Call and Response

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Christ / Poetry

This last week an asteroid passed through my solar plexus, and I wobbled a little back and forth like a transplanted tree testing its new roots.  I swallowed the asteroid whole, and mostly because I had a bet with Hafiz, I didn’t spit it out.  I asked him if a star would grow inside of me now and blow me up from the inside out because I swallowed an asteroid through my solar plexus, and he just laughed.  He likes my dubiousness because it never stands up.

One more isn’t gonna’ do anything.

Then he thought about it for a minute and told me they rarely come just one at a time.  Would you like to travel for millions of years through a veil of dust and ash by yourself?  No.

But Hafiz, I said, I thought we were never truly alone?  Hee he he…

He just raised an eyebrow.  Little clue for all of us to share in here together: being smart and using words like clever power-ups typically backfires.

I agreed I wasn’t quite ready for that one.

After I got my poetry book all put together, which began as just a feeling after I had written a few poems and begun to enjoy it, I knew instinctively that if anyone was going to hear about it besides you guys, I would probably have to show up in some way.  I say I knew instinctively, but Hafiz reminds me that I knew in many more obvious ways, too– like the time I found myself wondering about saying words out loud into a microphone and then suddenly I got this feeling like I was standing on the cornice of a tall building that was undergoing seismic-like spasms while I was trying to catch a flirtatious moth between two hands.  Or the time a longtime friend who is very good at seeing what comes next asked me what my plan was for “getting it out there.”  I had to confess I had no idea, but at least I admitted my reaction to the question felt like squaring off with the final level of Wolfenstein at 2 AM, or staring down a dark alley that eats asteroids for breakfast.

Last week I attended my first open mic event and spoke some words aloud, and this week a second, and aside from living to tell about it I think slowly I’ll get my legs underneath me.  I think it will be a process of building up my asteroid-eating muscles one-by-one, but it did feel good to find myself in one of those moments where trepidation has broken loose to crawl all over your skin, and is only marginally eclipsed by your need, and your silent certainty.  I think such potent stalemates are related in some manner to living.  The best part for me was that it all came about simply, as a process of responding to a gentle calling– of exhibiting a willingness to be nudged.  I haven’t any grand designs– I only know this was what “next” felt like.  We’re always standing in square one, looking out at a board without boundaries, are we not?

The result in the intervening week was a flurry of bad, unfinished, ramshackle poems– poems rooted in trying too hard, trying too hard to be stable while passing through an inner renovation, trying too hard to put even a finer point on the tide of mysteries I feel inside of us.  You have probably noticed.  I felt like the warm comments received this past week were due to momentum, and the graciousness friends extend to one another.  (Thank you…)  I think I’ve settled back down, and perhaps now I’m along for the ride again for a little while, able to see the scenery again, able to forget about myself again, able to relax into new orbits…

This is the dance of who we are, in the simplest and clearest of terms.  The calling.  The response.  The tumbling forwards into the unknown…

Here’s a poem about autumn:

The summer’s zenith is breaking up–
the days dropping off
one by one, often three at once,
to wobble through the air
and settle flat upon
the evening’s tender flow,
there to drift downstream,
nudging each other gently
through the turns, spinning,
floating upon a golden light
that meanders along well-worn gradients
to a world beyond the trees,
between the stones
and into the open knapsack
of a gaping solitude.
This is what we’ve worked for,
this passage around the bend
into places that needn’t be understood
whose foyers are the marriage
of light-gathering foliage
and our surrender into one another.
Nearby decorative grasses
reaching over the tops of my shoes
wave in the wind,
hoping to make that journey soon
across the softening horizon,
their tips pregnant with symmetry,
and for a moment
their excitement borrows me:
I have gone to seed.
I am a kernel of hidden futures
preparing to scatter upon the wind,
to snap free of the roots
that once became me,
that poured into my center
for days on end in
a thickening braid of instruction,
sheathed in fragrance, chiral folding,
and ancient purpose.
I loosen,
let go,
and for an instant
I skirt along an orbit blown open
like a bubble,
to land upon the earth,
to feel the moist electric soil beneath me
and the residue of yesterday’s sunlight.

