Valentine’s Shirt in Heaven

Zazen last night at Red Cedar for the first time in some weeks. My mind was a drifty sleepy jello, nothing new there. I moved from following my breath to following sounds. No alertness for me there so I switched to taking refuge

I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha

one on each exhalation. Just the utterance for itself, not trying to connect with what it means, I don’t know what they mean, honestly I don’t. I mean, I could try to explicate it, but phhhht. Nothing special happened and I left before service, tired after a long day and under the weather.

What we want’s so simple. To be loved. It’s so little and so much.

This morning, two poems by Jean Valentine, facing pages, saw me face to face.

OPEN

I lay down under language
it left me and I slept

—You, the Comforter, came into the room
I moved my head—

my blood, my mouth
all buttoned away—

Makers of houses, books, clothes-
makers, goodbye—

and

A LEAF, A SHADOW-HAND

A leaf, a shadow-hand
blows over my head
from outside time
now & then
this time of year, September

—this happens—
—it’s well known—
a soul locked away inside
not knowing anyone,
walking around, but inside;

I was like this once,
and you, whose shadow-hand
(kindness) just now blew over my head, again,
you said, “Don’t ever think you’re a monster.”

That Comforter, that kindness, I know them, & not just in memory.

& not only, please let it be, their recipient.


Image above, from a work still incipient, Dura Mater. Click to go bigly:

Image 1 col

Sumas Mountain ochre, olive oil, egg yolk, water on paper.

More with Elise

Stunned by how hard this is. Made it through a day of teaching and mostly held my shit together — even managed to tell the nice coffee lady why I was sad without breaking even one tear — but I’m stunned by how much this hurts. Have I hurt this much before in my adult life when no rejection, zero, was involved?

On some level I’m just baffled. Elise was here, now she’s gone — wha? I was JUST talking to her. I mean, it’s the art of fucking compost, people, you’d think he’d get it, decay, metamorphosis? Heraclitus, hello?

Thought I had in a calmer moment. Part of growing into mind is what they call object constancy. Mommy went out of the room but she still is. Toy rolled under the couch but it still is. Epistemology of peekaboo. Death points in the other direction. Is that part of the hard of it, that it cuts against the grain of the growth of thought, how our thought grows up?

Also feeling, I’ll share with you, intensely mixed feelings about blogging this. Elise is becoming a public commodity — becoming, as I think it was Auden said of Yeats, her admirers — and I resist it, she had a texture, a grain, a personhood inimitably her own, and I hate seeing it already being made something consumable.

The thought that I might contribute to that galls me. So does the thought that I might be pimping private feelings at a public wall. And yet. Even with all that I feel moved to say what she meant and means to me. Even if most of what I’m saying is mostly inchoate.

I’m growing a poem in some glass drops I’ll post when it’s ready. In the meantime this by Jean Valentine I wanted to read her when I saw her last. We didn’t get to it — we read a few poems by Bishop instead and it was lovely to me to live with her a spell in the touch of the light sharp seeing they shared — so here it is.

DOOR IN THE MOUNTAIN

Never ran this hard through the valley
never ate so many stars

I was carrying a dead deer
tied on to my neck and shoulders

deer legs hanging in front of me
heavy on my chest

People are not wanting
to let me in

Door in the mountain
let me in