“Do You Like It Here?”

As I take the long road

running

far away from home

learning

how to ask for help

and what a friend really is,

people always ask me

“Do you like it here?”

 

“That’s a strange question”

I want to say,

“I am always here

wherever I wander,

so if I love myself

I like it ‘here’,

if I live this moment

I like it ’here’”.

 

I know they mean this country

of rolling hills and rainbows

and I do like it,

there’s good and bad,

rich and poor,

rain and sunshine

just like any other,

all of them different.

 

But I want to tell them

I love it here because

‘here’ is the only eternity

we will ever know,

the still point in a spinning world

of passing moments,

eternities lived and lost

to aging memory.

 

Like a mystic returning from

the forest bearing gold,

it turns to ashes in my hands

and people nod politely

before a brief silence and

a safer conversation.

I’m probably drunk anyway,

champagne must’ve gone to my head.

 

And that’s ok too,

you can’t rescue anyone,

let alone your punch-drunk self,

so I pour another glass

and settle in to listen

to their safe words

and muted truths,

every one as worthy as my own.

“Mom, There’s a Dinosaur in the Garden!”

Little children never walk anywhere,

they run here, there and back

and then roar off again

in an ongoing game which leaves

them breathless between shouts

as they jump and fall over

the playground of this world and

take-off into their imaginations

on the paper planes they built yesterday.

 

They barely even notice me

as I walk home everyday

and if they do, they stand stockstill

and look shyly at the ground

embarrassed by the adult invasion

with its steady pace and quiet voice

before they scream again and fly away,

once more into the fray and the

imaginary crusade of the sandpit.

 

It’s the highlight of my day,

walking through that playground

and intruding for a few steps into

a very different world where

everything happens extra fast

and I have to dodge balls flying

into imaginary goals and little boys

chasing each other with hand-guns

and the most terrifying sound-effects.

 

It makes me smile to think I was like them,

all these free beings who run around

as fast as their legs will carry them

because there is literally not a moment

to waste when life has so much on offer.

They’re captivated by unfiltered imagination,

taken with the wonderful exuberance of it all,

those unbounded horizons of childhood

where every day is a discovery and

every discovery something to be shared

with as many people as possible

because surely they’ll be interested too.

 

I found a huge cow bone in the garden once

which my mom had given to the dogs

who had promptly buried it for this

intrepid archaeologist to unearth

a very smelly week later.

I was convinced it was a dinosaur

and could barely contain my excitement

enough to speak as I rushed in to tell my mom

that her precious garden was about to become

a world-famous dig where a six-year-old

had discovered the real Jurassic Park.

 

A little bit of childhood dies with every

imaginary dinosaur that we unearth,

until we forget that there are any treasures

buried beneath the dirt and drudge of daily life

and that there are always unknown places

we can explore, if only because it’s fun.

Everyone has to grow up, I get it,

but it makes me happy

to walk past the playground

each afternoon, if only in the hope

that the ball might roll over to me

so that I can kick it back and the

small boy who was left behind can,

just for a moment, run with his arms extended

and celebrate another goal imagined.

Liquid Lies and Charlie Chaplin

If you read this blog regularly, you will know that I’m a big fan of mixed media work; art that takes account of the digital world we live in and all its new possibilities for connection and sharing. It is surely an unprecedented moment in our history, for we now have the ability to form global communities beyond nation states, religion, race, ethnicity, sexuality etc. Hence all the links embedded in my poems – they are my attempt to create active text (words which, quite literally, take you to a different place, even if that place is only the world of a Youtube clip). Tonight, however, I don’t feel like writing, so here is a favourite song of mine. It is very much a product of new and creative use of different media.

The words are taken from Charlie Chaplin’s speech in ‘The Great Dictator’, found here.

Chief Seattle

Here is a treat of a guest post – all the way from 1852. It is an excerpt of Chief Seattle’s letter to the president in Washington all those years ago and is, perhaps, even more important today. I took a transcript from an interview with Joseph Campbell, which you can find here.

“The president in Washington sends words that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky, the land? The idea is strange to us.

Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow; all are holy in the memory and experience of my people. We are part of the Earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle; these are our brothers. Each ghostly reflection in the clear waters of the lake tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father. The rivers are our brothers. They carry our canoes and feed our children.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. This we know: the Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the Earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it – whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted by talking wires? The end of living and the beginning of survival. When the last red man has vanished with the wilderness and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any spirit of my people left? We love this earth like a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat.

So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children and love it as God loves us all. One thing we know: there is only one god – no man, be he red man or white man can be apart. We are brothers, after all.”

— Chief Seattle 1852.

“Modern Myths”

studying dwarf galaxies

We are as gods already,

with exponential technologies,

indistinguishable from magic,

that transcend time and distance,

sending thought at lightspeed,

technologically-mediated telepathy,

so that those we love remain

readily reachable in a world wide web

which extends our minds to the

now-unbounded truths of our time.

 

It’s more than technology though,

for we’ve derived the make-up of the

stars soaring through our nights.

We know the gods of old myth

and the forces that govern them.

So it is, as it has always been,

that we turn inward and find

empty space and points of light,

mimicking exactly the spacetime

we now manipulate with mind.