In any moment,
a chickadee may land
to pluck me where I lay,
to carry me into the sky–
or I may be crushed into the batter
by the hoof of some passing kingdom of antlers,
to lay still during winter’s brittle night,
my shell etched by a sheath of crawling ice.

Resting on the shoreline of the sky,
I am unable to discern
a difference between these possibilities.
There is no point in choosing.
We were poured into
so that we could be given away.
Healing is the recovery of this knowledge–
the memory that every outcome is the product of singing.
This is what we’ve worked for,
this tumbling, drifting release
into the teeming whole of things,
into being carried around the bend
and ushered beneath the tree’s protective wings,
to find ourselves again
in the pure fields
of nameless, unceasing
whispers.

50 Comments

    • Thank you, Brad. It sizzled a little on the way down, but it’s all good… 🙂

      I appreciate your support, my friend. It is an interesting process to feel something coming to life inside of you. Interesting isn’t really the right word. It’s kind of the like the rest of yourself would be perfectly happy to ignore that strange family member who just came back from an internship in the Horsehead Nebula. They’d just as soon pretend those experiences don’t apply here… 🙂

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Trying too hard is hard not to do and most often results in trying too hard to not try too hard. It’s a repeating activity of a club with an enormous membership roster. See you at the next meeting. All is well! Your friend, Dennis.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your wisdom is always an anchor, Dennis. Thank you. Reading this I have a memory of a comment where you may have asked me how the book was going, and now I have a sinking feeling I got carried away and didn’t respond… My apologies, but this post is probably the perfect answer… In very obvious ways it’s not about the book at all, but this trail that feels as though it’s appearing in front of me. One step at a time… I feel uncertainty mixing in with a sort of tugging feeling, and am feeling again why surrender is hardly a passive move…

      Peace!
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • The phrase “carried away” is really apt in this context and well worth sitting with for awhile. It’s a speck of light that can shine on that trail. Respect the feelings and what they have to teach. Glad to see you are invested in staying real. ~Dennis

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘We’re always standing in square one, looking out at a board without boundaries…’ This is it, pretty scary when you think about it. Keep on with building up these asteroid-eating muscles and all will be well. Your words are always so generous, thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Tiramit,

      Thank you, my friend! It is pretty scary, particularly when you think about it! Ha!

      All is well. Just sharing here the movements there and back again– always re-discovering square one…

      Thank you for the kind words,
      Michael

      Like

  3. I especially relate to the last bit of your poem. “We were poured into
    so that we could be given away.
    Healing is the recovery of this knowledge–
    the memory that every outcome is the product of singing.
    This is what we’ve worked for,
    this tumbling, drifting release
    into the teeming whole of things,
    into being carried around the bend
    and ushered beneath the tree’s protective wings,
    to find ourselves again”
    This is how life always seems to be, cycles where we move through into being and how we often try to hard and once we relax into being, relinquishing control and letting the dam of tension down we flow, oh how we flow and that is true release.
    Beautiful as always Michael.
    K

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Kim! The flowing part is gorgeous. I keep hearing those rapids up ahead, but it’s becoming a delicious sound… 🙂

      It is all to do with breaking the shackles of convention, and transcending those idea shells that we steadily outgrow. Each time it’s the loss of an old “concept” we’ve carried about things, and hopefully a deeper intimacy with the heart of living… Thanks for being here…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Rapids, fearing it yet the anticipation and then thrill of breaking free to peace….wow…with the joy and wonder we pass along the way….I sat below the full moon last night and warmed myself by a fire, I realized the simple things in life are amazing And to have a basic need of warmth under a cool huge moon that seemed so close, wrapped in the moment I truly felt I had it all. But the beauty came when I truly knew I do. You inspire great thoughts in my mind and I thank you for allowing me to share your journey.
        Peace and blessings,
        Kim

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sounds like a wonderful moment, Kim. I like what you say about the way beauty comes with our knowing. That knowing is its own freedom– maybe the only freedom. It’s the freedom from looking ahead or behind, and realizing that vast field of stars has been saying something gently to us all along… Even when we can’t see them through the sun’s daytime brilliance, they are there, whispering softly… You have it all…

