For Rini, as always,
Chris and Deanna,
Jody, Amy, Keir, Helena,
Teresa, and Ruth,
and for all of us
who are enduring more
than we ever thought
Map Number One
KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW
That’s the vine tossed to you in the quicksand of self-pity
as you tread suction in a morass of laughs.
That kind of knowledge comes from having a feel
for the invisible. The palm sized crystal globe
shows more than a circle. It lets you know,
with your own eyes, the inside is real
even if you can’t see all of it. So what do you trust?
You are certain you exist, even if you must
doubt your certainty. You know for sure
you don’t know enough. You know the cosmos
cannot be some sick joke played on the sentient
by a ludicrous devil god anymore than it can be
a passing thought in the Mind of the Divine. Or can it?
You know that love is the only thing that bears
no possibility of guilt, in itself. You know when you are lost.
You know the invisible is the way the mystery appears,
as when a living thing dies, it’s merely a pile of parts
no science can revive. You know that kindness is right
and cruelty is wrong, that love is the truth.
You know, it turns out, quite a lot.
But can you find your way out?
Map Number Two
DOUBT AS EVIDENCE
Doubt is the flying trapeze between
what you think you know and what actually is.
It’s the best way across and it’s always without a net.
Losing your way is not a tragic circus act, if you make the catch.
It leads to getting found, to finding out
for yourself how to fly, free of delusions of grace. Even if
the scalpel of doubt is sharpened
only to butter knife standards, it can still slice
through the stink of hate. When something
doesn’t add up, like saying a puma’s skull is where
all its catness lay, as if a cat’s invulnerable to its prey,
or when a specialist generalizes absolute truth,
we take that as a ludicrous self-deception,
malign balderdash. We leave the room
when a poppycock general, protesting goodness too much,
tries to make us doubt what doubt has taught us.
Doubt too much, not too little. But never doubt
the paradoxes that do you in. Doubt doubts itself.
You can trust it, until it becomes your standard response.
Then unlock the cage, and let it flap and growl its way
over the labyrinth and escape all the rules.
Map Number Three
REVULSION AND ATTRACTION
It’s not up to us, our gag reflex can’t be denied.
We can’t swallow political maggots
or swindling rats in our food. We can’t stomach sadism,
hate rancid propaganda. Revulsion is a faultless map.
Attraction starts the same, it’s just easier to lose your way
than it is to be found. That dinosaur turd of your dad’s,
it looks like it’s wet and stinks, but when you touch it
it’s a stone, a coprolite, an object of abject fascination
to a child, shit keeping its form for millions of years.
When repulsed you flee. The doctor who labels you at a glance
and treats you like a quick description,
shun him like you would a dinosaur shitting.
With attraction, if you trust the gravity of it, the helplessness
of its powers, being pulled inexorably,
then attraction is as grave as falling. It goads possession,
the old slapstick of confusing having with being.
You must see if who you are attracted to is attracted to you,
what kind of closeness is compelled.
You trust it, how could you not? It is gravity after all.
But to be safe you must wait in the maze to see how fast
empathy finds the pathway too, and if it’s looking for you.
Map Number Four
INTUITING UP AND DOWN
High wire dancing, the inner gyroscope cuts you no slack,
reveals time’s razor line getting lost in plain sight.
You can feel life and death with the soles of your feet.
But vertigo sets in. Something’s taking you under,
a riptide of more than depression — and it comes to you
that this down is dangerous and that the bottom
is too far down. You must stop minding. It’s not unlike
trusting your fathomless sadness sinks with perpetual fear
coming true in the end, fear the clairvoyant, like a shark
as a chaperone, trashing at the bottom, not knowing
up from down. When it comes to survival,
you don’t need hard evidence. Like when you’re told
thought is a sparkling secretion and love a tango of molecules,
not metaphorically, but neurologically for real,
you sense the powerful have purged doubt from themselves.
You are your own seeing-eye dog,
your own advance scout. You know that intuition is
catching the right scent among millions
of stray aromas — hey, there’s a bear right around the corner,
over there an angel is just about to tell you sweetly what not to do.
That you can take into battle,
Map Number Five
LOVE AS GRAVITY
Love is unquestioned, undoubted, irrefutable,
It is losing the way to being lost. It has no opposite.
It trusts you to be who you are. Hate is not on its spectrum.
Standing on the rim of the Milky Way, or the precipice
before the fossil sea bed of canyons and spires,
seeing your grandchildren smile, the warm eyes
of your lover, she whose love was the equal sign
that joined the best of you to the rest of everything —
those are maps that are the territory just as being
bowled over by Bach in the garden is, or holding the stone
with stratigraphy of eons in the palm of your hand,
as is your admiration of time and what it makes —
the 300 million year old sea shell replaced
with fool’s gold so precise and perfect without intent,
it makes you laugh with longing. So many
treasure maps to the sublime. The labyrinth of trust
ends and begins by looking yourself straight in the eye.
Like finally being allowed to speak her native tongue,
the connoisseur of clouds cannot help but find herself
in love with the goodness that made her know
that any love is good.
Fountain Grass and Bamboo Summer
Sans Henry, Sans Mr. Face
Nonetheless North Valley
All and Nothing,
Trump Free, U.S. A.
(Image by Deven Rue)