Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Bone Texts - Father Will, Confessions of Doubt on a Way of Thorns - Reprise Essay



Bone Texts--Enter Father Will.
He has an impulse to confess more than is likely.--Randall Potts

Our path is a path of roses, but it is also a way of thorns.
 --Father Giovanni Melchior Bosco, now canonized, of the Salesian Society

I am walking among the emerald trees
in the night without end.-- Mark Strand



W
hen Father Will arrived for session after yet another extended retreat to the desert hermitage in the American West he was subdued.

"My text was Mark Strand," says he.

"Stranded, huh?" I wink.

An amused groan. A shrug. "Completely in the dark this time. Not the luminous journey beneath the desert stars I had hoped for. Absence. Cold. Absolute. My bones hurt from such emptiness. If they were straws to suck on they would collapse, bend inward upon themselves too weak to crack. Fold they would. I am, as it were...folded."

We remain quiet for awhile.

His silences flay me. Viscera exposed without any drama. Well, not much. Mute. But not numb. Rather, more feelingly alive, as Rilke says, "beneath 'the more deeply untellable stars' (Ninth Duino Elegy).

Old men lose drama, I think. They simply fold. What then from the folding?

"I always expect, expect, expect...but eventually fold into circumspection. I chase my tail in circles like a miserable cur stupidly spinning in one spot without dignity before flopping into a body curl, nose to haunch, canine yoga, dumbly pleased...(bemused)...And dumb. Did I say dumb yet? After all these years?...humiliating, really...Ah, what a pity party I am today." He smiles sadly. "But I'm catching hold of that tail...beneath those cold, blinking stars above...that goddamned, even colder Bone Cabin. Jeez...(musing)...What bones I be?...they caper in dreams alone, and free... where I wish to god-a-mighty... for once, O Solitude, to...to remain dreamless... for a little while...just a little, y'know...Can't an old man...a Catholic priest, for god sakes, go for awhile...without dreams?"

More Rilke, his epitaph, comes to mind but I keep still and quote to myself silently,

O Rose. O pure contradiction.
Delight to be no one's sleep beneath
so many eyelids.

I see the old Duino poet tenderly working his beloved later roses in Muzot. He winces, brings a finger to his mouth, sucks blood drawn by a fateful thorn, a slight smile for the hazardous love of roses, this small cut a reminder of the greater gash which opened the floodgates of poetry in him. This tiny wound on a late summer day bloomed into an infection, septicemia, which killed him:

O Rose...I address the Rose...
Poets embrace irony between
The petal 
and the thorn, one's infectious
Absence a lover's flag of surrender,

"No one's sleep beneath so many eyelids.
"

Dissent no more,
Yield the insistent argument of
Dirt no longer animal.


I listen. I empty out though Father Will's words fill me richly.

When I can empty I hover between attentions, solar plexus opening. Running. Returning. Hear and feel those desert winds blowing through. I pull a shawl around my shoulders. Reach for the hot tea in the more meaningful cup, its unquestioning solidity.

This harrowing wind carves out the space between and around us. Vast sky and earth open out. One shouts over the silence portended in such immensity, to hear a howling wind a mercy then, a reference point amidst the disorientation with all directions spinning away, sounding:

"Father Will... Father Will...Father Will...forty years serving the most weary and wretched of human souls in the most desolate famine places, in war's most wasted erasures of human face after human face after human face, uncomprehending events of erasure, of becoming absent, once and no more (Rilke again) and yet to be as he, the face that remains after the unfathomable, uncountable erasures? What then, beneath 'the more deeply untellable stars'?"



In his book, Damaged Bonds, psychoanalyst Michael Eigen gives us an image for such erasures, the perpetual presencing of absence depicted in the startling, heartbreaking image of one who is electrocuted yet survives as the ongoing, unending, remnant scream, a horrible locution. Or, Father Will's approximations, a folded bone. Or remaining a living face in the face of human erasures by the unknown, untold thousands, one's very presence, Father Will's, a reminder of faces lost, absent yet present in a most terrible gape. What locution can say any of this? What poetic device? What form of therapy or religion can get near much less stand against or stay with such absenting-as-a-verb, ongoing erasure, unending evacuation?

Heart broken and breaking in it's endless capacity to do so, binding up my own folded bones loosely, o loosely, butterfly netting my own post-sparked scream, breathing into the empty space of ongoing erasure I bear witness. I must. I will. Can I?

I must.

I watch my own gathering defenses against Nothingness hammering at the barricades, my impulsive, natural stiff-arming away, or trying, the scraping defacement, the depersonalizing isolation, the waiting on the narrow ridge, the liminal plank stretched over the sucking drink [the unfathomable depth], the unknowing unutterable which begs to be said, moved, demonstrated, given form, not guarded against--build a fence around it it yet remains the Void. Funny to have that word for such a thing which is no thing at all--enter Groucho Marx, eyes rolling, cigars blazing, "You said the Void, you got the boid."

To be present one must entertain (wrong word! wrong word!) absence, erasure, caesura, fall through and into the stark clarities, the resisted fogs. Once familiar knowns, real then, are now chimerical.
 With haruspicate hiccups, with hallowed hysterics, with magical passes we in the human analgesia trade ease and/or appease such voiding striving to drive away that which encroaches or more horrifyingly wells up from within and around us, kith, kin, klan, kultureeven worse, konjurers. We a-void this voiding with platitudes and cures all too quickly tapping and hypnotizing, reducing-exorcising-excising history, the past, the symptom. And we call it cure, absolution, salvation, enlightenment. Or adjustment. Or even more absurdly, citizenship. 

