Canyon

I have read the words of others, I have learned.
Whatever I have learned, now I must unlearn.
I will speak with my own words. At last, I must.

My body is a canyon where a secret river runs.
The river is the force of will, of life intention.
I am not the river, I am not the canyon body.

My will is a wind-blown shadow,
my intent is not a thing at all.

I am not the eagle or the crow, not the heron
winging through the canyon, not its shadow
on the river, but I am more their shadow
than the heron, eagle, or the crow.

Here is something I will say:

when the storm goes shouting down the canyon,
I am not the wind, the rain, the thunder, nor am I
the chaos in its wake, although I am more like
chaos than I am the thunder, wind, or rain.

Because one eye holds the daylight, and the other
the night, everything is seen, but nothing is known.

I am looking down the canyon like a mirror,
it is a mirror of emptiness, everything is here —
the river runs through it, the shadows soar
through it, the storm blows through it.

My mouth is open. It is gulping daylight,
swallowing the night, the river of shadows
is where the tongue would be.

No sound is coming out in the form of every sound.
The eagle, crow, the heron all make that sound.
The storm itself is silent, its shout is that same sound
blowing across the canyon mirror, my immense body.

When I hold up my hands, nothing happens.
When I move my feet, the same.

I will do no harm, but I may be dangerous.
Birds get lost in me, storms leave certain shadows.
The shadows stand up and mimic the human lives,
until no one can tell which is the real person.

I am not that one. That one opens an enormous mouth
and everything flies out, making sounds, storms,
making love, making war, making the argument
for fate or free will, making space and time
into one river without beginning or end,
making words to say it.

I have read those words. I have learned.
Whatever I have learned, now I must unlearn.
I will speak myself into silence — now at last, I will.

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What I Like

My Darling, when you ask me what it is I like, I must tell you that I like the horizontal slant of late-day light pouring through the trees like warm and luscious syrup. Within that honey magic there is no blind reliance on the false gods, because everything is spontaneously self-liberating — the ambient coo of the winged tree animals, the delicious caress of a gentle breeze, the way you look into my eyes as if there is no before or after.

Softly, softly I whisper to you that the whole desperate history of distance is presently evaporating. We will watch it grow smaller until it never was or will be. For those who find a certain subtle joy in loneliness, we will tell you that it is possible to exchange that small selfishness for one without any enduring sense of self at all, not even a shimmer, an echo. It is possible to be what we are and always have been – possible to be that fearless.

Then we are unable to say any longer what we know or don’t know, because such conceits require belief in a distance which can no longer exist. It has gone the way of the little lies which children make up when they are trying to explain how they were before being born. Indeed, we seem to be standing here in the late afternoon sun, but we are no longer waiting to be born. That exquisite moment is perfectly timed to our death, but we are whatever persists before and after any event — birth, death, love-making.

This is why the glorious light is falling all around us, yet we are never implicated. We are never moved from this eternal embrace by the time it takes for heaven to pour its sweetness through the forest, across the shining pond, and into the souls of the passionate invisible beings who have arrived here for a just taste of that, a taste of us. That is also why nobody will find us here. They will only see a mirror, a mirror which will simply reflect back to them the unspeakable beauty of their own hearts. Isn’t that enough?

Even though it sometimes seems as if this meager place has only known sadness, within our shared dream we all live in a transparent house high above the winds of the world. We send our light out from there and watch, entranced, as it pours in a horizontal slant through the forest trees like warm and luscious syrup. Whomever it touches will be expanded in a blossoming euphoria until they eventually begin to understand that there is no longer any reason to resist falling fully into it.

A time will come when all reluctance and chronic ambivalence is at last released, all sorrow and inner conflict forgotten, because it has gone the way of the little lies which children make up when they are trying to explain how they were before being born. We will no longer be compelled by our implanted sense of shame to make excuses, because we have recognized our natural magnificence, and how even the most mundane thought can birth fantastic universes beyond the human intellect’s most far-reaching comprehension.

In another part of the dream, we were taught about the great migrations of the air animals, the sea animals, the land animals. It is a wonder how ardently they struggle to return home when moved by their natural instincts. There can be no failure in this, even for those who may seem lost along the way. Likewise, such intense yearning for home may once have deeply motivated us too, before we learned the pure and graceful art of the winged tree creatures — the blissful cooing sound they make in the late-day light. Now there is only pellucidity, and the way we look into each other’s eyes as if there is no before or after. My Darling, when you ask me, this is what I like.

