Burn it all down

 

An old woman built a refuge for herself to practice poetry. She had food, clothing and a husband. She practiced for seven years but sent no news to her relatives. The relatives sent their youngest son with special instructions. When the son arrived, the old woman opened the elaborate gates. He gave her new clothing and ancestral grains from the relatives to renew her energy. “Thank you very much,” the old woman said, “the relatives are very thoughtful.” Just then the son said, “How does this make you feel?” She replied, “The wind is moving, the mind is moving in mud, it’s a proverbial chaotic concert. My time is filled with tedium.” The son returned to the relatives and relayed her words. They were furious because the old woman had not bowed and displayed her wisdom. She must be a demon, better go back and retrieve the clothes and food. But when he returned to the refuge, the old woman had burnt it all down.

(Inspired by a koan from “Seonmun Yeomsong Seolhwa, dated from the 13th century)

Eulogy to Efrain Jara Idrovo (1926-2018) Ecuador’s Poet Laureate #24

 

Feet shuffling, shrunken spine

he greeted me with outstretched arms,

Efrain Jara Idrovo, beloved poet of Ecuador.

His eyes reflected an ocean of love

beauty and sadness weaving

over and under unexpected illusions.

 

He asked me to read his poem

“Sollozo por pedro jara”

~ weeping for his son Pedro Jara ~

“Pedroagelessrock made to endure

Pedrolaughterofrock

Pedro made of basalt”

But the stone cracked

Pedro hung himself in the bathroom.

 

After the suicide Efrain leaned forward

a lone horseman over a bare horse

his itchy wool blanket unraveled

the roads Pedro had traveled

Gently probing, words crying

he searched Pedro’s bones of rock

translucent, porcelain, his polished son.

 

He cut across a bridge of crystal

through precipices looking for stars

with veins that hurt from too much effort

Like a leaf cutter ant, Atta cephalotes,

he slowly carried each piece of Pedro

back to his soul and chewed it

delicately into his fragile heart.

 

He dug into yawning clefts

where half-baked clay caked

and could not be washed away.

Efrain’s words, full of tears

streamed down my face, full of love

streamed into my heart

burned flowers on my breath

in one deafening blow.

How will I survive this old man’s smile?

Undone by Grace (#23 NapoWriMo)

You said you are this close. How close the guru asked. Very close. How unfair of the mind, he said, to let you so very close, not far enough but a pinch close and it will not let you in. You are in a state. An imagined self, this other self, this other important self. Yeah, but the Great Self is not as tangible as I am, you say. I am so near, but I am not there. But, he says, you cannot rub the Great Self out, by saying I can do this or do that. The one who is trying to do is quietly being undone by Grace. And the one who begins asking questions will not finish but will be finished by it.

Know this #22

You would like to know this
the trees, the grass, the insects, the soil
the night very still before
the wild-pink pig screams, before
it gets killed, before loneliness
is ingrained on a white sheet of paper
crossed out too many times

Narcissus #21

You tried to feed him, carefully prepared bites of sweets. His smart phone took pictures, of nothing. You used his fancy umbrella to pick up the food mess he had spilled. The worst thing he said was “uncertainty”. “The word flows fast, you do not know what will come next, a small judgment, a reflection, fear in your eyes. Snap, click, click. You used your mouth as a diary and whispered, the world is watching you, you may need to defend your obsessions.

Texas border patrol

You read in the New York Times about a semi-trailer rig carrying as many as 76 illegal Central American immigrants, including 13 children. The trailer truck driver was stopped at a Texas border patrol checkpoint, 35 miles north of Laredo. Men and children were lying down intertwined or crouched against the wall of the rig. They unwound legs, protected heads with arms, squinted sharply and were herded off to detention centers.

The next day, your Ecuadorian housekeeper arrives at your house with swollen cheeks. She tells you her 24-year old son is in jail in Dixon, Texas. Without telling her, he had married his sweetheart the day before he left his modest house from your village in the Andes, wearing new shoes, shirt and pants. He had paid a coyote $15,000 to get through Mexico, through Texas and on to New Jersey. You showed her the New York Times picture of the men lying in the trailer. For the longest time she stood in your kitchen, scanning, enlarging the photograph with her fingers, looking for her son Carlos.

Zhumir eyes #19

A maestro in crisp melon shirt and black pants
his young daughter and three older women are felling four trees
a cedar, a eucalyptus, and two Norfolk pines.
He glares towards the sky. His Zhumir eyes shift and cut tree branches.
Zhumir (the local liquor) can make your eyes twist.

With a makeshift sling, a dark purple sash tight around his waist
he shimmies up the last tree, a Norfolk pine.
Ropes, one to hold him
another to catch the branch,
lift him closer and closer to the sky.

The young daughter’s neck in a constant curve
flawlessly connects with his movements
in the top of the trees
as he reassembles his black leather belt
innards and nerves.

When a large branch comes down, the girl is lifted six feet
off the ground hanging on the rope like a tucked-in moth.
She loves being tall for one moment.
But when lifted twelve feet high she screams as if cut inside and out.
She drops into a heap. Odd gurgling sounds bellow out of her mouth.

Your saliva turns sour.  You offer aqua, no jugo. She reaches dead
quiet through the hole of the cyclone fence.  She inhales
the aqua everyone holding their breath. Until she giggles.
All three women break into bursts of laughter
lasting for a half hour. Arms repeat lifting her over and over.

Far above in the Norfolk pine, the maestro Cheshire Cat’s smile pierces.
Slowly he climbs down the tree, to collect his cup of aqua
crusty nails bleeding. You shake hands, his eyes fully askew
from shifting towards the endless blue sky. He is trembling.
You may have been mistaken about those Zhumir eyes.