stuff in the nooks, unexamined layers of emotion, old thought systems, accumulated projections. I called the grocer to send you some workers in the microbial maids’ agency to help with the tougher jobs for clarity in your world – there are infinite agencies that certainly can help that candle in the dark reach many corners; I paid a little extra for them to ignite the hurricane lamp on their way out. Let me know how it goes so I can leave a Yelp Review. 🙂 You are loved and held in the seeming messiest of messes!

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    • Thank you very much, Marga. I will certainly keep you posted. Your description of the fall echoes my own experience in many ways. An opening heart can create the space (it would seem) for all those hidden, unresolved conclusions, contingencies, confusions and carriers of pain to step forward. What could be holier than that? Healing seems to require we gather in a room with the shabbiest of past selves, the villains we’ve collected, the submissive selves we’ve trotted out at times, the innocent children we’ve carried along, the thieves with whom we’ve traded souls, the pains that have debilitated us, the righteous pontificates, and let them all process through the gates at the heart of our being. At times it seems to take every last ounce of resolve to sit quietly and watch, to not tumble back into character…

      Thank you for the reminder and the call to the grocer.

      Much Love
      Michael

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      • PS – What could be more archetypal than the sold possessions and the squeaky clean boat? It kind of goes to show: it is not the circumstances that must be changed per se, at least not alone, but the inner realities that must be given room to float to the top and be blessed.

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    • Yes, well– ahem… it may be a virtual mohawk… A mohawk approach to being… You will see it coming from a distance, for you will find something familiar in the propensity for loving displays of subversion as well…

      Michael

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