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Origin of the Bible

This is what he knew from the dreaming. From what he remembered, this is what he told: the man and the giant were brothers at first. Who knows how long it was before the giant changed into a bird, and then went out with the man to the great arboreal domains. In the man’s eye there was something like a snake, but maybe it was a coiled rope. It unraveled slowly until it had the bird by its foot. The bird was hovering just above the man, and then carried him like a brother to the silky smooth sky, the rolling river sky of their glorious awaiting adventure.

This part may be true: the man and the bird were bound together by more than any rope, more than even their blood. Whatever happened to the one, the other would instantly know it. For example, if the bird were to see from its sturdy perch in the top of a tree a great cloud approaching, the man at the bottom of the tree, sniffing about for edible tubers, would know it and take cover. Why take cover? Well, one must recall that the great clouds of that time were not like today’s rather bland and impersonal clouds, dependently originating and empty of any inherent selves. Rather, they were often filled with angry fish.

Now, even though this was a time before religions, and people were less mean, judgmental, and warlike, clouds filled with angry fish would still occasionally pass over the lands. When they did, the commotion made by foul-tempered cloud critters caused spontaneous shafts of stinging light to descend swiftly to the ground (along with bunches of fishes). These events altered the landscape in ways both terrible and marvelous. They did so by creating massive shining stones out of innocent ponds and lakes.

After the passing of those furious clouds, men would turn into giants and place some of those massive stones in an upright circle. Whatever was left of the water was stored in the center of the circle, and stocked with fallen fish. These fabulous constructions served as a kind of amusement, and also gave the giant people something to do besides digging for tubers, even though the tubers themselves were admittedly delicious and much praised in song and impromptu poetry.

The fish meanwhile grew large and lazy, and some became the first dinosaurs. They climbed over the walls of the great stone circles and lived very long lives thereafter. Witnessing all of this from his perch in the tree, the giant that turned into a bird and its brother the man below became curious and followed the dinosaurs wherever they roamed. They catalogued their fascinating life and times in many imaginatively tall tales which were later passed down to succeeding generations. When foolish men in the distant future eventually lost their ability to make magic with their own words, they collected the old stories and made a book, called the “Bible”, and confused themselves even more.

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When the Music’s Over

At the first light of day our canary awakens and begins to sing. He has a fine collection of songs, and as he watches the other birds outside his window, he gets inspired and wants to add his sweet voice to the waking life within this enormous aviary.

We also have a fine collection of songs, songs remembered from the younger days, although lately the singers’ voices have one by one gone quiet, and we can no longer ignore the fact that soon they will all be silent. Then there will be a great wave of lovely silent music from an etheric choir poised on the edge of remembrance, until even the memories themselves have faded, and what remains is what has always been — everything just as it is.

I see the young people of today, so hopeful. I hear their music. Dare I tell them that their songs will also fade away? They don’t want to hear that, we certainly didn’t. My parents went out dancing to music bands that no longer exist. My parents no longer exist. Maybe sometimes I will hear a ghostly tune from my parents’ days, and I think of them, dancing in the midst of their life. They didn’t want to hear any talk about impermanence then, few do.

Even as a boy I always knew that this was not going to last — this life, these songs. This recognition inspired me to discover some intrinsic meaning to it all. What I found was that, even though the mind can devise innumerable stories to comfort and confirm itself in the midst of uncertainty, none of them will hold up to the truth as it gradually or all at once reveals itself.

Then the question becomes: what is it to live without meaning, without adding or subtracting, without superimposing or fabricating, but to simply let things unfold as they will? And at last, to even let go of such questions altogether? To dance with the music, to fall in love and give oneself completely to it, to life as it is, and then to fade with the song into silence, without resistance or demand that things be otherwise, and without any certainty to wrap oneself up in as the looming night approaches?

So many songs have served as the soundtrack of my life, most of which have long since been forgotten. Some lyrics here and there flicker in and out on the best of days. However, there was a line I do recall from one of the old tunes that now seems perfectly apropos: “When the music’s over, turn out the lights.” Yes, let others rage if they must against the dying of the light, I will revel in the stillness of that dark and silent night.

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Washing My Wine Glass

I watch water droplets fall through the air
and I am speechless — I couldn’t be a poet,
who could describe such a simple thing as
falling water, water falling through the air,
crystal drops forming into tiny falling things,
wetness that dreams itself into discreet drops,
water sliding down the smooth sides of glasses,
wine glasses washed clean and held upside-down
to drip-dry, retaining the dripping remnants of water
in their glassiness, a clear liquidity which flows down
the arching glassine transparency of its own perfect form,
forming itself into exquisite drops of itself, moving freely
through a miraculous atmosphere of keen molecular airiness
with all of the natural grace of water droplets falling, falling
water slowly dripping itself into the pure open spaciousness
of primordial whateverness with the truly glad graciousness
of just one drop at a time, a relative timelessness embodied
in the simple act of falling through the boundless empty
space between this and that, the destiny of water drops
sliding down the glass and into the waiting sink,
a white welcoming sink, and then, and then?