          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

          • How come every time you comment I feel these big bountiful joyful feelings surge through me…you always know just what to say and that my friend is a gift, truly, like the stars above twinkling down…you are one of the brightest, just so you know….peace and blessings,
            Kim⭐️

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations to your book and the public talk. I imagine it must have been scary at first, but you did it. Wonderful!
    I feel that this is a time of stepping out of our comfort zones for many here. It is about walking through the fears ,becoming visible and vulnerable. But only in order to be shown at the end that our invulnerability lies in our openness and defenselessness.
    Peace,
    Karin

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Karin,

      I know what you mean about the way some things seem to be happening in many places at once. I feel that, too. It increasingly reminds me of our connectedness, in a way. And I agree wholeheartedly that the process is about discovering the invulnerability of our openness and defenselessness. Perfectly stated and so true.

      Thank you for the encouragement. It was scary but also easy in the sense that– perhaps like your video– you know it is time and the way is clearly shown. There is some hesitancy, but not enough to change the path you’ve been given…

      Peace to you also!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “feeling like I was standing on the cornice of a tall building that was undergoing seismic-like spasms while I was trying to catch a flirtatious moth between two hands.” – I hear you Michael. And I’m impressed at the public speaking, something sonmi would not do unless hidden by the Cloud methinks. The publicity part is the hardest of all I think. The work is within, it comes naturally, but often the creative of mind are not born salesmen. I ‘m terrible at publicising myself, but ultimately things happen as they happen. I’ll be revered by billions once I’ve been dead for a thousand years – obviously.

    – sonmi enjoying the poem and smiling upon the Cloud

    Liked by 3 people

    • Someone once asked me if I would give a talk about my book in Waterstones, and the very thought of it was little short of horrendous. Oddly enough, I have done a bit of public speaking in the distant past, and I think it was largely an inflated ego that got me through on those occasions. Well, that and a magical ability to make the universe disappear before my very eyes – a capacity I seem to have all but lost.

      In reverence, if ahead of time,

      Hariod.

      Liked by 3 people

      • At least you managed to do some, at some point, and I imagine you were very good at it, for you have quite a ‘presence’ even when virtual, let alone in real life. Well done that Hariod say I.

        The universe shows up all the time, usually without a ticket I find. I’ll have to see if I can stuff it back into a top hat with the bunny. x

        – s.u.t.C

        Liked by 2 people

    • Hello Sonmi,

      Thank you, and yes publicity is definitely not in my wheelhouse. But I think as you and others have said here there’s a way to go about this that’s a natural continuity of expression and doesn’t need to be master-minded or figured out in any way. It’s just a natural progression, a movement from one moment of grace to the next. As you say, things happen as they happen…

      I think you’re revered by billions right now, and all that remains is the process of their realizing what’s staring them in the face, all around them. Go to the [Cloud’s] web-site people!!! Ha! Well, I think you’re brilliant right now.

      Blessings
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh well now, well now. Now then….*blushes*. Thank you Michael. That’s very lovely of you to say. *hugs him*. I’m not sure billions would be keen mind you *laughs*.

        – sonmi sharing the sun with him upon the Cloud

        Liked by 2 people

        • Well, Sonmi, this exchange brings me to an important part of it, which is that while I’ll not profess to understand in any way the subtlety or the inner workings of the process that has brought you and I– out of billions– into contact, I will say I feel that each one of those billions, truly understood, is a worthy study in beauty and mystery. Which is to say that were any of those billions to have their attention directed your way, and so long as that person on the other end is discovered in the midst of some messy, but authentic process of elaborating themselves through works of art or industry or travel-planning or what have you, it would make for an endearing and admirable contemplation. I think what happens after we die is that someone looks back and says, oh! what beauty we have missed! And somehow the beauty we once missed seems to trump the beauty right in front of us, as it reminds us “we are that” and suggests a past from which we’ve emerged, and also it is our nature these past few thousand years to assume that what is “truly brilliant” is something that happened somewhere else… Not, say, by normal people like us who have been reduced to buying eggs in mass-produced, quite colorful packages… 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

          • I’m reminded of Hariod’s fine posts on synecdoche her Michael. It is key to open our eyes as wide as possible and take in the connections, and the joy of them as they bloom, enriching our lives. Little people, so many of us. *smiles*.

