so that you produce the type of knowing
that actually yields light,
does not take practice.
But you do need to clear a space.
Give it time, and allow it to happen.
I left home once, you see—
pulled the door softly-to behind me
so the others wouldn’t be woken.
Clapped my hands in the cold
and breathed into their midst.
The night was so thick
you could smell the absence of light.
Soon I was lost.
Solitude ramified from an interesting idea—
the thought of an innocent adventure,
the word swashbuckling comes to mind—
into a hoary, compounding decrepitude.
You’d think a reversal
would return you to the beginning,
a careful retracing of footfalls.
Just rewind the film.
But it doesn’t work like that.
There’s a step in there you don’t
even realize when it happens
and that’s because it’s a portal.
It must be.
The channel on some universal television gets changed.
A snoozing god rolled over onto the remote control
and hit the wrong button and you were in there
when it happened.
Now you don’t want to panic,
but these things do happen.
The obvious answer is to gather facts.
Construct a system of knowledge generation.
Identify that button.
A mysterious force was holding me to the land,
which I found was emitting fibers.
By plucking fistfuls of the grass
and shoving them in my pockets,
I hoped later to produce a rope.
My initial attempts were like wads of wet clay.
But I learned.
There was also a wind.
The direction into the wind, I called up.
The other direction down.
I bumped into a woman once
who was standing in a spot she’d chosen
for reasons that of course do not exist
and she was readying herself to sing—
what is singing?—
and we were both surprised by one another,
and famished for a feeling we’d forgotten,
and we touched each other’s faces
in the darkness that held no light,
and like two pieces of flint we rubbed together
and produced a spark—
at least in our minds.
We thought we remembered something
and our tears were quite gladdening.
But it happened really fast.
And then it was gone.
And then she sang.
Afterwards I showed her I was trying to make rope
and she showed me a sail she’d made
from leaves—what are leaves!?—
so we’d always know the direction
of the wind and we could navigate
and eventually we found others
who were digging ditches because
ditches don’t fill in for some reason
in this place
and with rope and ditches you could
expand from a common center and find
your way back which is what we all agreed
was what we’d always wanted
and like a society of civilized folk
we shared our measurements
and plied them together into a network
and like pieces of flint we rubbed together
sometimes in different ways, what with our talking and touching
and occasionally sparking ideas,
and once in a while blazed with rememories.
Once I was out way at the end of a ditch
and my heart shuddered with feeling
and the smell went away— which, as you know,
smells always go away, especially if they’re prevalent,
like the manure of animals,
or the off-gassing of wood and paint and carpet,
or the absence of light itself,
so it was hard to explain what I meant
by “the smell went away”—
but the absence of that smell
nearly wilted me, and my heart shuddered,
and pure knowing carved out a space in this land
in which the face of Hafiz appeared,
smiling of course, with flash cards.
The first one was a house. It looked very familiar.
I began to weep of course,
for reasons that simply don’t exist.
While afterward I shook like a fire hose
pressed suddenly into service,
in that moment I was a little awestruck by the light
of his twinkling eyes
and so I whispered to Hafiz, where is that house?—
which Mitch, who was working beside me,
swears to this day was said to the darkness and nothing else,
which happens sometimes because as you can imagine
going so long in the smell of light’s absence
can cause your mind to improperly signify
to which Hafiz replied, “You’ve never left.”
And I felt an electric jab in my cortex
and up and down my spine and I tried—
Oh, believe me, I tried—
to remember which door I’d shut
when I went out for my little adventure,
because maybe it was an inside door
and not an outside door,
but I couldn’t remember.
I just, I just…
I can only remember that click.
The smell of light’s absence.
The pressing of a strange button.
The second flash card read as follows:
“There are no outside doors.”
Then the fire hose thing.
Mitch dragged me back to the clinic.
He was very heroic and he probably
saved my life, since I was thinking—
not really, actually,
I wasn’t thinking anything,
but basically the way the story is told
is that Mitch, by dragging me back to the clinic,
produced a chain of events for which
I should be very grateful.
They’re running lots of tests on me,
and they’re going to help me.
But once in a while, I catch the absence of the scent of the absence of light.
And I wonder, how do you retrace
that step that wasn’t a step?
How do you see through the darkness again,
if it doesn’t really exist? And why am I trying to see
with my nose?