MYSTERIOUS THE BODY
Mysterious the body
these fingers lips eyes skin
this finite that encloses
this infinite within.
The shape of the universe
is the shape of a human.
It flows from the inside out
and the outside in.
A bag of water
with nine holes in it
leaking like the moon.
I live in it like a fish in the sea
swimming through myself alone.
A fish is water being life.
A bird is sky being life.
My body is the earth walking upright
as the grasslands replace the trees like clothes.
I can hold my life and my death
in my own two hands
and when I let go I can breathe through my nose.
Bags between my legs
bags for lungs
a bag for a stomach
is it any wonder
I’m a hunter-gatherer?
A mouth like the entrance
to the underworld
I’m all caves and underground tunnels
a blind star-nosed mole among dark roots
trying to show me the way up to the flowers
by guiding me like water
toward the light.
In my eyes
room for the world.
In my ears
the voice of thunder
the roar of excruciating nightseas
that pull the dragons under.
The abyss speaks
and I can hear it
shape it into a world
I’m making up as a I go along
like a verb with a noun.
Not a subject with an object.
Seeing the eye.
Hearing the ear.
Tasting the tongue.
Smelling the nose.
Touching the skin.
Thinking the mind
if you’re a Buddhist
with a sixth sense.
I look at myself in this body
to see who I might be
and it comes to me like a universe
that abounds with origins
I am a nothing
that just happened to begin.
My senses are an ancient alphabet
buried in the stars.
A hieroglyph written in the sand
by a viper of water
only the wind can understand.
And what’s a mind
if not a Rosetta stone
in an infinite number of voices
that are all my mother-tongue
to keep the shadows back?
I approach the universe like an effect
and so I do
but I’m also possessed
of a demonic intelligence
that walks right up to it like a cause
that keeps breaking its own laws in jest.
Maybe your body’s the host.
Maybe your mind’s the guest.
You can bow on either side of the threshold.
You can enter the palace with grace.
You can blunder in like a buffoon.
But there’s no end of the dimensions
to the negative reflections
in the black mirrors of space
that stared out into the emptiness long enough
for the light shining down on the starmud
to turn into the eyes in your face
like a planet slowly evolving an atmosphere
that could see life at the end of the tunnel.
Our genes have found a kind of material immortality
that allows them to inherit themselves
like water and apple-trees.
Who needs to teach chaos theory to the bees
or preach paradise to the flowers?
Maybe the body’s a journey that walks through itself
like the heart follows its bloodstream
like a river out of Eden
with one shoe on and one shoe off
just to keep things balanced
between what is kept
and what is lost
but step by step
pulse by pulse
breath by breath
things pass away into a new start.
Yesterday goes to bed
and wakes up like the future of now.
Or maybe the body’s a vehicle
that knows where we’re going
even if we don’t.
Maybe it’s got destinations
and rendezvous of its own
and we’ve just come along for the ride?
Or we’re riding shotgun on an old stage coach
urgently trying to get home before sundown
with all our passengers alive?
I might be the nightwatchman
but I’m not the foreman
on the nightshift of my cells.
I’m amazed at how much goes on without me
when I hold a lantern up to
what seems to be dreaming me
as if the darkness had windows
I could see through
to see what I’m up to
this far beyond the light.
I feel I’m hollow inside
though I know
how densely packed I am for the ride
all the essential organs
in saddle-bags at the back of a Harley
that isn’t stopping to ask for directions.
Mysterious the body is
and just as the mind makes a point of thought
when it’s trying to be serious
the body can make a comic farce of pain
or a Greek tragedy of pleasure
trying to gouge its eyes out
when it wants your attention.
It’s always the old scar
and I’m always the new wound
sitting like a valley at the foot of the mountain
that knows how to heal the self-afflicted
who keep falling on their swords within
to stay true to their words on the outside
but even that old argument’s wearing a little thin
because it’s just wearing your skin inside out
so people will think you’re honest
if you reveal everything
down to what you last ate
at your last supper.
The bread and fish of a poor messiah.
Or the poisoned mushrooms of a Roman emperor.
The body is a Druid
in the peat bogs of Yorkshire
to keep itself fertile and yielding.
A cult of flesh erects a temple of bone
and dedicates its resurrection to the gods.
