Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Paying The Price

                       YET AGAIN

tears water them   even better blood    look
they're growing back
                          green leaves
                                        yellow blossoms

do we deep down know this         but forget
how costly       those first tips of the crocus! 
something    somewhere    always sacrificed

sometimes it's our own heart
    or a fragment of living yet more precious

a face we loved    gone now under the grass
      what was once seemingly real
                                       lost        no trace

quick a life long the death strange our being
         each moment
                        both petal
                                   and thorn
                                              of the rose...


Only to the extent that we
expose ourself over and over again
to annihilation
can that which is indestructible
arise within us.

-- Karlfried Graf Von Durkheim --


     What is it through which those first tips of the crocus thrust themselves each spring? Rich, fertile layerings of death. Not just that new life defines itself as "I am not that!" Life's engendered by death, dependent on death, inseparable from death. Death's the ransom paid for birth. And sometimes the cost comes very high.

     When I was nine years old, my five-year-old sister died from liver cancer--after months and months of worsening agony, during which she wasted away to a barely breathing skeleton who could not even be shifted in bed without crying out in pain.

     That horror--immolation really--shattered the soul of our family. My parents retreated into their private, isolated cells of fear, grief, rage and despair, and I radically withdrew into mine. Not only did I lose my sister and dearest friend. In the deepest sense, I lost my parents too. I became an orphan in this world.

     All the years since, I've carried her death around inside me--regardless of intensive therapy, committed self-improvement, absorbing creative work, and every other effort at purging exorcism. It's haunted my spirit, distorted my actions, infiltrated my most intimate relationships. That trauma damaged and crippled me in ways I'm learning to face and overcome. But I can never go back and undo them.

     Every significant, hard-won step I've ever taken toward a greater, deeper, freer life, I've taken both in spite of, and because of, the terrible ordeal one little girl endured so many years ago.

     Her death was the engulfing abyss against which I shouted my incandescent "I am not that!" It was the terror stalking my bleakest nights, the wound threatening to swallow my bravest facade. And, yes, her death was the blood-dark, suffering-rich, sacrifically fertile soil that imprisoned but also nourished my bruised, groping roots. It became an elemental part of all I am.

     Each spring then, when I eagerly look for those earliest tips of the crocus, or hungrily listen for that first, tentative, mourning dove's cry, I have no illusions about how costly they are.

     What immense, incalculable dyings needed to take place so these frail yet indomitable flickers of renewing life could finally break forth! I know, down to my barest bone ends, the harsh price paid for them--and they're all the more precious to me for that.


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