[Waterfall. Artist - Hiroshi Shinju]

What replaces in disorientation? What displaces one's foot on the straining liminal plank when one is haplessly pushed by Fate, or stumbles, or purposely leaps, falls, drops into dizzying isolated spins to become lost in order to gain, one hopes, another--The--Orientation, True North, a foothold, a toehold even, in the Void? how does one remain present with that one who returns to you a surviving scream, a folded bone? Where is the witness, the with-ness, then? A therapist, a guide, a zen master, a guru, a pastor, a priest, a rebbe, a doctor, a psychoanalyst and other wheezing analgesics like me are loans then against the client's nothingness, the client who banks upon your/my realness/reality until the folded bone, O Ezekiel, O Koan, connects to another bone (me) and another then another all born of desertion or theft or loss or death of historical knowns, nostrums and formulas in order to grow more substantial Bone, little death by little death, to arrive at a more enlivened, embodied Bone-soul retreaded for more grab in the Void until the final summing spin.

Father Will and I hang together, beside--like the two Biblical thieves, two opposing attitudes present at once in the Hanged Man proposing surrender, both blessing and cursing--between the "Why has Thou forsaken me?" of the God-man on the Golgotha Tree and the "Gate Gate Parasamgate"--Gone Gone Gone Beyond--of remotest Siddhartha Gautama riveted to the Bodhi Tree who smiles enigmatically perhaps delighting to be no one's sleep beneath so many eyelids. The joke and yoke upon us, we two thieves, Father Will and me, have both agreed to hang together though he has in the wilderness Bone Cabin endured and broken apart in infernal, internal weather, violent storms which now shake me, fold my bones. Yet somewhere within, a kind of madness it is, there is a soft yet enduring and endearing gratefulness for this shared wound, chronicity, which opens, one hopes, through absence into infinity into Presence. Perchance to find the dream in the remnant scream which is prayer by another name--location arrived from locution.

Father Will opens a book 
fetched from a deep cassock pocket, worn, torn like his book, an early work by Mark Strand. He gives me the "listen up, listen close, listen well, listen deep" look to which I nod turning my better ear to hear toward him.


"This was my major text at Bone Cabin," he reports.

He pauses, sips tea, then reads some lines to me from his text, friend to friend, warmly, Autumn darkness coming on, the Harvest moon gathering clouds out the office window. There's going to be rain:



How we wish we were sunning ourselves
In a world of familiar views
And fixed conditions, confined
By what we know, and able to refuse
Entry to the unaccounted for...
We do not feel protected

By the walls, nor can we hide
Before the duplicating presence
Of their mirrors, pretending we are the ones who stare
From the other side, collected
In the glassy air.
A cold we never knew invades our bones.
We shake as though storms were going to hurl us down
Against the flat stones
Of our lives. All other nights
Seem pale compared to this, and the brilliant rise
Of morning after morning seems unthinkable.
Already now the lights
That shared our wakefulness are dimming
And the dark brushes against our eyes.


"Next week?" he asks, slowly standing up.

"Next week."


[Read the entire poem, Violent Storm, below]


****************************************************************


**"Violent Storm" from New Selected Poems by Mark Strand. Copyright © 2007 by Mark Strand. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Violent Storm**

Those who have chosen to pass the night
entertaining friends
And intimate ideas in the bright,
Commodious rooms of dreams
Will not feel the slightest tremor
Or be weakened by what seems
Only a quirk in the dry run
Of conventional weather. For them,
The long night sweeping over these trees
And houses will have been no more than one
In a series whose end
Only the nervous or morbid consider.
But for us, the wide awake, who tend
To believe the worst is always waiting
Around the next corner or hiding in the dry,
Unsteady branch of a sick tree, debating
Whether or not to fell the passerby,
It has a sinister air.
How we wish we were sunning ourselves
In a world of familiar views,
And fixed conditions, confined
By what we know, and able to refuse
Entry to the unaccounted for. For now,
Deeper and darker than ever, the night unveils
Its dubious plans, and the rain
Beats down in gales
Against the roof. We sit behind
Closed windows, bolted doors,
Unsure and ill at ease
While the loose, untidy wind,
Making an almost human sound, pours
Through the open chambers of the trees.
We cannot take ourselves or what belongs
To us for granted. No longer the exclusive,
Last resorts in which we could unwind,
Lounging in easy chairs,
Recalling the various wrongs
We had been done or spared, our rooms
Seem suddenly mixed up in our affairs.
We do not feel protected
By the walls, nor can we hide
Before the duplicating presence
Of their mirrors, pretending we are the ones who stare
From the other side, collected
In the glassy air.
A cold we never knew invades our bones.
We shake as though storms were going to hurl us down
Against the flat stones
Of our lives. All other nights
Seem pale compared to this, and the brilliant rise
Of morning after morning seems unthinkable.
Already now the lights
That shared our wakefulness are dimming
And the dark brushes against our eyes.

For online reading click here or copy and paste:

http://books.google.com/books?id=I9-IBpQfghEC&pg=PT20&lpg=PT20&dq=mark+strand+%2B+reasons+for+moving&source=bl&ots=P6UUyl_bX7&sig=-pTesOGSguae7Z8iHQEIuB6eH6M&hl=en&ei=qODlSrj4GsbUlAepltnoCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=15&ved=0CD4Q6AEwDg#v=onepage&q=&f=false


Reasons For Moving

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is 
always the case. 
Wherever I am 
I am what is missing. 

When I walk 
I part the air 
and always 
the air moves in 
to fill the spaces 
where my body’s been. 