 

For what does science, only a term

for progressive collection of knowledge,

prove if not that man is nothing

other than the universe

becoming conscious of itself?

That we are made of stars,

as our gods of old were,

therefore are ourselves gods?

We are one within the universe,

the universe one within us.

 

This is the psychology of starlight,

the mythology of atoms and galaxies.

 

 

*Think about what the men who wrote any of the holy texts many still follow literally today, would have thought of something like this!

“A boy”

Inventos-de-Isaac-Newton-simples-extranos-y-complejos-7.jpg

 

A boy asked me, “Why gravity?”

And I felt like Walt Whitman when

a child asked him about the grass.

For what could I say, that gravity is

a machination of Newton’s mind made

manifest in our experience of ‘reality’?

 

That it implies its own answer;

for without gravity the question

could never have existed and

the paradox answers itself?

Life comes before meaning,

as a flower before beauty.

 

For a flower does not mean,

Ask Jorge Borges – it just is.

Before and beyond meaning,

common experience of beauty

creating and created of truth,

is meaning enough for all existence.

 

In this dear life sorrowful death

sorrowful life dear death

there is only one choice:

love or fear – the rest is

blissful ignorance or

terrible appreciation.

 

How to explain this to a child?

 

Just so.

 

He sees himself in the grass,

senses gravity moving both

him and heavenly spheres

and so he asks, not having

fully forgotten that he

is one in the universe,

the universe, one in him.

“The Artist”

 

An old artist sits in his cave,

hands shaking as he mixes paint

and picks an ivory frame from

among a million hues waiting

to come alive beneath his brush.

 

He takes two opposing tools,

his pencil and eraser beginning

to form the first image in

silence as he discovers with

twin lines of light and dark.

 

It is a word I cannot read and

soon the background covers it,

legion upon legion of forebears,

fossils filling the page as

the artist begins to paint.

 

In great strokes he strikes

and the faces become formless

against my many-coloured background

of red and black and white

and race and love and death.

 

Then he stops, the tired old man,

and looks at the distant stardust.

“My time has come” he says,

“my work is done. Take this

and paint – yours is just begun.”

Joseph Campbell and Myth

I am reading a collection of some of Joseph Campbell’s greatest works. If you don’t know who he was, take a moment to look him up, it is extremely worthwhile. He dedicated his life to the study of myth, collecting and collating facts and opinions on all of the world’s greatest religions. He once said that God is a metaphor for that mystery which grounds our being yet exceeds all categories of thought, of which (as Kant said) being and non-being are a part. Theists are people who mistake the metaphor for fact and atheists are people who think metaphors have no value or purpose.

I may do a longer piece on him and his thoughts once I’ve finished, but here is an extended quote from the end of a chapter. It’s simply too good not to share and invite you to comment if you feel so inclined. He is talking about Buddhism, yoga and a specific myth to do with Siva and a powerful demon hell-bent on getting Siva’s bride. Siva conjours up a beast (Hunger) greater than the demon, the demon throws himself on Siva’s protection and Siva asks the beast to therefore consume himself, which he does until only his face is left:

“The obvious lesson of all of which is that the first step to the knowledge of the highest divine symbol of the wonder and mystery of life is in the recognition of the monstrous nature of life and its glory in that character: the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think – and their name is legion – that they know how the universe could have been better than it is, how it would have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without life, are unfit for illumination. Or those who think – as do many – “Let me first correct society, then get around to myself” are barred from even the outer gate of the mansion of God’s peace. All societies are evil, sorrowful, inequitable, and so they always will be. So if you really want to help this world, what you will have to do is teach how to live in it. And that no one can do who has no himself learned how to live in it in the joyful sorrow and sorrowful joy of the knowledge of life as it is. That is the meaning of the monstrous Kirtimukha, “Face of Glory” over the entrances to the sanctuaries of the god of yoga, whose bride is the bride of life. No one can know this god and goddess who will not bow to that mask in reverence and pass humbly through.”

Communication and Community in a Digital World

Jacques Derrida, the infamous deconstructionist, begins an essay of his with the question, “Is the concept ‘communication’ communicable?” It’s funny stuff, for a Frenchman. After that it all gets a little philosophical, although if you’re of such an intellectual persuasion you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better essay on signatures, events and contexts. But I digress. Continue reading

“Te Rerenga Wairua”

There’s a place of ancient myth

in the north of New Zealand

where spirits of the departed

take their final leave from

our land of the living and

plunge into the breakers

where Tasman meets Pacific,

forming whirlpools and whitewash

to wish the travellers well on

their way to the Three Kings

and lands we dare not know.

 

A single tree, old as the sea,

stands guard on the rocky point,

its roots forming stairs for

the descending dead as

they head for one more swim.

It has never flowered,

watching somberly as salty

winds blow across the shore,

leaving no room for life,

save that ancient pohutukawa,

sprung from the rock itself.

 

You can feel the Maori ancestors

in this leaping-off place of spirits,

keeping careful watch over the

clashing seas which guard

the gateway to another world,

just glimpsed in the dancing spray

of waves born in different oceans,

come to meet their end here

and guide the lost souls back

to their final resting place

deep beneath the rolling waters.