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Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day ( short reply to Jorie Graham)

The wall is unbreakable
I am that I am
This is the presence
An unbreakable sorrow
Something the wall gazers
Come to understand
Only when Nothingness
Supplants our yearning
It fills us with hope not despair

*  *  *  *  *

Backstory:  This short poem may be better appreciated with its backstory.  Today is Inauguration Day – a day many of us have been dreading, with an alternating sense of resignation and despair.  The indefatigable Kaveh Akbar (@KavehAkbar) made one of his fine poetic postings to Twitter – a lovely poem by Jorie Graham called Little Exercise.  It seems uncannily apt to the present moment.  The poem begins this way:

The screen is full of voices, all of them holding their tongues.
Certain things have to be “undergone,” yes.
To come to a greater state of consciousness, yes.
This is a powerful poem about our collapsing world order.  It’s not just a political or social collapse, as Graham goes on to acknowledge, the soil being so overfed it cannot hold a root system in place.  This feels like a crisis of Biblical proportion.  And so the poem ends hauntingly:
Are we “Beyond salvation”?  Will you not speak?
Such a large absence – shall I not compel the largest presence?
Can we not break the wall?
Our yearning for immanence has never been stronger.  But we must surmount it.  The wall itself cannot be broken or surmounted.  Staring at the wall long enough -- in the manner of Bodhidharma, who after all stared for 9 (not just 8) long years -- we begin to develop an awareness of nothing, and in that awareness we find a true alternative to all our yearnings, which comes to fill us with hope and compassion, not despair.

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