            – sonmi upon the bright Cloud

            Liked by 2 people

            • We’re drifting through the same sky, Sonmi. I actually included the word synecdoche in my original reply here, but removed it because I wasn’t sure what I was describing was quite a synecdoche or not. The idea of a hologram, or a fractal… is it the same as synecdoche? I feel they are related but I wasn’t sure… So, I’m glad you brought this to the fore… 🙂

              Michael

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  6. Hi Michael,

    I enjoyed reading of your recent experience in making of yourself a public exhibit – though that is the awkward subjective feeling more than anything – and admire you for standing by your work in such a way (see my comment to Sonmi). I have a little theory that our nervous systems evolved in such a manner as to our being wary of our presenting ourselves centre stage, so to speak. If you think about it, then our species spent tens of thousands of years either hiding from predators, or in hiding from what we ourselves were preying upon. A good deal of our waking day would be attuned to the degree to which we were, or may have been, visible by seen and unseen others. It is possible that this in some way may account for what we call ‘self-consciousness’ – using that term in the sense of our feeling awkward.

    Anyway, pet theories aside, I enjoyed your work today, and the relaxed, winding down, autumnal tone of it. It was interesting to hear you reflect upon the past week’s creative efforts, and doing so with such candour. I think we can forgive you Michael – just about – though not without simultaneously blaming you for setting the standard so incredibly high. On the radio the other day, I was listening to a program about artistic creativity, and a famous artist was attributed as saying that the truly great artist has usually only one unique idea, possibly two, in their entire life, and that the trick was to make the most of it. I was once alone in a room with a famous musician who was doodling away on a piano, and every few bars something came through that was uniquely ‘them’. That was the point at which I understood what true artistic creativity was; it is just in finding a unique ‘voice’, and then ‘speaking’ with that.

    Keep speaking my friend,

    Hariod.

    Liked by 4 people

    • “the truly great artist has usually only one unique idea, possibly two, in their entire life, and that the trick was to make the most of it.” – Ahhh, yes. Yes indeed. And their ‘voice’ is that style, that thumbprint (as I have often described it), created by such ideas. I know some struggle with this, when they have no need to from the audience/reader’s perspective, as they feel they are repetitive and boring – they fear becoming dull, despite being highly popular with the crowds, when they are just as you have described – unique. To stand out from the crowd in this way, can be as frightening as standing upon an actual stage, as mentioned, for you are exposing yourself (so to speak), your essence to all.

      – sonmi.u.t.C

      Liked by 3 people

    • Dear Hariod,

      Though now I’m responding out of sequence, I loved your line “sounding like a load of suitcases being thrown down the stairs…” Genius.

      I like your pet theory quite a lot, and find it not altogether different from the point of view Karin has offered, and to which I would readily subscribe myself– which is that the experience of not being ambushed by prowling tigers helps to retrain us to realize we don’t have a bloody clue what is happening in any given moment. We just have these overblown instincts confounding our better nature at every turn. I wonder what they talked about in those days, before they had this instinct. Probably watched people get dragged off into the bush and bemoaned the instincts once developed munching on grass fronds in the trees of the forest. We’re always a step behind in this world, aren’t we?

      I think there’s something to your point about creativity. When I figure out which idea I was given, I’ll let you know! I haven’t a clue, but I do realize from these one or two encounters with committed poets that each has a tone, a tenor, a voice, a gestalt of emotion and sensibility from which they write and speak. But I also suspect these evolve over the course of a life. The creative needs and themes shift as we do. And yet, what would you call that thread that holds it all together? I haven’t a clue there either, but there’s something enigmatic that seems to be the thread from which all the scenes are hung…

      Thank you for the encouragement, Hariod. Much appreciated!

      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you Michael, though I believe it was myself who inadvertently jumped out of the thread in replying to Sonmi (below) with the Ringo comment.