We all have reasons 
for moving. 
I move 
to keep things whole. --Mark Strand

“Keeping Things Whole” from Selected Poems by Mark Strand. Copyright © 1980 by Mark Strand. Reprinted with the permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

***
from "The Mental Traveler" by William Blake, Complete Poems of William Blake

****The Marquet Affair: While in Berlin, Schopenhauer was named as a defendant in an action at law initiated by a woman named Caroline Marquet. She asked for damages, alleging that Schopenhauer had pushed her. Knowing that he was a man of some means and that he disliked noise, she deliberately annoyed him by raising her voice while standing right outside his door. Marquet alleged that the philosopher had assaulted and battered her after she refused to leave his doorway. Her companion testified that she saw Marquet prostrate outside his apartment. Because Marquet won the lawsuit, he made payments to her for the next twenty years. When she died, he wrote on a copy of her death certificate, Obit anus, abit onus ("The old woman dies, the burden is lifted.-http://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer#The_Marquet_Affair


"Point of No Return", Collision Center, Randall Potts, O Books (January 1994)

The Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Spender & J.B. Leishman, Norton Press.

Dreams and the Underworld, James Hillman, Harper & Row,

Damaged Bonds, Michael Eigen, Karnac Press

Winter Field.  Keene, NY

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ALL  PHOTOS BY WARREN FALCON.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED TO HIM.  SHOULD YOU WISH TO USE A PHOTO THEN CONTACT WARREN ON THIS BLOGSPOT SITE.

Reprise Essay - The Stark Clarities, The Folded Bone, The Horrible Locution--Father Will In From The Violent Storm

[A violent storm moves toward Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala, Mexico and its central church, La Iglesia de San Jose, August 16, 2009. Click on the photo to enlarge the image. Photo by Warren Falcon]

Pretext

O
f storms and absolution at the outset, a context for Father Will, for us all as we fall with our Falling Star:

We know mythically that violent storms have served the offended Higher Powers to destroy old and no longer viable divine and human (cultural) orders. These storms arrive, post-destruction, to restore, renew, relink Creative Power(s) with creation and from that tempestuous interaction, with culture. It can be said, then, that culture is a crime of passion for even the gods fight amongst themselves (as they should for it is from this divine conflict that the "10,00 things" of creation are manifest), are subject to an Order/Disorder which we humans continually try to divine from which neither the gods nor we can escape, as poet Mark Strand writes, now "hurled down against the flat stones of our lives." Gods, too, are hurled down upon those stone tablets, unyielding codes, calcified cosmologies representing the flat world of old orders no longer viable because they cannot accommodate the horrific fact of their own shadow (projected upon creatures/creations), the shadow of the institutions formed around them, and of what humans with their brilliant but deadly shadows have been able to technologically create and in the creating awaken globally destructive powers. As our gods are so are our determined destructions. Our annihilating bombs along with our balms are images of our contrary and contradictory gods. It is we and creation who suffer them.

Thus we are startled awake, overwhelmed in this age of authentic anxiety, of pandemic sleep disorders, of pathological gods (Jung says our gods now show up as pathologies, as symptoms), their religions and our consequent spiritual bypasses warily, scarily aware of this cosmic set up in this crushing, cranking cosmological turn of the Wheel since the old and current centers and the meaning they once provided do not, apparently will not, hold because they carry internally their own apocalyptic seeds of destruction in order to be renewed, a process en perpetua, called renaissance, which is a hope but not a guarantee or given. We are in this condition where "the center cannot hold...things fall apart," to quote William Butler Yeats. Carl Jung indicates that we are moving through the threshold of chaos and kairos:

"A mood of universal destruction and renewal has set its mark on our age. This mood makes itself felt everywhere, politically, socially and philosophically. We are living in what the Greeks called the KAIROS - The Right Moment - for a “metamorphosis of the gods”, of the fundamental principles and symbols... So much is at stake and so much depends on the psychological constitution of the modern human.” -C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self 

"Kairos is the passing moment in which something happens as the time unfolds...it is a small window of becoming and opportunity. One of the origins of the word comes from shepherds watching the stars. As the night progresses and the stars turn in the sky, they appear to rise and then fall against the horizon. The moment when a star has reached its apogee and appears to change direction from ascending to descending is its kairos." --Corrigall, J, Payne, H, Wilkinson, H (eds), About A Body, 2006: pg. 201

Like it or not, Father Will expresses/compresses/distresses within this context of chaos and kairos, the falling star of our Aeon (symbolically, stars represent particular points and specific constellations/apparitions of consciousness). In so doing he speaks for us all though we may hide our heads in bestseller, consumerist New Age and similar sands, vacuous, temporary spiritualish confections, or alternately/alternatively, calcified and calcifying Fundamentalist invectives and insurrections, denial or bile by any other name, sympathetic magic flailing or doctrinaire dogma flagellating against the tragic condition of gods and man, self-righteous fingers or hand folded namastes pointing actively or passively at the scapegoated causes. This understandable but narcotic narcissism in the end will not lead us through this nekyia ("night sea journey") like Odysseus to that newly discovered inland terra firma where we must plant our hand hewn oar carried far from familiar seas and shores.

The fullness of this time, Kairos of the falling star (which is a violent storm, indeed), of cultural/cosmological dis-aster (meaning, ill-starred), is reliant upon human capacities such as they are, but effective enough, to proclaim, reclaim and proceed to ongoingly integrate shadow, human and divine, for it is the work not only of egos but of eras. It is also a time to grow equally enduring capacities for disorder, for chaos so as not to blame or punish gods, Nature nor humans for what appears to be a primary given of existence, entropy, which is inevitable social, physical and energetic decline and degeneration. In tandem with entropy there are or can be evolving human capacities for what I call syntropy where we may more consciously witness and participate in the inexorable falling apart while keeping meaning-threads in mindful hands while winding and finding our way within and potentially out of one labyrinthine Wheel Turn into newer ones of potentially creative/destructive formations. Ensuing personal, collective and cosmological gains may be derived from willful Time's twining whorl and wheal* for this Fateful ordeal of inevitable wandering is imposed by appointed rising and falling stars, ours and our cultures' scars the signatures of their greater impositions.

Ah, but now I hear Father Will growling, "But who or what is it appoints the stars?"

[* "wheal -- mark made on the skin by a whip," 1808, probably an alteration of wale, possibly by confusion with weal "welt," and obsolete wheal "pimple, pustule" (1440), from O.E. verb hwelian"to form pus, bring to a head."


[Portrait of Arthur Schopenhauer, the 1800's German philosopher and inspiration for our Father Will who reappears in this month's essay to quarrel, and in quarreling make confession, with Existenz, his own, mine, the Church's, the New Age and more because of and amidst the persistent agonies. Father Will returns to us here first introduced in my March 2009 Learning For Life Group Newsletter essay also found here on the blogspot (click 'March (2)' under 'Blog Archive'). The retired and retiring, troubled and troubling, goodly Father is a composite character, a convenient and necessary fiction drawn from my practice comprised of many, composed by one. I've chosen his name, Father Will, to signify Human Volition, Will to Power/Will to Cower in homage to Schopenhauer who wrote The World As Will And Representation (To get a sense of his philosophy go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer). However, any resemblance to an actual person is completely accidental unless it is an oblique locution referring to me. Credit for the painting here of Herr Schopenhaeur is from wikipedia online: "This portrait of Schopenhauer was painted in April 1859 by J. Lunteschutz...This image... is in the public domain because its copyright has expired."


Further Pretexts for Absence:

Artaud warns his readers and listeners that each person who knows conflict and seeks to grow, must expect a shearing of flesh and a letting go of blood in the act of life which is a cruelty.

To be you can let yourself go until you just exist,
but to live,
you must be someone,
to be someone,
you must have a Bone,
not be afraid to show the bone
and to lose the meat by the wayside.

And what is infinity?
We do not know exactly.
It is a word
which we use
to indicate
WIDENING
of our consciousness
toward the inordinate,
inexhaustible and inordinate
feasibility.

...but there is one thing
which is something,
only one thing
which is something,
that I feel
wants to
COME OUT:
the presence
of my bodily
pain,

the menacing
never increasing
presence
of my
body.

To live meant to Artaud--to act, to hurt and be hurt, to experience fully joy and pain, and in so doing, to mold, create--and recreate oneself in the process..."I hate and renounce as a coward every being who consents to live without first having created himself."

--from Artaud, Man of Vision, Bettina L. Knapp, First Swallow Press / Ohio University Press edition 1980, from the Preface, pg. 217-218, pg. 214

And if the babe is born a boy
He’s given to a woman old,
Who nails him down upon a rock,
Catches his shrieks in cups of gold. -- William Blake***

Obit anus, abit onus ("The old woman dies, the burden is lifted") --Arthur Schopenhauer****

According to Julia Kristeva in the Powers of Horror, the abject refers to the human reaction (horror, vomit) to a threatened breakdown in meaning caused by the loss of the distinction between subject and object or between self and other. The primary example for what causes such a reaction is the corpse (which traumatically reminds us of our own materiality); however, other items can elicit the same reaction: the open wound, shit, sewage, even the skin that forms on the surface of warm milk.--from a Purdue University web article:
The abject for Kristeva is, therefore, closely tied both to religion and to art, which she sees as two ways of purifying the abject: "The various means of purifying the abject—the various catharses—make up the history of religions, and end up with that catharsis par excellence called art, both on the far and near side of religion".

--http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/psychoanalysis/kristevaabject.html

At times one might say: "In the beginning there was nourishment."

At times one might say: "In the beginning there was catastrophe."

Bion's writings give voice to the traumatized self. If Walt Whitman sings the body electric and catalogues joys of self, Bion details what it is like for self to be electrocuted and to continue as the remains...Destruction turns up and screaming substitutes for satisfaction. Bion is most keenly Bion in depicting destructive transformations of the scream as link. He is particularly master of the fading scream, the scream that dies forever, background radiation of spaceless space, the dispersed scream...Silence explodes...From nourishment to explosive wipe-out."

--from Damaged Bonds, Michael Eigen, H. Karnac (Books) Ltd, 2001, pgs. 29-30

In a field I am the absence of field. --Mark Strand

Becoming and transformation are tasks imposed on man by Fate, working both from within and without him, and this is something which man becomes aware of at the turning points, the crises of his existence. In so far as man experiences such crises with anxiety and under the image of inescapable death he also experiences himself as one disposed by nature to transcend his existence as it is at any moment and to experience and express previously unknown possibilities.

-- The Dream and the Underworld, James Hillman, New York: Harper & Row, 1979, pg. 113

This essay is dedicated to dearly departed Karen Eberle, Tien Ho, Walter Schell, and last but not at all least, the astonishing Marianne Annur:

"It means so much that we can be broken..." --Raul Voz, from Las Poemas Cornadas (The Cornada Poems)






























































































































































































Who Am I? Magician Or Mystic?

"Lead, O Kindly Light" - Keene Woods

A dash of a thought/a ponder years now but realizing something significant, I am more inclined to  mysticism than magic (shamanism):

I have known master Magicians. I have trained amd sat at their entrancing feet and fed on their every entrancing word and magical pass and, yes, in some ways I have been altered but, alas, after years of wasted time there at those "holy" feet,  I have not been altared.

A hard lesson: states of mind can be easily altered but what a mystic, Paul of Tarsus, says, renewal and transformation of the mind is not easy and without Grace it is not to be had at all, much less lived.

I have rediscovered that I am more inclined to the Mystic's path and not that of the Magician. Temperamentally I am more inclined to the former than the latter though I realize that the shadow lies in the Magician's path and have been forced upon it for the sake of some wrenching, humiliating and ultimately humbling encounters with shadow and the shadow of power and power of shadow. See my blogspot piece on "peaks and vales" that goes into this in more detail.
http://falconwarren.blogspot.com/2012/04/of-getting-low-down-and-vale-of-soul.html

OSHO [Bhagwan Rajneesh] discoursed (and I transcribe exactly from his English): "You start escaping into the other. Gather courage. Take a plunge into your being. Let us be acquainted with our own Center. Let us ask only one question, "Who am I?" All else is meaningless. Unless this question is answered all your love affairs, friendships are all nonsense. Unless this question is answered nothing is answered. Go into your aloneness. Let only one quest, "who am I?" And don't seek consolations because cheap consolations are available. The mind is very clever in supplying them. When you ask, "who am I?" and the mind can supply immediately and answer and the mind is very clever. Mind says, "You are god. You are a soul, immortal soul." These are the ideas in put by the Magician put in the heads of poor seep. The magician suggest to a few that you are lions, to few that you are eagles, to few that you are man, to few that you are even Magicians. That Magicians hypnotize the seep and told them that "you are immortal souls. Nobody can harm you ever. How [can] you be harmed? The Magician suggested [to] them that, "I am for you. I am the best master you can find ever and I exist for you. And I will do whatever is needed and I will do whatsoever is good for you. Even if I kill you I will be killing you just for your sake." You have been given these ideas by the society. Your mind is nothing but a projection of the society. It is society within you. The penetration of the society inside you. It is in the image of society. You have been told things and you have believed...this is not your answer. You have been taught by the Magician. I am not saying the answer is wrong or right. I am simply saying it is not your answer and when the answer is not yours it is wrong."

 
Active volcano, Popocatpetl, in Mexico.  

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Longest Road? From the Mother to the Front Door - Intentional and Unintentional Initiation, Disorientation, Reorientation

[Warren 6 year old & tipi]
"The longest road? From the mother to the front door." - I heard this in the 80's when I stumbled into a black and white "art" film (my tv was still black n white) from some Nordic country. Just images and then a male voice making statements. The above quote was almost immediate upon channel hopping into the film. I often attribute the quote to Carl Jung who wrote similarly regarding the male's initiation into mature masculinity marked by his shifting relationship to the personal mother (and known or not known, the Mother archetype).
The quote below is from Norman O. Brown's book (Brown is not Jungian but Freudian) of aphorisms/quotes, Love's Body, and has stuck with me since I read it years and years ago in my 20's. It still does. It sticks in my "craw" and at the same time is "crawl space" into some creative cave (mother = cave) dreaming around mothers and sons, mothers and men, and men's "fraternities" and "initiations" which serve to move boys out of the "mother tent" and into a more (one hopes, still hoping) mature relationship to mother/women. WARNING, Freudian language ahead. The first sentence is not by Brown but by Margaret Mead:
In the chapter "Nature", Brown writes:
...The transition from matriarchy to patriarchy is always with us, and gets us nowhere...
...
The fraternity is itself the mother. “The journey of initiation is ended. It goes from the mothers to the mothers. Although in reality the young man is henceforth to be separated from the mother, symbolically he is brought back to her…The young man is put into a hole and reborn--this time under the auspices of his male mothers.” Male mothers; or vaginal fathers: when the initiating elders tell the boys” we two are friends”, they show them their subincised penis, artificial vagina, or “penis womb.” The fathers telling the sons, “leave your mother and love us, because we too, have a vagina.” Dionysius, the god of eternal youth, and of secret societies was the twice born: Zeus destroyed his earthly mother by fire, caught the baby to his thigh, saying: “Come enter this my male womb.”…Male mothers; "shield bearing nurses", the political authorities...From the mothers to the mothers. The transition from matriarchy to patriarchy is always with us, and gets us nowhere.
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Now, I had a dream during my Jungian analysis that my penis had a scar the length of it that was more than scar. I was non-plussed in the dream...what the? and woke up in mystery. I had no recall of the Brown quote above. My analyst, a Hindu/Buddhism scholar, used the word "sub-incision" and spoke of its symbolism throughout many cultures of the world, mostly amongst primal cultures.
Seems I was having an initiation dream, or had had an initiation or was going to undergo yet another one. It turned out to be the latter. I won't go into it here but the dream heralded a painful ejection from a "mother's tent" which still repercusses in me to this moment. 
Exile
There is not a chapter titled "Exile" in Love's Body which I think Brown should have included.
What is most exile about exile out of the mothers is that the exile is into men, the Western male, mama's boys all, with all the wounding and immaturity, the violent swagger thereof. Never at home in this so-called father's tent, I have lived in limbo, in between. My unconscious middle-aged attempt to return to the mother's tent ended in eventual failure (and thank god it did). I got some golden things from that attempt (a more mature vocation by descending into several levels of hell disguised as Light). That failure was indeed an initiation out of the also wounded "mother tent" and into my nascent "monk" self which now knows that the psychological journey is indeed individuation = out of outer fraternities AND maternities and into more conscious, deeper relationship to what Jung calls the Self, the archetype of wholeness, which includes masculine, feminine and, most importantly, androgeny. 

Woke up from a dream last year hearing this:
He's gone crow said one poet of another.
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This morning I dreamed of yet another friendly "hang" with Barrack Obama (for me, a most postivie father/brother embodiment), warmth, laughter, great conversation. Outdoor picnic. Then the dream switched to me teaching/leading a reading group where we were reading John Gardner's Grendel, a new edition which had underlined parts (segments) in between the original text. There were 2 Catholic priests/monks who had joined the group late and could not find the passage that was being read and discussed. I pointed it out to them. NEXT one of the priest/monks asked me if I was a Catholic and was on the verge of steering the group into an attempt to evangelize/convert all of us or, especially, me. I was having none of that. Not yet at any rate. And cut him short while trying to be respectful but he was not going to be deterred, which is disrespectful, so I lambasted him in good Grendel fashion.
Individuation in dreams. And who are these monk/priests in me? My Gardner/Grendel side (Grendel was a mama's boy, half human, who wanted to leave her and join the King's tent (the King was his father). He was half monster and so was rejected and hated by the father and his "sons")...
How to hold these opposites. Gardner wrote his Grendel story, Beowulf, from the monster's point of view, with Jean Paul Sartre's existentialism in mind. Most excellent. That 2 Catholics show up in the reading group makes sense to me as they represent the opposite of Existentialism. And thus the conflict between faith and doubt goes on. Essence vs Existenz. Yada Yada. But for me this conflict is not nada. Though nada is nothing and yet is not nothing but it somehow matters.

