(First posted in 2010 on Stephen’s previous website)
One Sunday morning ten minutes before beginning a workshop in Nicosia, Cyprus, I ran out the back of my hotel to fetch a bottle of water. The street was filled with the movement of young women. The poem is what I saw in my five minutes with them.
Maid’s Day Out
Early Sunday morning presences of liberty, attenuating modest joy and delight, inundate this wizened “Old Town” street.
In quiet relief, temporarily free from contractual constraints of domestic servitude, this panoply of petite and ebony haired immigrant Goddesses now exhale: Perhaps their first in a week.
These resplendent beings conveyed in weary young Oriental bodies waft and wend their way into a market’s alley entrance whose front door – chained shut – directs one round the building’s side.
Having taken economic refuge and modest wages, residing now in this precinct of affordable rents, infamous in its crush of nocturnal inebriation, these feminine deities in quiet buoyancy of bearing, find solace gathering sustaining conversation and chaste provisions.
Within this crudely cordoned grocery a vigilant proprietor surveils tall above this throng bringing them to heel. Attitudes of we and they, us and them bespeaking: Outsiders are treated differently.
These young foreigners in exile, too, from their youthful promise. Once cleaved, can it be reclaimed? Here being judged unscrupulous yet the toil and tenderness of these hearts – expressions of Grace – – in care and companionship – minister to this island’s families and elderly.
I am a bit sobered as I look at some of these poems for the purposes of giving the reader context. This poem really reflects my internal dialogue – a mini pep-rally if you will. It’s relevant and at the same time, if you will permit me the expression – bullshit! It arises from my intellect rather than my heart…yet, this has been my path.
Stop All Else
I am. You are Gregory Bateson’s “difference that makes the difference.”
Bow to falsity and its profusion then turn from it.
Pay obeisance to the perversion of your upbringing, education, training and experience and wash it from your body and memory.
Nothing is what it seems. Nothing!
Genuflect to the mother of all fears. Stand on her great strength now morphed and rendered in service to your joy.
Walk into the life of your longing!
Stand now on Apollo’s Central Sun emanating not His light but your own!
I have the good fortune to be learning to fly a single engine airplane. The plane is an 1946 Taylorcraft – a taildragger – named Simply Magic. Flight touches my heart rendering me to tears often. After a flight I wrote this giving it to my flight instructor.
I don’t know whether what I write is poetic. I simply want to write and write poetry. Someday these “cartoon characters” will evolve into something of even greater beauty and relevance. Here, I am talking to myself again.
Unite your heart. Listen as it speaks.
Its true character is inclusivity. Its true nature is joy.
Cultivate its fecund kindness. Its generous plethora awaits.
This poem turned up in the promotional copy I wrote for an evening public talk I gave. The talk did not go particularly well either – yet such is my journey as the one who makes labor of moving into my own life.
Identified your destination? Not the one others want you to take, rather – your own!
And, on whose chart have you planned your course?
Is your center placed properly?
Have your bearings? Your coordinates? Your heading?
How will you find your way? By what and whose markers will you orient?
What is the character, direction and force of the grand winds over the topography of your journey?
What will be your true course?
Can you continue adjusting and maintain attitude?
Make subtle ongoing corrections en route your desired vector?
Come. Join other hearts wild for their own soul’s path.
Orient anew on how best to proceed into your own life.
I love this poem, yet I had no business writing it. You see, I have never lived in a country while it endured a war on its soil. I do not know the affront of being exiled from your ground, home and community. I do not know the terror of loosing family to artillery, small arms and torture – or their disappearance.
I wrote this poem without the right to do so. I wrote it after five years listening to local contemptuous condemnations of those “occupying our homes,” and of the locals’ refusal to cross the now open Green Line. While buying some food in a local market, I overheard a proprietor correct a tourist for referring to those on the other side of the Green Line by their nationality. The proprietor insisted that she identify them as “occupiers.”
The energy accompanying the proprietor’s insistence tipped the scales. This poem came to the fore in only minutes.
The provenance of the Green Line lies south of the Mediterranean a temporary improvisation there in 1948. A political suture on lacerations rendered in hastening desperation.
You believe the Green Line exists on your maps and the geography of your nation.
This is but sleight of political hand. Emotional chicanery. Falsity. An echo of individual and collective grief. An attempted remedy to incursions into the human soul.
This Green Line lies, rather, on the topography of your own, and the other’s wounded heart.
It is this territory that awaits truth and reconciliation.
