Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand!
— Sir Walter Scott
If we are all sparks
then we emerged from a striking of flint:
an eye opening, a dawn rising
inside a celestial pupil that was open like palms,
open like a nail-scarred wrist. A dream,
woven while awake: a wish,
exhaled like newborn stardust out of the lungs of
a collection of tangled desires curved like embryos
and gestating inside this open aperture. We
sat up and greeted the first morning’s light breaking
through the slits of half-closed eyelids;
we watched as millions of fire, rock, and water balls
careened out from the center of nothingness and took their places;
we congregated, freshly born from sleep
before walking through the gossamer curtain
separating life from life. The new, green Earth
was awaiting our footsteps.
There are stories
of how we were separated from God: how it happened
depends on who you ask. Some blame
a devious serpent, an alluring fruit, and a naïve woman:
the promise of an expanded mind and soul
to rise above the dawn and know as much
as God. A separation born of consequence:
we birth, we pain, and we die within
this microcosm like a desert with the noon-day sun breaths
of demons on our necks. And they say we bleed
the badges of our sin from our wombs monthly
by orders of our crescent moon-shaped DNA.
Some say the gossamer curtain itself was the reason
and called it Maya: once we slip past the seams
and part it in our birth, we have left. A exile of necessity,
children leaving home to live and learn lessons,
exiting in halves instead of wholes: the problem is
we go blind from the threads of the curtain once
we slip out from beneath its folds.
The dream hangs heavy in more curtains
over our eyes: from this dream we dream more dreams
and their opposing nightmares. We sleep, conjuring a strange chimera world of
winged black horses, scimitars, gravestones, and deconstructed dead;
invisible lines dividing creeds, nations, and skin colors;
fractured children dancing with broken femurs to the tunes of
songs written by our baser selves with leather belts and acrid words;
threats in the language of missiles with points poised and waiting
for the push of a button like suspended breath.
And yet, we also draw threads
made out of silk, spectrums, and chocolate;
embraces for long unseen friends that perched, wings folded,
inside our hearts until they emerge in flight;
the serendipity of a mother hen with ducklings dragging ripples across
the surface of a lake;
and veiled bridal chambers, each a world within a world
where heartbeat is language and love is spelled out in
fingertips, flesh, and open doors. We weave these
continuously into the dream, a band of spastic creators
who cannot collectively decide the final outcome: but
our aim is clumsy*. The chimera rises in wobbly, uncertain flight
while our dreams keep the monster aloft.
I wander through this fabulous insanity that
not even Lord Dream could have conjured. I collect
bruises on both skin and soul; my ears are filled with shrieks and knives;
my face hides the imprints of fists and slaps. If you
look closely, there are damnations imprinted in my back
in leather belt invisible ink. I enter convents and whorehouses alike,
finding vacant corners to meditate and keep pulling
shrapnel out of my body. I sew up tears;
I build and raze down walls by turns. And all the while, I am
writing lamentations into my arm, praying
that someone can discern within the bloody letters
a map out of Hell.
But the blue hour is piercing through
my half-closed eyes: it is made out of prayers:
sang aloud, quietly mused, shouted through curtains of tears;
bouncing off cathedral walls in languages that almost died;
hanging from the leaves of trees as counterpoints to the beats of drums;
floating in curved bismillahs like rise-and-fall melodies from the top
breathed as a Prabhu Yesu from the lips of a bowed head. I watch,
holding my own unseen severed umbilical cord in my lap
and feeling its free end like a vacant mouth
still trying to gobble passing stardust. I frighten myself
and fold my hands as you talk to God*.
I will toast to the end of Ignorance:
may it die a fabulous and speedy death.
Bullet through the temple that shatters bone,
or a clean entry wound like a silent, bloodless circle
through the forehead: I don’t care how it goes.
I am mad, and am conjuring up the sight of miracles
while quaffing the magic like peyote wine
behind my third eye.
We’ve been hounded to death by our own
Frankenstein monster, the collective daymare that cannot decide
whether it wishes us well or seeks to slit our throat.
With each desperate whisper, we try to take apart the sky
to see beyond the azure; we rip every passing temple curtain in twain
to see the wizard behind pushing buttons and
booming declarations into the microphone. Now, strip away
the burnt skin off our broken body;
cleanse the stampede of dirt off our wounded and harassed soul.
We can redraw this dream again.
Each enchanting daylight pours through
the membranes of our closed eyelids and calls us to try again.
Drink blue lotus wine,
walk cobblestone pathways and discover
hidden maps; follow them as the flowers’ soul
unfolds in liquid petals and hitches rides on blood cells
throughout your veins. Somewhere behind your third eye,
the euphoric ecclesia congregates and reunites.
Until now, you’ve been parting the curtain in stolen moments
with a hesitant, quivering finger
to watch a happening: these human-shaped sparks
assembling into a spilling of light that melds with
the glow that birthed them in the first place. You’ve been
placing one hesitant toe on the homeward path and then
retracting it again at the first sign of guilt: how could I ever
go back home? I am a collection of broken shards
of clay: I am a broken doll with chipped porcelain skin
and a bloody dress. But you cannot fight
the call: so keep walking. I will be walking beside you,
looking eagerly towards the glowing light
behind the curtain.
© 2011 on material by Nicole Nicholson except items with asterisks, which are courtesy of “The Way You Dream” (Asha Bhosle and M. Stipe) from “1 Giant Leap”. All Rights Reserved.
This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #58: Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, courtesy of Richard Walker. The prompt called us to select a prompt from one site (I picked One Single Impression) and words from another prompt site (I picked the Sunday Whirl). I also took some inspiration from “The Way You Dream”, a song performed by Asha Bhosle and Michael Stipe on the album “1 Giant Leap“. I hope you enjoyed the poem.