Thursday, December 14, 2006

Strange Journey - a poem

Five days ago
In this very village
I met a most unusual man
And likewise, he claims, did he.

Plain were peace and disinterest settled upon his face
And old was the weariness that scarred unhealing eyes.

He spoke of things strange beyond strange.
Things inconceivable and ungraspable.
But he spoke too of lonesome truths.
Those same long haunting my head,
Having never passed my ears or lips
Until that day.

I begged him, teach me more.

But I have taught you nothing, said the man
And I cannot do so.
For nothing real can be learned in the telling.
Only you can teach yourself.
I can do just this for you.
I can help you silence all this noise
So you may hear the voice within.
For that is my task.

But I can not teach myself, said I.
For I already know what I already know.

But you can, said he.
Waves of knowledge rush upon you every moment.
But so terrible and colossal are these waves,
That they crash undetected
And ravage you unseen.
And they extol a terrible price
While not a thing is learned from them.

But those like us who face the empty page
Day after day in search of truth,
As they exhaust themselves each day,
Leaving no poem unwritten,
No vision unpainted,
No melody yet composed,
They attain such a state
That they detect the waves
And they are appalled.

As will you be appalled, he cautioned me.
And you will be terrified.
For the learning
Is a horror.

I think I shall not be terrified, said I.
For I have heard voices before
And I was not afraid.

So we shall see, he said.

Four days ago we embarked on a journey,
The same course he had taken before, alone.

We came upon a Spanish town
And a funeral.
Men were gathered, downward bent,
Stroking their mustachios while unseen above,
Angels soared in the torchlight.
And upon high their Savior presided,
His white robes flowing seamlessly into clouds.
And in those folds and wisps and swirls,
Small cherubs gathered like fruits in bunches,
Like petals of flowers.

The Count, his body clad in exquisite armour,
Was cast into to the earth, only to fall,
Unseen by the revelers,
Into the gentle hands of saints,
Who hunkered in brilliant robes,
Each a fine tapestry on which images were sewn.
Depictions of their very own bloody martyrdom.
And on their faces peace and disinterest were plainly settled
And ancient was the weariness that scarred their unhealing eyes.

Three days ago we came to a hill
And on the hill two churches stood,
One, many times larger than the other.
Why an extra church, I asked.
Surely the larger alone would suffice for all,
So huge it is.

Ah but here, said the man,
There are separate followings.
For the devil too has his own church.

I was appalled.
Then we should strike it down, said I.
Look upon the structure
So small and weak.
We may break it.

Stay your hand, my friend replied.
For that is God's house there.
It is the devil has the larger congregation.

Two days ago we came upon a silent city
Crossed with vacant thoroughfares
And tall lifeless buildings.
A solitary man stood in the square.
Where are all your neighbors, I asked.

They all have vanished, he replied.
Now I toil at lonely tasks.
Now I hear only waves.
And on his face peace and disinterest were plainly settling.
And in his eyes the scar of weariness laid claim.

We bade him join us
And he came along.

Yesterday we three came to a bridge
That spanned a great hole in the Earth.
Strange it seemed that the road did not simply skirt the pit.
Less trouble that would be
Than building a bridge.
Instead there stood a long queue,
And on the bridge each traveller
Was searched head to foot.
Their pockets turned out
By a troop of white-robed guards,
Each without shoes but with great wings
Folded behind their backs.

Though no contraband was seemed to be found
On any one traveller upon the searching
They were each hurled into the pit, one by one.
None were allowed passage.

My two companions seemed not alarmed
By this circumstance and upon the searching
They were smiled upon and allowed to cross.
Upon my being scrutinized there was some suspicion
And some deliberation before I too was allowed to pass
And rejoin my gently smiling friends.
What were they searching for? I asked

For a single grain of truth, my mentor said.
Today they have found three
And will unlikely find more.

This morning we returned to my village
Or so I thought at first.
For it seemed like the place of my home
And the villagers seemed as my own neighbors.
But only for moments.
For I saw that the familiar houses were only facades
Erected before each foreign structure.
And I saw that the familiar faces were only masks
Worn by imposters.
This was some other village, disguised.
I became afraid.

What vile place is this, I begged.
That weaves such elaborate and yet so clumsy
A forgery, surely designed to ensnare?
Let us flee!

My friend, do you not recognize your home?

But this is not my home! I cried.
Don't you see?
This is a place of crude deception.
These structures and these people
They are not what they seem!
They all wear masks!

So they do, he said.
And I ask you again,
Do you not recognize your home?
For this is surely the place
And nothing here has changed since we departed.
But you have since heard the voice within
And you are finally learning to see.
And now you know the truth about some things.

Still not believing, I watched two men
Come together in conversation.
The first spoke a purposeful deception
About a thing he wrongly thought to exist.
And the other took him for his word
And spoke a further deception.

This place is a contrivance! I cried.
It is only layers of illusion upon layers of illusion.
This place is an absurdity!

So it is, he said.
As it always has been.

I was suddenly filled with a terrible mourning
For the world I'd fallen out of.
I knew at once, there could be no return.

I saw a woman go by with her baby held close.
She wore a mask, of course
But the child did not.

I took comfort in that.

Thank you friend, I said,
For taking me on this journey.
For though I shake with fear,
I am glad to know this truth.

Oh but the journey has not begun, he said.
For that was only a test
Which you have passed.
The journey lies still ahead
And if you choose it, I will go with you.
But be warned the task will occupy us many years.

Tell me this, friend, I asked,
What more is there to discover?

The most dreaded thing, he answered.
The thing that lies beneath the masks.

I trembled at this.
But I summoned courage
And I asked the question that frightened me most.

Do I wear a mask?

And he answered, yes, my friend,
You do.
And it is only slightly askew

But redemption awaits you
As it did for me.
And though the horror has only begun,
There is a place of joy for us,
A paradise to end the journey,
If we are faithful and adamant to this task.
This I know although you can not.

In five days, mentor,
Not a word of your tongue has eroded
And some instead have formed
A solid foundation beneath my feet

I say you can be relied upon.
So lead on, I say. Lead on.

No comments: