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dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden

Mt. Tamalpais, December 17, 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed in the light of a morning spared the rain

A break in the rain. Patches of blue skies, with a wintery light leaking through the tattered lace of clouds. I have not been much in the mood to write, managing only to describe the weather with some semblance of consistency in these posts lately. I feel the need for the sheltering space of silence, but with only 2 weeks left of this project, I will carry on and keep on trying, even if at times I will have to resort to borrowing the words of others. Like today, as I am about to share a poem by Brenda Hillman from a book of hers, which she signed for me in 1993, back when the idea of “Bright Existence,” the title of her book, illuminated new paths of poetry for me. The poem below, though, the way I read it today (which is not the same as I read it a year ago, or will, perhaps read it a year from now) makes the matter of sorrow a predicament of light.

Sorrow of Matter

by Brenda Hillman

The idea that everything is sacrificed to something.
Day after day, this being repeated.
The idea that some things are sacrificed
to vaguer forms
and your job is to keep asking where suffering comes from

while you send the children off to school–
between the cries of the hermit thrush
(the ‘pay, pay’)–
carrying their backpacks full of too much stuff
books imagined to be full of strong color, but now
pulling down to make their backs too straight.

And, never mind,
says one thing in this early migration,
the warbler in the rich person’s cypress,
never mind, say the pairs, what we create;

first there was brightness,
then it suffered;
suffering invented shape.

Remember how they taught you to stand
in front of objects? Early on,
in mild cities filled with vanilla, with extra dust,
with curvature; people
had begun to find pulsars at the edge of the universe,
drops of smooth shininess,
— like finding the seeds in an orange —

then they took you to see the huge Christ on the hill,
the god made of broken granite,
and oh how he leaned forward,
you could see it hurt him too,
to be trapped in somethigness, in those tiny mosaics with no blood,
rock eyes without eyelids
and you could offer him only your ability to change
like one of those fast terrified pigeons
that sped to his outstretched arms
and landed, flapping eternally their brief difference,
don’t makes us, lord, don’t make us be like you–

from Bright Existence (1993)