Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Mystic Rose

                 A ROSE

does it matter that I loved a rose
     trying to hold on with words
                  it always dies
what's left                 only ashes

we tell ourselves there's
                  some deathless thing
The Rose       eternal symbol
   fixed forever in the mind's eye

but that's a lie
           paltry consolation at best

all we have finally     this glorious
             heartbreaking instant
a bud  the blossoming  then decay

so don't gabble on about Beauty
splitting hairs over "real" or "ideal"

just thrust into these living hands
rose after rose after rose after rose

even if the thorns make them bleed


In the driest white stretch
of pain's infinite desert
I lost my sanity
and found this rose.



     What business does a writer have anymore, prattling about a rose? If ever a subject was done to death by poets, dreamers, lovers, surely it's this one. And if literary overkill isn't reason enough, the heart-crushing genocides of the 20th century, not to mention those so far in the 21st, spew sufficient horror to obliterate the last tawdry shreds of romantic idealism.

     Try imagining a rose growing inside the gas chambers of Auschwitz, or sprouting from the killing fields of Cambodia, of Darfur. The visions are blasphemous! Nor will some doe-eyed flower child redeem them, playfully sheathing her blossom in the barrel of a terrorist's AK-47. She's that bullet-riddled corpse sprawled on the sidewalk.

     We're forced to admit--our naive illusions have been destroyed forever, and along with them it seems, we've lost the childlike innocence and unquestioning trust essential if we're to be inspired by a rose's almost otherworldly beauty. In fact, the very notion of "beauty" itself has been dumped on the postmodern trash heap, and numberless idols of surpassing ugliness are now paraded in its wake.

     Nietzsche wrote: "If you stare into an abyss long enough, the abyss stares back into you." Anyone who's truly awake today has stared long enough into that abyss. What do we do when the abyss stares back? Everything depends on whether we can achieve the transformed and renewed heart to once more fall in love with a rose.

     How is it possible, despite the holocausts I've learned about; despite those others which have blasted my own soul, I can nevertheless still shed purging tears when I nakedly encounter a rose? It must be because the survived ordeals of those outer and inner devastations are an inextricable part of all that makes up my overwhelmed response. But this response, as a consequence, can no longer be to an ideal of beauty, an image of romance, or even a symbol of heavenly bliss. None of those hollow, worn-out abstractions can stand in the blast--they've all been blown away by a hurricane of violence, hatred and death.

     All that remains, all there really ever was, is this untranslatable encounter; this intimate, never-repeated convergence of two living, breathing, perishing creations; this serene, exquisite communion which now and now and now--only and forever now--liberates my spirit from its blinding trance of separation, awakening me at last to a transcendent Reality. The rose and I are One.


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