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In Memoriam (for Mike)

As a brief prelude to its death, his body had entered into a coma. Death would be its reward for having lived. Every body gets its own particular death which is meant solely for it, and no other body. Each body will endure its own intimate struggle, but finally exhale and then begin the return back to its atomic elements.

Whatever inhabited that body — consciousness, life force — all of that invisible energy which saw through the eyes of the body, heard through it ears, tasted the world though the body mouth, all of that will have departed, so at last the body can enjoy its own disintegration. It is a process to be savored, ever so gradually flowing like a deathly river into the elemental dust ocean at last.

Those left behind may wonder where the person has gone. It is natural to be confused. Here was a person, but now there is just a body that is suddenly and over time becoming less recognizable. Was there ever really a person, or just a cohesive bundle of thoughts, memories, perceptions, and physical components which seemed to amount to one?

This is not a question any longer for the one who is hovering over the body. Whatever we may imagine it is, it has dropped off the body like last night’s dream and is now going to awaken into a new dream, a dream that is far more luminous than this dim one which we here take to be life, the world, ourselves.

We are all on the verge of walking through that door, but we still linger here for a while, wondering about death and the hereafter, but mostly occupying ourselves with the various arrangements we must make to navigate the brief interval we call “my life”.

Such arrangements are no longer his concern. He may look back fondly, in a way that we might look back on a scene from our childhood and savor its innocent poignancy, knowing what we know now about the wounds and scars which the body will bear, just to finally arrive at this moment of liberation.

Now he is free of all of that, and it was a virtual adventure after all, like a movie in which he played the central character. While the credits are rolling, he drifts slowly out of the theater and into the light. It is nothing like he might have imagined.

The body knows nothing about any of that. It is engrossed in its own mystery. There is no sense of distance any longer from the earth it once walked upon, the cool green grass, the minute movements of the small dirt creatures who blindly feel their way through the unknown expanse, seeking only the modest nourishment necessary to persist a little longer in the forms they momentarily inhabit. The body has become food. In reality, it has always been food, but now it has become a complete meal, offered to the other parts of itself which constitute the world, life, ourselves.

We cannot account for any of this with our confined human sentiment. It is too awesome, too wild and terrible — that everything revolves beyond conception, beyond our willfulness, beyond our control. That everything turns into something else, and that we break into parts of what we thought we were, and that everything goes its own way. We would like to have an answer, even though we are not quite sure what question to ask. For him, there are no questions. This is the answer.

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Ascension

Based on factors of indeterminate origin
I ascended into a level just beyond this one.

It was not like a dream, but the jury was there,
weighing the evidence, deliberating for days,
weeks, without being able to arrive at a verdict.

Since nothing was certain, everything was possible.
I could get up anytime and walk out of the courtroom.
I could go to the aquarium. Yes, I would go there next.

The rooms were dark, except for the softly lit displays.
Each aquatic scene featured another version of myself,
just swimming around and around, going nowhere.

I was busy at work in each display, but nothing
was really that different when I was done.

Sometime I would peer through the thick glass.
I could almost see myself, but no, it is probably
just a shadowy trick of light — back to work.

Even though a great deal of time seemed to pass,
it was the same time now as when I had entered.
For whatever it was worth, I took note of that.

When I finally left the aquarium, it was as if I had
never been there, never done the work. Strangely,
this was quite liberating. I felt so much lighter,
and without hesitation ascended to the next level.

At this level, there are no levels, no jury, no fish.
Everything is equal. We can’t even imagine that.

Here, things really do appear and disappear simultaneously,
as if every television station is projecting their staggered
programs all at once, yet we understand each message.

That is, we somehow comprehend every subtle nuance
conveyed by the various versions of ourselves, but then
immediately forget all of it, or at least most of it.

If it wasn’t for this ability of ours to understand and forget,
we would likely burst out into fits of tears and laughter,
and nothing special would ever get done or undone.

From there, which is not anything like a place or location,
I stepped right through the door and out into my backyard.

I went over and sat down on the old swing. It was early
summer, just like today, and the temperature is very warm.

Two hummingbirds are busily competing for the nectar
in the feeder. Nothing has changed here either.

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