Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Naked In The Blast

                         CRACKED OPEN

this poem isn't about the looming extinction
of African elephants     now being slaughtered
at an even faster rate than they can reproduce
what can I do?    I've never set a foot in Africa

my cringing brain just won't stretch around it
anymore than I can save that newborn baby
thrown away in the dumpster    or get there
before the suicide slices deeper into her vein

yet ever since my heart cracked open I can't
not hear    not see    not know the enormity
of suffering in the world    I can't block it out
stop it    or twitch my horrified self to stone

I try "Be Here Now" and "Follow Your Bliss"
but here and now is each instant everywhere
my soul's bound together with all that's alive
I'm the elephant I kill    I'm this grieving man


      Keat's wrote of the poet's "negative capability", by which he meant a kind of creative empathy that can identify with, even imaginatively become, everyone and everything the poet encounters. This is a blessing, and a curse. As the last line of "Cracked Open" shows, it means I can identify both with the slaughtered elephant, and with the poacher who kills it. Once our heart is cracked open, the whole world pours through.

                     ALMOST NOTHING

no matter how I slice it    I don't want to die
what comes after    if anything    I don't know
life itself is so wild    funny    horrid    strange
I stare into the mirror    but who stares back?

sometimes I'm exhausted    it hurts to breathe
where's the point in my blabbing on like this?
among infinite multiverses   an almost nothing
sits at a computer   pecks doggedly at the keys

I do what I do because I do it   that's all   "why"
is a lost glove in a blizzard    it can't find home
too many directions won't explain themselves
too many walls won't shatter or sprout wings

once a Light--piercing! unimagined!--capsized
my soul    my inner world shuddered on its axis
I'm still chopping wood    lugging pails of water
but awake now:  awestruck    clueless    blessed


     While at my most hopeful I believe the soul transcends death; that death is a portal into another dimension of consciousness, I'm not always at my most hopeful. At these times, I resonate more with Shakespeare's description of death: "That undiscovered country, from who's bourne no traveler returns..." Yet my soul has also been "capsized" by a piercing, unimaginable mystic Light! So I'm spiritually awake now, which doesn't mean all doubt disappears. Rather, such doubt becomes the crucible for a more stringently tempered belief.