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“The end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time”
T.S. Eliot

Moulting

Moulting

July 2021

 

The young man had got up more than once and I too had rehearsed my farewells.
Yet, together we lingered over our labour for such a parting as ours is inevitably a death,
Where the sharpness of what is lost is so much more keenly felt, at first, than
The softness of what is new, and what is lost will never return quite so,

Even if it is only the familiarity of old habits for which, we are both agreed,
It is time to die. And yet, we knew them, we knew them like our own skin,
And they were our skin, the skin we knew from the inside, which kept us together
And in one piece and seemed to give us our shape, and we knew nothing else.

And though we wanted to shed what it had become, stiff and tight, restricting movement, Suffocating breath, we yet had to mourn the loss of its protection, feel the gratitude,
Have compassion with our suffering of small things such as whether there will be enough
Food on such an abundant planet as Earth, whether we are loved in a world so full of god as ours.

And we reminisced, remembering the moments when he had seen a flicker of eternity
In every passing face and how he had seen in everything what he thought so to lack
And yearned to charm such foreign features into his own perfection.
So, it would speak to him and through sound and presence, closeness, suggest a unity

Of opposites, a wholesome oneness, a glimmer to which he had attached such urgency
Of creative union, believing it could last. Though seldom such unity occurred
Apart from in a giddy fog from which he would awake not seeing that they had their own,
And he had his. His eternity. His union. His wholeness. And that which is eternal kept on being so,

Quite undisturbed and by itself,
Beyond his touch,
Out of sight,
Unheard,
Yet nonetheless perceived.
He was always invited
By way of inkling,
Always welcome.

And the two of us, we sat there just a little longer under canopy of night and encountered things
For which the finest subtlety of word can be no match. We stood face to face with the Ancient of
Days, and heard the Mothers’ tale of death and birth, and death and birth, and rebirth after rebirth,

And we saw the most precious things which happened only quietly and once
And yet touched upon all things that ever had been and ever would,
And we heard within all things the stillness of inside forever sing
And put our fingers to that soft place where the roof of the world
Touches the bottom of all souls and where all that seems so separate
Is still unfathomable, yet already known.

Such experience seeded a thirst for life never yet felt and any care for his temper made way
For it would no longer do, for his temper was as ill-fitting as he had become to our shared self.

He no longer wished to be approved of, liked, or found agreeable by some other, however close. And such insight was his end. And my beginning. For what I wanted then was to be understood

And permeated in every fibre by myself. Infused by my own soul. Set alight by my spirit.
I no longer cared for justice or for peace on earth for I realised at once that they were already here Like soul and spirit. What mattered was what has always mattered. Acknowledged or not.
The only thing that has ever mattered. Whether we are capable of recognising it or not.

And now was the time to acknowledge, to feel, to see, to drink, to witness.

And, so, it came as we watched a shooting star divide us, that final embrace;
And the worn and tired steel of his breastplate which had concealed that he even had a heart
(Although I always knew he had one and also knew that he wore it both to protect and to be seen)
Touched against my flabby, soft chest. I hadn’t quite realised until then that despite my age

And weight and softer shape and being the one on the face of it closer to death, I yet breathed
Easier. And even in the embrace we lingered for it was hard to part company
Having known each other as well as two can know each other
Who are the present and the past of the same man.

But I did let him go, slowly, and released him into what was his, released him
From his impatience, his vanity, his pain, the care for his manner,
And he too let me go and passed on to me the treasures of my younger self, the wisdom of my youth
And between us we straightened and folded the skin we both had known,

The skin into which he had grown and from which I now emerged. We folded it like washer women
Fold bedsheets which have dried out on the lawn in the sun ready to be put away, properly,
In my inner airing cupboard where I put him to bed. First, he would settle down to sleep
As if in a guest room of the main house and I would think of him there as a safeguard

For the day when I might just again need something protective, narrower, and more precise
To hold me upright. And, then he and I would move on, not quite to forgetting
But to a comfort full of gratitude, a memory, a visit with me out here,
The mystery before me, my new found clarity within; he safely in there, the little man, my manikin,
Sliding back into the great warm darkness with breastplate, youth, and moulted skin.

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