The word Eleftheria is a Greek feminine gender term for Freedom. The poem came about due to the incongruity I felt regarding the staggering beauty of the Cypriot land and the unutterably architectural ugliness of Nicosia.
Eleftheria – Unreconciled
I Straddling shifting platforms of providence, foreign and domestic policy remain insulated from politics.
All capital cities, as this one, – anti-oases each – ensue from ironies of governance, and from the political posturing of unseen and unloved selves.
The groom of government in its affairs of consummating its bride of commerce – as consequence – fosters further folly in these precincts by arresting and confining Aphrodite’s Beauty.
To wit, in part: Save for Sundays and Bank Holidays, note the besieged and beleaguered states of its fiercely frenzied citizenry, its prickly crush and calamity on constricted infrastructure, its nocturnal raucously revving redlining road races, and the attesting absence of architectural aesthetic.
Yet, vestiges of poetic presences persevere: The ensconced effortlessly enjoining elegant elderly eucalyptus stand as stealthy stragglers along waterless riverbed, bestowing benevolent buoyancy.
So too, those peopling this place – albeit unawares – are Beauty’s currency: immigrant Asian domestics, EU’s Eastern European labor, remnants of Russians remaining from off-shore tax sheltering days, expat Brits, colonial legacies, every one; and, Greek Cypriot daughters and sons.
Stretched on an historic and ideological loom these diversely textured, charactered and colored natural human fibers shuttle their weft’s wave in and through a raveling thread bare national warp of unacknowledged falsity, commission, and omission – and – teeming dignity, innocence, and beauty:
Each awaits, albeit unawares, the artistry of reweaving the tenor of Turkish Cypriot siblings into the tensile and palette of this Levant hegemony.
II Beyond cityscape borders on this isle, the yoni of Aphrodite, in temperate winter and brutally searing summer, the Feminine lay neither animate, roused nor moist: She waits as Avalon awaits her recumbent Arthur.
This once verdurous sacrosanct soil, stone and sea – crucible still – arrayed in juxtaposition on the cleaving juggernauts of East and West, South and North.
She, high relief on Poseidon’s province, awaits human apprehension of her contemporary function: chalice of human transfiguration, and, ethnic, religious, national and human rapprochement.
It is here we and they, beings inured to suffering, will humanely heal human hearts hurt in fear’s ignorance, arrogance and histrionics.
III Will we give our heart’s attention to this possibility?
I have spent many early mornings walking in the beauty of a wildlife refuge on a friendly small mountain at the west periphery of Pyrga, Cyprus. This poem came from one such walk.
The Fire Brigade’s swath track provides conspicuous contours of relief on the topography of local minds:
“Emancipating us from ‘fire’” it is said.
This swath serpentines profound and arresting beauty – posted “Wildlife Refuge.”
This designated sanctuary lays littered with a myriad exhausted barely biodegradable munitions’ shells each betraying the character of those discharging their juggernaut in pleasure’s pursuit, or clandestine hunt.
The formerly live cartridges – a viagra of futility’s attempt at resurrecting the potency of promise yet fulfilled – are now but spent casings.
Sun and soil, atmosphere and time erode testosterone’s testaments to a confounded creative expression here flaccidly scattered like the lives of those in estrangement’s wake.
Meters below this track – on the side of this mountain – reports now resound from rifles held by encamped conscripts, firing at this nation’s pantheon of griefs and unrequited longing.
NOTE: This is to be read allowing the piece’s own cadence to inform the reader’s
“I know of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections, and the truth of the
imagination.” ~ John Keats
Have you yourself tended an infant? Have you observed another care for a newly arrived child? Have you watched parents from races, nationalities and ethnicities other than your own love their little one? Have you seen the elderly move with the aid of a cane, walking stick or the arm of another? Have you seen the aged from other parts of the world? Do they not move similarly?
And the beauty of the young? Do you see in adolescents their robust exuberance? What about the promise of those in their twenties? What of the thirty-eight year old who is now three months pregnant after waiting all those long years? Did you see the circles under her sleepless eyes when her child was two months old? And the new father whose ecstasy cannot find its way to the fore as the weight of new responsibility holds his delight at bay?
Have you seen these self same states in those world round? Those in their late midlife who were spared hard physical labor yet shouldered great emotional burdens? And what of those with no means? Do you feel the weight of their soul? Or see the dignity awaiting recognition – their own or another’s? And what about grief? What? – when the one that is loved finds another to love? Or a revered one is taken from life? Do you know this in yourself or have you seen it others?
