A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. The seroni could say it better than I say it now. Not better than I could say it in a poem. What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah is the last part of a poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then—that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. You say you have poets in your world. Do they not teach you this?
— C.S. Lewis (as Hyoi in “Out of the Silent Planet”)
I met a flower one morning
a quaint and little one
buttery yellow in color
satisfying to my sight
With an eager, examining eye
The bright flower became my own
A project for me, a problem to solve
The sepals, the stamen, sprinkled with pollen
A notch here, a wrinkle there
the soil below, dusty, wet
this living thing, it thrives, it dies
A circular system of leasing existence
From roots to shoot the water rises
from where come these crystals of growth?
I think of the soil, the sky, the sea
soonafter diving into a crystal-clear deep
Atoms, the answer, I’ve heard before
hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, but how?
the laws of physics, conveyed by logic
pushing, pulling, forcing, flying.
This seductive deduction drives us backward,
downward, deciphering, distinguishing details
solid relations among material things
things that end up losing their names
Yet negative infinity calls us on
with a sordid claw it clutches our necks
strangling soul in rational silence
silky spiderweb of relations in space
A world of space! Infinite space!
Where there are no roots, there is no ground
the ground is gone and thinking floats
casting eeriness upon my flower.
This eeriness spreads to touch my skin
relinquishing uncanny bursts upon my breast.
A tumultuous tear tumbles from my illogical eye
inarticulately muttering something about injustice
–but then I hear
A tiny voice, slight strains of whisper
that crescendo into a steadfast faith
“I am a flower,” she begins to say
“my infinity is ahead, beyond, above!”
And the sky spreads wide, casting down Water
from the wellsprings of heaven
these celestial rocks beat upon my body
thrusting a marveling me against the soft, firm ground.
The key themes in this poem are:
ground vs. Infinite space
the absurdity of being vs. rational (abstract) interpretation
negative infinite (deduction) vs. positive infinity (creative, “macro” contemplation!)
In this poem I wanted to capture how a busy scientist might suddenly “wake up” from her studies and find herself confronted–not with a rather simply elucidated subject–but with the mystery of being itself. Is it that sometimes we do not do justice to “things” in their utter absurdity? In a sense, detailed analysis, in breaking down the subject destroys the subject.
This is not a castigation on the scientific endeavor, but an encouragement to take off the scientific lenses every now and then!
Finally, there is a sense in the last stanza, that the narrator is framing the “absurdity” as a sort of miracle.
Perhaps, only in such a framework, do we “regain our names.”
Lay still with me.
Just one moment,
one hurried moment
One diminishing star
making its final assertion
in a crowded, cold constellation.
Enjoy love with me.
Just one spirit,
one spirit of wonder
for the other.
One bewildered raindrop
finding itself delighted
as it splashes to pieces on a rose petal.
Lay still with me,
Just one moment.
one hasty moment
One newborn unity
struggling to exist
as it discovers eternity in the immeasurable gift!
This poem is a meditation on quantity and quality, finitude and infinitude. In our engagements as a person in a greater whole (the first stanza), and in our engagements specifically with the Other, we find ourself greatly limited by the quick flow of time and our inabilities to express the infinite ins and outs of our person all at once. Personality is diminished in the first stanza yet still has a righteously indignant determination to put itself forth with vigor.
In the second stanza we see a development. Here the personality is limited by time and the Other’s boundaries–to an even more salient and personal degree than when confronted by the entire universe. However, the raindrop, though bewildered, finds itself delighted as it is destroyed upon confronting the other. “Love,” may be a hint to why this stanza is suggesting a creative hope, not despair. In addition, does the “one” in “one spirit” have a different sense than the “one” in “one moment”? Furthermore, the raindrop is on the verge of coming to a conscious realization of a sublation:
The raindrop, though a destroyed individual self, is created anew in the “newborn unity.” The raindrop never really was anything on its own, it is only when the raindrop makes itself vulnerable to relationship that an identity–an identity that is finally meaningful–arises for the raindrop. And yes, there is still “one hasty moment” to struggle with. However, “one unity” is a qualitative measure. It is through unities that cannot be measured, and other subjective wonders of the world–such as the enigmatic “love”–that brings us to eternity. Don’t we all have an intuition that our creations last forever?
While there are only finite possibilities for the physical human, there are infinite possibilities for the contemplative human who loves.
I saw you for the first time
when I was 11.
There was a building
and a bed
and tired, proud eyes.
But I did not meet you for the first time
until I was 19.
You could barely keep the fold-up chair down
at the movie theater.