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Blah blah...I meander. I, Meanderthal, most enthralled by it all, this journey lived "in and out of the garbage pail" (Fritz Perls)...good scrubbings (and drubbings) in between which is where I live, in between. Jean Genet wrote beautifully of the in between or, more accurate, on the edge viz his late writing about a "tight rope walker" (his last long term partner/lover was a young Algerian circus performer, a tight rope walker, who died by, of course, plummeting from the rope while attempting to perform somersauts that Genet insisted he do). Friedrich Nietzsche's famous tight rope walker passages underscore (as does Genet's tight rope walker) alienation and liminality which, Carl Jung underscores, is part and parcel to the path of individuation. One who becomes marginal to the collective suffers but it is not meaningless suffering as the goal, the drive, is toward individuation which is an ongoing, dynamic, intense intimate and life sustaining relationship with Meaning/Mystery-as-Source. Or what can be made (imagined) of the encounter of self with Self/Wholly Other.

Yes. There are women's mysteries. There are men's mysteries. Both are to be undergone for growing an ego, developing character, and once there is a self or self-enough, a deeper relationship to Archetypal Self becomes more conscious (or can) and some of Mystery is attainable in terms of integration and understanding but in the end Mystery remains. Mystery may not be comprehensible but it is certainly apprehensible, grasped (prehensile) with ensuing articulations of that, as T.S. Eliots says, which is unsayable. Approximations. Hints. Glimpses. 

Some days (and most nights, at least for me) are existential. And some other days and nights are validations/almost-verifications of individual essence/being participating in Greater Essence/Being. Initiations provide such encounters. Or set up possibilities. And, undoubtedly initiations are woundings out of one state of being into another, are threshold and crisis where some parts of us die. Some parts make it over to the other side with us whoever that us now be as a result of the ordeal of the crossing - Who/what dies? Who/what is born? and who/what remains, has been brought with and over from the other side? We do bring over our personal mothers and fathers and do that work for a lifetime (lifetimes?). Although we may complete around mother/father as history and complex we work it one way or other till the end. But what do I know? Just making observations from the vantage of the parentheses I live in.

And then there are fathers with great big fat mother complexes so what is his son to do?


Turning Thighs To Diamonds

Or what man is there among you, of whom if his son 
shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone? - Matthew 7: 9


No blame shall stain us now, father.
The heavy ball you hit to me is never caught, 
a floppy glove always falls from a hesitant hand. 
Mars in you still storms the makeshift diamond. 
Each base of cardboard weighted with stone 
is still our house; a bat, a ball, a mitt, 
hard rules of the game undo all lust 
for dark heaven shunning shining girls.

I was reaching for god then - not your fault - a lavender 
boy early befriended by crows, already resigned to what 
was given and what was to come, a softball between the 
eyes, your attempt to guide me toward those diamond 
thighs which, you often repeated, were everywhere waiting.
I blink still before you, head down, focused on Lion's Teeth.**
I am your hard mystery, and soft, not so fast for I am fat 
and cannot round the bases quick. I am your inherited meek, 
a burden to shake into a sliding man furious for home.

At four I pluck a wild strawberry you point to, 
all authority and accidental grace. Revealing much, 
still dew wet, sticky to the touch, opening sourness 
deserves my frown. You laugh at my dawning smile 
for its sweetness slowly yields a surprise gift 
for what will always unite us, your fear that I too
will suffer your fate, untended desire gone to wildness 
brought low beneath branches, slow embrace of 
cradle-gentle boughs entangling legs and light 
between the greater shadows, 

and shadows shall win the day.

Still, these essential things are caught 
for all our mostly wasted days of practice, 

wild sweetness is a stolen base, 
the tongue an untended garden.

There is a burning soft hands can know 
which shall finally run some headlong 
for home, an inherited circle at the end, 
a latter-day glad son gathering berries from shadows.


**Dandelion 


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Kahlo-Christ Conjunctions - Sacrificed Flesh, Broken Bread, Emmaus Vision

[I first published this piece January 28, 2011.  I haven't read this for some years now but having just done so I see that an intensive rewrite and edit is much needed.  Still, time not now allowing such, I republish it as is with the intention of working this piece over again (sorely in need of commas and such to assist readers in comprehending what is admittedly surreal, not linear, is inductive as in trance inducing).

Frida Kahlo. The Broken Column. 1944. Oil on Masonite. 38.6 x 31 cm Dolores Olmedo Foundation, Mexico City, Mexico.


As with love, also the bellows.


Calavera*, the Future stands
hand to mouth, fingers to 

forehead unfolding before 
 still instatic shapes.

Hold desperately to frames 

beforethese quaking perceptions.

She could not stop there,
had to
flare out, dry paint,
and the dryer flesh
peel down
to bone, a sexless esqueleto**,

skull no longer mustached,
a calavera,
nothing more,
curved calcium reliant
forever
upon canvas, what is congealed
there
to fan and burn,
a "cauda pavonis"***.
- the author, from the text below

*Skull
**Skeleton
***Peacock's Tail (an image in alchemy).


