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“To strengthen what is right in a fool is a holy task.”
I-Ching

Descending Into Myself

Descending into myself

Meditation for the Fool

Written 2001 – 2020

I

I read somewhere
that solitude is being alone
done well.

I’m trying. But
I’m not doing it very well.
My tiny, watery soul against

The vast night sky
that snuffs me out,
unnoticed.

And I don’t know
how I keep it going. But I do.
There’s the Hilliard Ensemble’s Morrimur.

There’s Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto.
There’s Rilke and the others
in my Hall of Fools.

There’s two young men,
no longer quite children,
sleeping soundly and safe.

And, then, there’s the page in front of me
that transforms again from artefact
to mirror.

To write, that urge
To become clear,
to understand.

I write not knowing WHAT it is
that I must write.
I write knowing only THAT I must.

To shine the light on something
that I have not seen before
(although I may think at first that I have).

To lift it off of my soul
that I can see her again, clearly,
getting it off my chest

and off my shoulders and on to the page.
It is often such a long way round
to that one conversation with the one

who knows me
so well: myself.

II

This flight of fancy that is me,
part conscious voyage,
mostly accidental destiny.

The topmost of the history
of so many layers
families, generations, energies

Standing on their shoulders
charged to explore some inner landscape
like the bird must navigate the outer continents.

I can inhabit perhaps only a soul’s worth
of space in this landscape
from which to look out

and look back at the universe
whence I came,
but look with seeing eyes, no less.

Not driven by need to explain;
just inarticulably looking,
through eyes, inner and outer eyes.

Eyes which are like the birds’ wings
and don’t know which direction south is.
Eyes that blink and wings that flap

not just towards the next meal worm and woodlouse,
and back to feed the hungry chicks.
We do not know how looking goes

Or migration. We just fly and take in.
But it is more than that.
To flap and fly, to look and see: It is to be.

It is what it is to be that part-flapping,
part-flying bird, to be this part-blind,
part-seeing man, to feel connected

to this sense of meaning
which just will not reveal itself.
Who, damn it, who has given

me all of these sensitivities
and then abandoned me
here, one human being,

extending 6 foot 4 and a half
into a cold universe.

III

I want to be done with the looking.
I close my eyes, and I keep still and
go within to listen to what wants out

In some awkward and haphazard way.
I am listening. I am listening to the deep silence,
the ticking of the grandfather clock,

the groaning of the roof on the old walls.
Something is hidden. I have heard the muffled voice.
In some moments everything that appears wound-up

uncoils and whispers, so close.
I sweat and suffer again.
Such great ambiguity to just sit still and wait.

That is hard work for this otherwise so vainly active mind
Which with grim and rigorous impatience faces this hard school.
Everything’s in flow between the imaginary straight lines.

The answers are on the tip of my tongue
On some days. So far away on others.
As if they travelled through me or past me

quite as if they were sent out
as a distant greeting from future wisdom
from some faraway journey

sent to teach me.
I am filled briefly with a fleeting inkling
which leaves me swiftly before I can grasp it.

Then, time stands still and it appears
against the horizon of the dullness of the daily grind.
It greets me as a foreboding vaguely outlined from beyond

the wafting billows of the fog
made up of the ever-same things of my daily life.
It escapes the reach of my hands.

It blends back into the mist, disappears again.
What remains is just faint wonderment, not quite awe,
as time resumes its passing toll.

I have as yet not been able to see it clearly
and quite keep hold of it,
to stop it in its tracks.

Was it I who abandoned it
in some quiet place, somewhere,
now inaccessible to me?

Not just in the comet’s tail, the shooting star, the rainbow,
or reflected in children’s eyes.
Also here in the coffee cup and the long view of the faraway horizon

Seascape or mountain view or even against a soft pillow
under a duvet against the drawn out night
or on a walk with crunching leaves under my feet,

folded in and always there, reflected, sounding:
the faintest traces, the beginning of another journey,
the first step on a path.

And I am always starting out. And never leaving.
Yet, maybe it was only a dirt track
by a quiet stream in wide open spaces,

where I left it behind
as I followed other roads.
Where could such a narrow path possibly lead?

Perhaps it becomes narrower yet
and vanishes directly into myself.
I wonder, with a sense of panic,

with this inkling that this path
indeed has no other destination.
Yet, now, still somewhat numb and deaf

I awake in unknown wonderment
Which no longer distinguishes
between suffering and joy.

All has inverted: no longer
am I compelled outside and into the world
to find the middle of all things.

I have become all over only ear
And into me flows the whole world, comes home.

IV

I am no longer submerged,
only half-conscious, half-asleep,
dreamlike yet wide awake.

At the edge of inner and outer
immersed in those things
through open eyes

and those things immersed in me;
those things which live twice,
once outside where they cease and fade;

once seen and drunken with those eyes,
taken inside and sewn seamlessly
to the infinite end of my inner milky way,

my kaleidoscopic patchwork quilt landscape
where they live on as things once seen outside
against the darkness of things yet unseen

now sounding as births of inner universes
against the silence of joyful things yet unheard
caught in the bottom

of the cup of my ear
with just one lonely tear
from those wondering eyes.

There’s the light shining back at me,
obscured by dark watery depths.
It is my Beloved,

Looking back as I look inside.
I moved into the well within.
At home in every cell and fibre.

And I drink from this well.
I drink. I drink. I drink.

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