There are those whose inheritance is Christian (Protestant or Catholic), those who are Jewish (Orthodox or Reformed); Muslim (Sunni or Shiite). Those who engage in Buddhist practices (Taoist or Zen); those who live the values of the Hindu (Vedic or Bhakti); and those following Shinto and Confucianism. There are practitioners of Modern Druidism (cultural and religious); of Santeria or Gnosticism, and Native American Spirituality; there are those who genuflect at the altar of Science; there are the Animists, and there are those having declared themselves agnostic.
People find their way onto this planet in Belarus. In Argentina. Japan. Norway. Turkey. Syria. The USA. Cambodia. Vietnam. France. Guatemala. Mexico. Ethiopia. The Sudan. Peru. New Guinea. Those with black skin. Brown. White. Those with straight hair. Curly. Those whose eyes are brown or black. Green or blue. Some are considered physically attractive. Some not. Some have had more to eat than others. Some “educated.” Some not.
Do not the constituencies of biology and chemistry hint of common ground for humanity’s staggering beauty and imperative of our grand and myriad diversity? Might we indeed be unique expressions of one source? Might we be siblings?
Is it not the self same grief and anguish that is experienced no matter one’s age, gender, nationality, or ethnic or racial heritage when instances of horrific affront occur to a life, a dignity, our human beauty? So too is it not the self same joy and ecstatic delight that buoys a self when unexpected and robust beauty visits? And what of love? Is not another’s love for family and soil of birth, the self same love available to all?
Is it not the hand and heart of our one Earth, atmosphere and Sun, and the larger movements beyond, at whose behest we subsist and exist? And what of The Perennial Philosophy of Aldous Huxley? These rarely seen yet common and tangible energetic filaments of Wisdom that persist on insinuating their presence into humanity’s awareness irrespective of epoch, culture or continent. Wisdom is as present as our very breath! She is here now! Yet in nonchalance we slumber unwittingly and habitually distracted – “secure” within our somnolent conformity to our culture’s quiet insistence on smallness, individual insignificance and irrelevance.
Have you never read a line of poetry expressing exactly what you did not know that you knew until you read that precious sequences of words? Have you heard the music knowing that the musicians themselves had become the music? So too dancer is now the dance? Have you not been moved in the presence of a sculpture? And that time when you tasted an ambrosia such as you had not known possible? Have you delighted yourself with cuisines of the world? Tasted wine of distant regions – knowing that each was nurtured by a unique soil and sun issuing from the self same Earth and Galaxy?
Remember the joke that caused such belly laughter that your abdomen hurt? Have you seen joy and delight in another? Have you heard a baby’s giggle? Seen her smiling eyes? Watched the excited movements of her arms and legs? And the puppy whose backside cannot be stilled upon your return? And what of that lover’s touch and fragrance? And of that child’s exuberance of her in rushing to greet you?
Have you had the pleasure of standing near honeysuckle in early summer? Have you not wept a tear at the beauty of dawn coming round as the moon bursting in her fullness stays up to greet her morning’s sun? Have you not been arrested at the visage of starry sky or stood entranced by Orion or the Southern Cross in brilliant revelation above a fading mountain crest? Have you felt the sun’s generosity on a frosty morning? And the corolla of yellow in the flower’s opening? Have you drunk deeply of cool water in a midday’s humid heat or been present in a sea of wild flowers dancing at the wind’s insistence?
Do you know the breach of a whale or flash of sunlight refracted on the back of a porpoise? Have you seen the calving of tidewater glaciers and their indescribable blue deep interiors? Have you watched the dripping of meter-long icicles in the morning sun? Have you had your hands in the warm dark humus of a summer garden? What about the beauty of the flower presenting herself through the crack of the sidewalk amongst acres of asphalt and chain link?
Do you know the flower of a thistle? A dandelion giving its seed? A morning’s frost on desert cacti? Have you fallen in love with the magnificence of a tree? The movement of fields of grain in late summer? The sound of waterfalls in the distance? The noise of the breakers meeting the rocks at the jetty? Have you watched tree tops sway? Better yet, have you climbed a tree and felt its generosity? Have your bare legs been caressed by silky strands of tall grasses while your hair was tasseled by grand gales?
Do you remember how beach sand offers the sea’s and wind’s geomancy to the curious? Recall the graceful silhouettes of Brown Pelican? The soaring of birds of prey? The dignity of the Red-tailed Hawk diving from that pole and capturing its prey? Do you know the chatter of squires? The song of chickadees? The call of raven? The aggregate singular movement of swallows?