You would sit up straight and force it down with your legs,
but as you absorbed yourself in the picture
the chair would rise back up again.
You just had to get used to it.
It was you and the chair–when I met you for the first time.
You, alone, sparring with the chair
You, trapped in you.
Me, trapped in me.
You, the person I could not know
You, the person I could only meet.
It was my ceiling against your ceiling
It was your popcorn against mine.
Your breathing, your sensations, your present,
your dreams, your fears, your future,
I do not think you met me when I met you for the first time.
Someday you might.
You may meet many things.
You may meet little things first
the millions of snow flakes
which endure unique lives.
Or you may meet the big things,
things that are much much bigger than you
and make you feel tiny
like space, and matter
Maybe you will meet God.
You may meet monsters:
I cannot promise you won’t.
But I do promise that monsters can be nice if you have patience for them to develop
And for you to understand.
Though, precious and small human being,
I think that the greatest thing you may meet, if you are so inclined,
You were no longer mine when I met you for the first time.
There is a gigantic blue thing in my room
I have seen it here once before
but never in this position
It is boldly making its presence known
it stands in the way like a clogged artery
like a noisy child fighting for attention
“Yes Lacy, I will get you an ice cream cone.”
But this blue thing reminds me of all things absurd
Indeed, isn’t everything like this big blue thing?
Tiny 18th century soldiers
painted by a small boy
History, his centerpiece
Needle sized details of human interaction
Yet despite the slow ticking
grandfather clock’s gentle encouragements,
the miniscule Oscar Wilde book
interminably inspiring critique,
the makeshift note from Kirsten
depicting cannons, flirtatiously,
“I’M NOT GOING TO OBLIGE YOU!”
and the Edwardian decor
of regal red and blue
garnished, polished wooden chairs,
and the boat
next to Captain Indifference
(another artistic product of youth)
Despite all of these things
The grown man could not
no, would not
write a dissertation.
The room remains,
fossilized by a sentimental mother,
by the unsuspecting house-keeper
since, as they say,
“all good things come to an end.”
Bye room, and bye everything.
A kiss is only worse than words–
those vitriolic and fearful attacks arising from
that malignant pride which,
suffocating our chests,
nails us all to dark gallows–
if it is a kiss of betrayal.
For I may pose that grey is white
when black is nearly everywhere.
And maybe what they once called grey
can be the fairest of them all.
So when they are yelling,
icicles forming underneath their chins,
it is your warmth
which, in all its contingency,
has the tinge of consciousness
I long for.
And when he is crying,
his icicle falling to stab his heart,
it is your touch
that recalls to my thoughts
an ancient garden, perhaps
familiar as the winding roads
which always end at my house,
hackneyed as a polite greeting, and
tired and certain as
the descending sun,
is my prenom.
But not today.
the streets usher me now into a garish land
where all seems strange
where the sun with crimson vigor shatters
and I know not how to salute
the elves that dwell here.
Today, my name I do not
From foreign lips it springs
hopping forth in confidence and
never guessing its vibratory birth.
Yet the earnest sound never penetrates its signified
and it ricochets off the boundaries of my being.
is now the uncouth, and
my innards cannot stop recoiling at
the vulgar word which
is waging a war of representation,
Enforcing a tax without representation,
A righteous war
Which dares to summarize me so.
The repulsion itself I do not will
For only fools would not admit
that the human at heart is but a traveler
and signposts are her highest gods.
Pain and pleasure, foes equivalent,
Striving to subdue — and failing!
Dueling for my senses while my cup which used to
Overflow, sends water to my veins.
(Or so the Greek once said)
But the pain remains, I do believe
(the Greek was wrong): Internal fist
of carnal flesh which
breathes and beats
and pounds out life accursed
with “reason”, so the walls — they
burst and break — and Death, it winks and blinks in
Drunken whimsy, and these
Chemicals! Cascading forth,
The water never deep enough
to drown this mindless
Shallow, shallow, like my heart.
When I was a rosy child
Play was play — Yes, mirth was mirth
But now the firsts
Are always! Always!
Already! Already! Seconds, thirds.
pleasurable pain, a painful pleasure
And what remains is pain.
To you, and you, and you, and you
You fiery souls that stir my chest
That make me fear the empty draw
Of life: the raw, the brute, the force
That all our physicists can’t define,
By which, I think, Love seems to die
Or maybe “Love” is tears of angst
As foreign eyes so soaked with sweetness,
Wet with lust, they say — so softly –
And “It’s okay.”
The pleasure you give me only kills me and
I need another sip of water.
Shallow, shallow, like my soul.