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.
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