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"Poetry such as this attempts not just a new syntax of the word. Its revolution is aimed at the syntax of the mind itself. Its structuring of experience is purposive, not dreamlike. We are dealing with a self-induced, or naturally or mysteriously come by, creative state from which two of the most fundamental human activities diverge, the aesthetic and the mystic act. The creative matrix is the same in both, and it is that state of being that is most peculiarly and characteristically human, as the resulting aesthetic and mystic experience is the purist form of human act. There is a great deal of overlapping, today especially, when art is all the religion most people have and when they demand of it experiences that few people of the past demanded of religion....A visionary poem is not a vision. The religious experience is necessitated and ultimate." - Kenneth Rexroth, World Outside the Window, the Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth, pg. 255-256

Rexroth's words
 are pertinent to the images used in this essay, Kahlo's painting above is visionary, Grunewald's are religious, and several photos are both, and all are "aimed at the syntax of the mind itself.. Its restructuring of experience is purposive, not dreamlike." The images included in this essay, which is more a prose poem than regular prose, are meant to convey equally or more, at least as as much as, the words in their incantatory formations which may induce entrance into 'imaginal' spaces where word and image meet in a practical magic, inspire a felt understanding and perhaps gain a view or actual entrance into what ecstatic poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, calls "the Greater Relation."

I've decided to publish this piece-in-progress as it unwinds in spirals "aimed at the syntax of the mind itself...its restructuring of experience" with the understanding that it may later appear in greatly altered form. In a real sense this writing writes itself; I try to heed, copy, then hone to the bone what might be wanting to be sung, for what is below, and often what I write, is more akin to music, a vocal/verbal lilt beyond a particular solid tilt of view of a world absolute, static logos.

Heraclitus noted thousands of years ago, "All is flux."

To this I would only add, and perhaps this is what all of my writing amounts to,

"All is reflux."

Selah. WF

NYC, 1/31/11


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Many who know me know that I am passionate about Mexico, my love for the land, the people, the history and culture. Mexico embodies an ongoingly dramatic and profound conflict of body and soul in land and people. There, both pre-Christian religion and Catholic Christianity still strive with each other, traumatically rumble and stumble together a vibrant mix of dynamic images and energies, literal active volcanoes and temblores (earthquakes) add concrete umphasis to what noble telluric forces are seeking to be expressed in manifest people and geography; both the old (pre-Columbian) and the new (to the continent Christian) religions with their tectonic gods and cosmologies enamored/riveted to Star-and-Sky with their calculable notions, mathematics greater than ourselves, abstractions of once solid exigencies greater still, are compensations for blood-, earth-, carbon-, metal- deities. Incorporating the Sky, an edible notion, the more potent sacraments of plants - fungus, febrile root, vine, leaf, pulp, spore, entire chemical choirs of angels gather in a chew or brew, a puff and spew, fiber and fever swallows which lead to being swallowed by raw Existence unmasked revealing infinity forever turning in upon itself, an Uroboric Fractal to which we are not inclined in spite of religious wars to give ourselves consciously, utterly. Given this parity of storming exacting deities, revealed in their own inexorable mathematics calculated in plucked hearts and heads rolled, it is no wonder that the imagery and message of Christianity would strongly resonate in Aztecan and other indigenous psyches of Mexico.


Enter Frieda Kahlo, code in part for me, of Mexico and the maelstrom of the Twentieth century, of modernism, of vibrant culture and of passionate human suffering and creativity. Kahlo's paintings partake of this iconoclastic encounter of catastrophic theologies formed around and within the mouths/bellies of gods of trauma seeking to relieve that trauma by blood requirements either enacted ritually/symbolically in religious rituals or in literal violence acted out in unconscious identity with these instinctual gods, usually both; Carl Jung once said that "god is a most shocking problem...god is a trauma."

Each viewing
of a Kahlo painting is a viewing of her life, body and soul, its alluded metal serpents, cyclopic hulking male tyros (Rivera, Trotsky, to name only two), volcanic, engorged Titans of Malinche, chingares (goring ones as the bull gores hungrily) swallowed, too, hoping both to remain and to break free of Her, the Great Saurian Mother, Plumed Serpent, Quetzalcoatl, inherited deities extracting from Kahlo and Mexico literal blood, for paint is blood, too, gashes in brush strokes she could never quite conceal/congeal (and thus her paintings turn hemorrhage to good purposes), becoming herself the clot, her flesh an unwitting tattoo of existence's beautiful and terrible forms. A life with needles, stitched, she pitched repeatedly into the long throat of the Alimentary Great Mother, Uruboros tail in mouth, recreating Her self by hard passages, throat to anus to birth canal and cave, galactic center point waiting perhaps at the other (no) end, carbon jesters, angels teeming on Quetzal quill tips, twinkling fires in the pitch, sometimes called stars, or ravens, black heralds of colors yet to brilliantly come.


Her chosen medium of paint scores the story of soul wrenched from the body in a terrible accident, personal FATE of archetypal proportions lending images to a human century soon to be overly wed to, dependent upon, and controlled by its machines, the soul's uneasy return to a life on earth, mechanics of body, mechanics of the Twentieth century god, Pragmatics, fed by workers' blood, soul's body's become none other than alchemy's 'Cauda Pavonis', the peacock's tail, or the peacock itself, enduring a magnificent ecstasy/agony, an 'in between' phase in which many colors appear, splendid iridescence, midway point, a false conclusion, merely a digestion of polarities of the black and white flaring in brilliant tints upon glinting metal gears, upon human workers glistening sweat - all light is a glancing blow - to be further transformed not only into spiritual tinctures but into spinal ones as well in which she dips brushes, fingertips in finality no longer lingering; she pours salt into what is left of a self, a wound imaged, lived, no longer intuited, recognized as sacred for a scar is not an idol but a deity hard won.

Kahlo's images are soul trying to scry the "tragic side of life", the careening streetcar of the Future repeatedly crashing into the always pedestrian bus of Now, forever-world yet changed by the same themes such are archetypes extending at least for a life span which envisions, enlarge, into the next few centuries.
As with love, also the bellows.




