The dark half of the year begins.
Demeter is most distracted. Persephone must be found by us, lest our cycle halt, so we hold out payment to her spirit-children. Here is my sweet fruit, take and eat.
In spring, Time, per Sacred Law, you may have my body along with the corn king’s and spring queen’s. Tonight, it is merely a carnival of the cycle of life and death, the skull is a lit lamp, and we open the thin shade of our skin over this burning life.
The world turns its other face and its legion merry host don new garb to show they are someone else, somewhere else, for this vigil night. They would have been anyone else and nothing else, and for one tentative evening they show it, panting.
All is changed, changed utterly, and yet there is the mango tree laden with fruit and birds, there the gulmohor tree wrapt in fire and furry squirrel, here and there the markers of my childhood and youth, and just here the pillars of my mother’s world (shongshaar). I am here in Calcutta to usher you into the realm of the gods, father, so they say, for you have spent a year beyond us already, but you seem to have left these messages behind. And all day, all day, the trills and tunes of the hidden koel bring back my childhood before it is chased out of the mango tree by the crows.
She died. I hung her up like a second skin on the peg by the door. In the half-light she looked like an old bag or an empty poncho. My pallet was on the other side of the room. I didn’t need her every day. I had others who said they cried out my name. When I went out I wore her memory like a fragrant face. But perhaps it was she who walked and I stayed, flayed and looking sideways at the twin echoes of my groans. I disappeared when she/I went into the light and the shepherd died. We are body companions now, naked without each other.
You, Man, go on, tear up the script. I want to see the edges of that paper tear the light when you do it. Sharp edges. Make splinters when you scour wood. And raw, inflamed, cold skin. Scrape it out.
And you, Woman, cold as fury, you shall be ice shards in the wood fence. The bits that will pierce him when he reaches for the gate. Unable to burn, you will disappear and leave naught but the thought that if this is winter there must have been another season, too.
‘Tis a terrible thing, isn’t it, to know that one is utterly responsible for every act, every instant, of this long and strange life…
How does one map the golden dust between the weight of this cross on one’s shoulders and the serenity of freedom? The smiles on all those sculptures say that freedom confers serenity. Others say justice is serene, or should be, and take solace in human formulations of transcendent law.
Crouching at the foot of all things tall–altars, crosses, saints, gods, statues– where do I put aside this bundle of grief? It seems out of place in thy philosophy. I cannot enter, my liege.
The poet, a man, had stacked body, heart, mind and god against himself.
I, being what I am, stack body against heart. There! The kindling is laid, and the cross.
C. PILLAR and TREE
Tell me how to stand without wish, without desire. Even Kalpataru rears arrested by longings.
Tell me, how to prune to singular aim this multitudinous life, that in pursuit of one invisible longing one may find the flowering and the fruition of all the long years.
Tell me. Is it true?
Nearly a decade ago it had risen in my imagination, speaking of the future and the absolution of the past. Then, the flood of years had taken the silt with the sand, mist had taken madness, and its voice and face had become hasty levees. Today of all ordinary days it came back to me, almost a beloved before all was lost. The cycle turns in untrammeled ferocity.
There is little justice in such randomness that sutures self and self in neat periodicity.
After the elation at time and death, there is great desire just to lay down these arms and let life slip by again, to ease past the forked roads, to succumb to a serendipitous alchemy of rightness. To inhabit a young idealistic voice that believes in the symmetry of sequences and ratios, that sees their beauty and argues that if we could unlock their meaning we would know the underlying meaning of reality.
We name beauty, such symmetry, according to the functions it appears alongside. That is, such beauty must contain a meaning beyond itself. In its ability to mesmerize the viewer with its own absolute perfection it must have the ability to indicate a principle or truth (a bit) larger than its own existence. The old alchemist’s temptation.
Wherein I see in that bit of deviation a life-force distinct and fulsome as an example of something far beyond its limits–a principle. Wherein I envision a ‘rightness,’ a justness and perfection in the moment and sufficiency in its future dimension. But there it stops, for the hope is always retrospective.
I shall not lose this song again, and yet the wheel will turn. Along its vast rim I cannot see a road.
In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne and Lemosyne, remembering and forgetting, are equals requiring each other (Edward Casey 1987; in _Memory_ by Anne Whitehead).
A bedraggled sparrow sits under the melting snow of my banister and cocks its head at the sun. Its food on the balcony is freezing this noon, and in the new sun the blowing snow sparkles like mica. As it hops up the roof tiles just across I remember another time, and a brief stretch of mica-laden mountainside high in Bhutan. Then, as a young woman I had recalled the starry story of ‘Lu-hit,’ ‘taaron ki raajkanya,’ the sinuous river that enters India as Brahmaputra, shedding body and identity and virtue as only water and legend can.
Because these connections are all there can be, because there is no other certainty, I can take these signs for wonders, scrying in gusts and whirls edge-caught in bricks and branches and hoods rising up from the roof-ridges till all things smoke in sunlight some ordinary miracles. ‘Tis grace , isn’t it.