        “We’re always a step behind in this world, aren’t we?” – Actually yes, in more senses than one. I think one of the major ways came into being with our acquisition of language, some 40,000 years ago. With that came our ability to juggle with concepts, almost, as it were, ‘off-line’, or away from our direct animal awareness which in the process become suspended in temporal flashes. Jung put it nicely in describing how “we slip imperceptibly into a conceptual world”, and this does indeed render us “a step behind” the actuality of our situation. Perhaps the mind (as distinct from the brain) will evolve to become a parallel rather than serial processor and display, but unless and until it does, there will be this very subtle sense of being slightly removed or offset from the immediacy of sensory contacts – the notorious ‘veils of illusion’ that come in our conceptual renderings.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Hello Hariod,

          Your thoughts here remind me of the description of things I posted on your own site a month or so back, about the way an invisible movement leaves this world behind in its wake. It is almost as if this lag-time induced by our serial processing is a synecdoche, or a reflection, of this process I was attempting to describe. I like this notion that our own physically-developed mode of processing is something like a hologram of what’s happening on a deeper level, as if we are a fractal of that deeper ocean, from our heads to our toes, even in the way we manufacture experience…

          But yes, our worlds today are clearly almost entirely conceptual, and it is sad, because we’re fighting and bickering over ideas and in the heat of the moment they obscure what’s truly there…

          Peace
          Michael

          Liked by 3 people

  7. Yes, ‘thumbprint’ is a much better analogy than ‘voice’. Actually, I think that ‘thumbprint’ can even be technically inferior, or even – dare I say it – derivative to some extent. I don’t know if you would agree? If we think of Ringo the drummer, then he really is not much good at anything other than being Ringo’ish on the stool (so to speak), which means sounding like a load of suitcases being thrown down the stairs. And yet that is his genius.

    Some can be creatively gifted with their own character thumbprint, and I would put you in that class. It may sound like a dubious compliment, but certainly is not. I have no facility in that regard myself, and am stuck with whatever is here, and yet if I could create a different character out of myself, I feel sure that I would. It is the means by which we have intercourse with others, and I see no reason why we should not polish it if we can.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Congratulations and kudos to you, Michael! When you start touring, I’ll pack up my friends for a carpool so we can feel the words spilling out in person.

    And my favorite part of this post was that this is what “next” feels like. Oh yeah! I’ve been there a lot!

    Much love on the ride,
    Sarah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha!

      (GULP.)

      Thank you, Sarah! I know you know this feeling well. I will keep you posted… Thank you so much for the encouragement! It means a lot to me.

      Much love to you as well.
      And best wishes on catching hold of that full moon roller coaster coming through town… 🙂
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for such a beautiful reply, David. And I love the image of the line being crossed, with the delicate balance of the equinox…

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

  9. I don’t think I can even begin to explain to you how completely awed I am by your writing. You have an extraordinary gift and I’m glad you’re swallowing asteroids whole and getting it out there. It’s a gift for and from the Universe. Thank you.
    Alison
    PS I didn’t even notice any trying too hard, but I certainly know what that feels like.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Alison,

      This is the graciousness I was describing. We extend it naturally to one another when we recognize in each other an intimacy with the familiar. I’m so grateful we have connected– (Don’s reading this, too, right!?)– and thank you for playing catch with me and these words… 🙂

      Much Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Noelle…

      Mentioning Hafiz always makes me realize life is two things at once: something so sacred I’m infused with silence as deep as the ocean, mixed with something so profanely perfect I’m inclined to write up a contract giving the moon my power of attorney. The result is usually a poem. Ha!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Wonderful. I think there is so much you in this poem from what I can gather, and if I may observe, I think you’ve left room for some asteroids for dessert. Sometimes the best gentle nudges are the ones we give ourselves and then expand a little so that we can graciously sense the gentle nudges of those around us. There’s a lot in this that inspires me and there’s one line in particular that jumped out (in a gentle way of course for me) – “We’re always standing in square one, looking out at a board without boundaries, are we not?”.

    Yes, we are.

    Peace, Harlon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, my friend. I liked your notion that our nudges open us up that little bit more, so we can be that much more aware of the nudges both given by and occurring within those around us. We’re nudging one another to the awareness of completeness. To bountiful expression emerging from the ground we share… Square One… 🙂

      Blessings
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

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