NOT THE SUM
Not the sum of all your yesterdays
and more than all of your tomorrows
could ever dream of being,
not a negligible, small thing,
nor great beyond proportion,
you inhabit your own mystery
like a godess who feels like a stranger
in her own universe,
trying to get the hang of it
like the slang of a foreign language
that won’t let her across the border
without picture i.d.
You long for something
and immediately summon
everything that’s missing
in the spirit’s lost and found,
no life, no answer, no sound,
no lamp in the hand of the nightwatchman
flashing like the moon
through your broken windows.
It’s impossible to pick the berry
from the thorn of yourself
as a first drop of blood
gathers like an eye
at the tip of your wounded finger
and even if you did manage
to raise it like a kiss to your lips,
is it sweet, is it bitter,
or does love taste like the sea?
That simulacrum you call yourself
may be a work of art,
an amazement of mirrors
that dance like water
when you enhance the night
like a lonely heart
with the grace of your reflection,
but even the moon
can get in your eye sometimes
and smear the view with hot tears
for all you might have been
before you broke your brushes
at the foot of your masterpiece.
Dogen Zenji said
in the middle of the thirteenth century
just a moment ago in medieval Japan:
When the truth doesn’t fill your body and mind
you always feel as if you’ve had enough,
but when the truth does fill your body and mind,
you always feel as if something were missing.
That’s a jewel that’s worth turning in the night.
That’s the dark heart
that summons you into the mystery
like an intimacy beyond
your own personal history.
Why waste your time
trying to find out
how many demons
can dance on the heads of the pins
in the heart of a voodoo doll,
or angels, if you’re a better liar?
You’re just trying to imagine a heaven
and ashes that rise like doves
from the chimneys of Auschwitz.
Is it any wonder then
that every moon you eat
like an unhappy fortune-cookie
tastes like an eclipse?
And I’ve never known
whether you’re trying to improve
the standing of the world
in your person
or your person
in the standing of the world
when you turn heads
like a sphinx in the rain
that never looks anyone’s way.
But if you were to look deeply
into the nature of any grain of sand
it would make the pyramids
look like mere child’s play,
the first alphabet blocks
of a desert with something to say to the stars
high overhead and so very very, intimately far away
like the small bells of longing
that bruise the heart of a lost child
who knows that no one
is coming to look for her
who can see
through anyone’s eyes but their own
what it means to be alive in the world alone.