My friend, I invite you to remember to remember. Look round. Cease your folly but for the moment!
I submit to you that the longing and struggles, the anguish and grief of loss as well as the sublime beauty of this world are themselves the Grace of the seminary that is your life. This life! Remember Walt Whitman’s prescience: “Soon there will be no more priests. Their time is done. Everyone is to become his [or her] own priest.” We have been in training. Commencement is upon us. The day of the intercessor has passed!
Humanity’s absences of love, of compassion, kindness and civility are inconsistent with the character of the human heart and our nature! Their currency perpetuates itself in the wake of our collective ignorance and haste. Nothing more! Although these absences have become our human norm, such behavior contradicts the human heart, our character, and nature; for we are, by design, brilliantly creative expressions of Universal Wisdom’s intelligence, love and compassion. Our capacity for Wisdom is wholly beyond the rational, the quantifiable. So too is our creative prowess! And did you know that cooperation is humanity’s greatest strength?
Have you been at death’s door? Whether refused entrance or directed to make your own decision…If you have endured the menace of a weapon trained on heart or head by the fears and anger of those in pain…then you know of Grace’s poetic generosity in Her reprieve. If you have seen very red blood surging from lacerated arteries at the surprised pace of an urgent heart in exigent moments, or gathered corpses after barbarous action, you know, with every fiber and filament of your being, that brutality and violence are anathema to the human heart and character.
If you have been the recipient of the cavalier vagaries of governance, business or health “care”… If you have been unjustly nicked by the authorities…if you have suffered indignities issuing from bastions of ignorance…or, if you, yourself, perpetrated a grave injustice and were blessed with the horrifying epiphany of cognizance, now knowing that you breached the very core of your integrity… you know that the character of the human heart is of love’s design and that fear and violence are the outsiders. The interlopers!
If you have not yet learned, soon you will know that your innocence remains intact – always -whether you feel this reality or not! There comes a time when you will awaken in stark relief to the reality that one’s innocence awaits nothing more than one’s own acknowledgement and remorse; and, by granting this, you enable it to come to the fore yet again! So too, you will learn if you have not yet, that neither your regal dignity nor that of another can every be debased! Although it may have have suffered sundry contusions and it longs for love’s tenderness, it is yet whole, present and strong!
So too you will learn if you do not already know that life cannot hate life! If you hate, all that you hate is the conceit arising from the distance you have drifted from your own sovereign heart’s Authority, Wisdom and Love! All pretext is falling away! We will come to love the perpetrator in ourselves and those in our communities. The only thing one can hate is circumstance! Nothing more! Its departure is imminent for we see its salutations in current global discontents.
One’s only task in this life is to consent to what is and embody Love moment to moment to moment! In the grand unfolding in which humanity finds itself – fulfilling this sacred endeavor sets the requisite attitudes and actions that prompt humanity’s magnum opus that awaits. Humanity’s boon is before us!
As for the ideological conceits of our culture? Honor, discharge and retire them. Their service is complete! These artifacts of human biography are ones of absences. Absence of knowing the true character and nature of the human heart! An absence of knowing the potency of our sovereign loving authority and creativity. An absence of knowing that Wisdom awaits our response for She has asked for our hand: Asked you to become her consort, collaborator and lover!
We have wholly mistaken our identity and makeup with something we are not! On this ignorance we hastened our pursuit toward folly’s end; we have instead worsened our circumstance. This is changing now for Wisdom’s hand is yet extended: In this marriage, we will know the staggering poetic beauty of human life and that of the Earth!
In taking her hand, and from the consummation of this love, we will learn that all things ensue! The folly of pursuit will be seen for what it is: an outcome of knackered misunderstandings and misapprehensions: the predicating of our lives on faulty thinking and static dogmas of smallness and fear. The consequences of that trajectory are being righted in preparation for this marriage, and the old folly is morphing into nurturing compost for that from which we will succor.
In this union with the fields of Universal Intelligence’s Divine Wisdom you will place your intent and attention on the poetics of your life – the life that is your very own. No longer will you tarry in the prosaic existence another has arranged for you. Your will bring your creative expression to the fore and open to knowing joy irrespective of circumstances. You will salute the flag of being rather than that of meaning. Lastly you will know the veracity of Gregory Bateson’s words: “Wisdom develops when you can be around others and not want to change them.”
In your reconciliation with love, you will love your life, yourself, others and the Earth! Your creativity will soar!