My body’s an empire of sentient life-forms
that keeps losing legions in the Teutoberg Forest
to the barbarians at its borders
defending their ancestral homelands.
War always has two eyes open
until peace closes them both
in a dream fit for a human.
The mind may summon the body to a meeting
to discuss the day’s events
but it’s the body that sets the agenda
that removes the presidents
as if J.F.K. and Jimmy Hoffa
for lack of evidence.
Poor old shoe.
How many roads have we walked
all these years
all these miles
and never traveled any further than the distance
from our heels to our toes?
What a long way we had to go
to find out we never left.
What goes out the front door
comes in through the back
like a universe
that’s locked itself out of the house.
But the body
they must share to see
by their lucidity
is the same window
that looks through them.
Once you stop approaching things like a key
to your own house
you lost somewhere in the grass
things will stop shutting you out
like a thousand unopened locks.
The body’s a walled city with nine gates
that are always open.
Who needs to knock
on either side of the door?
The body’s an old cave dweller
that paints its dead red
and buries them under the fires of life
as if the past had a future.
A meat-eater opens a theatre
and the prey’s been running ever since.
The mind is an artist.
Able to paint the worlds.
In the six colours of the senses
and a seventh that no one’s ever seen.
There’s a perspective of meaning
that establishes the foreground
of an intimate identity
you suppose is yours.
The hot poppy of blood
under your nose
that keeps burning out
like a torch in the cold blues
of the veteran distances
that carry the dead and wounded on their backs
like broken doors that never had a home.
with a thought
in your mother’s mind
the wayward nudging of a distant notion
like the wings of a tiny insect
trapped in the hair of her arm
fluttering against her skin so gently
she frees it from its plight with a breath
that sways it into being
like the plaything of circumstance.
One thought-moment is the birth of eternity.
You grow a body from the seed
of last year’s flower.
You take it as a sign
that you exist.
You wear it like a spacesuit
on an alien planet
that is so lifeless
it has to import its fossils.
You fill your lungs
with a sky you brought from home.
And what’s a highly evolved brain
but a hunch of starmud
taking a good guess
at what’s ahead
and how it got here in the first place?
Look at all the stars sent out
like doves in a dark flood
to look for land
to look for a tree their light could perch in
that are never coming back.
Your body is the cornerstone of your solitude
in a vast space
that hasn’t finished preparing the ground yet.
Your body may be rooted in the soil
but the original bread of life is light.
Light seeds the worlds
with time and space
in such a way
the future is hindsight
and memory’s a prophecy of what’s to come.
After the harvest
the light sits down with everyone
and breaks bread with the dead like matter.
The body a satyr.
The body a buddha.
The body the Mad Hatter.
The body the ruse
of a crazy wisdom
that dupes it into enlightenment
like a cedar
that flowers out of its own root-fires
like the illuminated sage
of a billion dark desires
burning like the energy of dark matter to be
clarity life lucidity
nur wa nur
light upon light.
The being in the light by which we see.
The body a koan of flesh
that liberates the mind
like a cosmic fortune-cookie
full of emptiness and silence
as if the sea were missing
when you put it up to your ear
to listen to the ocean of your own awareness.
The body the history of food.
The body the psychology of matter.
The body the hysterical mystery of sex.
The body abused and broken.
Driven out like Quasimodo
swinging from the bells of Notre Dame
or Caliban enslaved by Prospero
to do his bidding on demand
as if one hand were wrong
and the other were right.
The body may be dark
but the root isn’t ignorant of the light
and the blossom isn’t afraid of the night
and there’s no original sin
waiting in a garden of delight
like the seeds of damnation.
The mind is crammed with two of every kind.
The body is the ark
that carries them across
the deluge of their own blood
to be scuttled on a mountaintop in Turkey.
And when they die.
Food for the birds.
An offering to the sky.
A seed in the ground.
A tribute to the recurring earth.
We’re divided more by life
than we are by death.
Fire is the flag
of a small country
that lives with its shadows in fear
there’s no place for it among the stars
it disappears into
but the body is an empire
walking on water
and in every one of its tears
you can see the sun rise
and the moon set
over a vast night ocean
no one’s crossed yet.