Try as I may to render Kahlo as noun and verb, as event still venting from grave mouths such are canvases, my attempts fail to distill, to come to terms with what happened to her at 16 years of age, piercing metal violated flesh newly woman, which turned her into something completely utterly astonished, livid and unforgiving pain burning her to vapor, yet, still, each canvas she is ever falling back within the cruel alchemical vas, glass splinters into unrelenting nerves, encased steel-plated Virgin taking a cyclops for lover.


Love inherent in Kahlo's work is all the more Love amidst the ruins disguised as progress. Kahlo's Christ-self in thorn necklace, hummingbird in shape of the Cross, at times her eyebrows, is the "more real" to me than any I have been so far tendered but for Grunewald's painting of the Isenheim Christ (imaged just below) for the sanatorium altarpiece, a diseased Christ on the Cross covered with syphilitic sores showing "the strange beauty shining through the disgust and unbearable pain of disease" (text from the back cover of Evil, Sexuality, and Disease in Grunewald's Body of Christ, by Eugene Monick). I now run from any "offering" of Deity which drives me further away from my humanity, all of it, by which no god or gods are deposed but, rather, exposed in the fleeing to be all the more gathered, and all the more weathered, endured.

[Note the excerpted image from Grunewald's Body of Christ painting on the book cover]

I dwell more in Kahlo's world and long to someday live in her Mexico which to diminishing degree still exists, which does not refuse the comfort of iron nor of Grace, always a surprise, placed and displaced at once in the scarring conjunction of flesh and spirit, human/divine images prominent in Christianity, a dismembered and devoured Christ as only incarnation allows, insistent autonomy arguing autonomy, rough acceptance, Grunewald's unique One, especially the One with shades appealing eternity, beheld for a sickly yet shining fractured and much, much loved, begotten world.

Christianity, not the Christ, exchanged images for words, images within them breaking to openness into and beyond that mortal sign bursting still into the still more open "Word" which, too, in spite of Churchly preventions and stops, breaks free of doctrine-adequately-flavored but seeks perhaps secretly to be undone, "the bells, I say, the bells break down their towers" (Hart Crane, "The Broken Tower").

In reaction to images and imaginations leaping out of the word/Word, breaking free even within the Church, "heresies" so called, the Official Church poured concrete into molds (and pouring more still), congregations hardened to prevent further conjugations of Imagination within the Words, the Magisterial Delirium of Word/God ensnared - "once reified deified" - yet insists upon only those sanctioned shapes, and in so doing much of its soul and body wanders, strays, lost in the exchange of image/imagination for said concretions, un-altared sentences weathering in now acid rains. Granted, logos, word, needed to be cultivated in order to extend human consciousness into the past 2000 years, but words and Word ARE images in abstract, compacted, myriad "angels of the face" (a phrase in Shi'ite (mystical) Islam for the appearance of that "Other, Truer World" revealed in myriad manifest "faces/images" apparently eternally unfolding in space and time); all these it is supposed was/is compressed into a Word, "the Word made flesh which dwelt", and dwells still, "among us" donning disguises, for eyes, even God's, want to see newly through the darkening glass that always optically teases Imagination from it's coyness.

Still, such timidity ends in engorged blood, meat requirements, rendering vaporous sublimity too thin for fingers, why forks were invented.
If modernity, it's forks and faxes, returns anything of value to us stretching into denial which is all our futurity, it is the return of images, official and unofficial, which return us in turn to our official and unofficial selves, limping shod or un-, ens-not-Ens (being-not-Being) as we are chafed to particular part-selves multipli-imaged as they want or dream to be - Who are we?

Frieda with her Twentieth century stifles a yawn and "stuffs the universe into her eyes" (a line from a poem by zen poet, Shinkichi Takahashi).

My words here are not intended, nor are they able, to exclude what Word-oriented, revealed religions of "the Book" have brought to us and advanced, but now, next 2000 years, the creative struggle will be to conjoin meaningfully polygamous images of psyche into compressions (es-pressions, as in espresso) and ex-pressions (pressed out) by and with word and Word which have tendencies toward monotheism, one true meaning only, which results therefore, can't be avoided, into a heavy-handedness in terms of a perceived/derived one and only Absolute. Ironically, the Arabs discovery of always heavy Zero - which, to me, is the only Absolute of merit - gave birth to a multiplicity, diverse, perverse, all the more irascible yet embraceable, maddeningly erasable, while growing arms beyond counting, the better to carry the unforgiving densities.

Count them (or try) we must; for congenital compulsions such are calcifications - spirit, soul, life in the body - are gripped in the teeth of the world; beatific, we perceive ourselves to be in the image of deity. Still, we can believe we are "safe"within these calcified "absolutes" - o here is the "burning bush" - or we can risk the profligate ramble which is consciousness, a fire still burning, an intuition in each image that there is more here than meets the eye or thigh or deities as imaged. We all look, or try, beneath the skin of things - under what is presented, or within it - for that half-guessed/hinted at and/or "felt sense" that there is MORE beyond the barred nerve, more and "other-than" the shock of a chrome, bumper-bent world careening, aware that within all is here a Presence, all images and words assuming that Presence - Arab's gift of the non-alloyed Zero unmeasured by mass, a better name for god depending on thermal history's twisting vector, ghostly mirage, if any are to be had - the base in spite of or within the Metallic Matrix of the blacksmith heart hammering verdigris, chambers, ventricles, into shape, Newton's grave conjugations, living time solidified, hardened, stiffening Presence into dilute renderings of base metal, and chaste Frieda, her canvases chasing plutonium wire unaware, bears the blunt end of Presence at the end of the Aeon of the Fishes still barely beyond Bronze Age's just sharpened edges fluted, pre-Christian Mexico preferring obsidian ones hacked, chipped, scraped upon hard flint. Frieda, volcano born, turns into conjugal vessel, Quetzal plume conjoined to Serpent skin rebirthing extensions of crash, a returning God, boat and horse delivered from the red beard of the bloated sea confronting yet one more deity requiring blood.

Viewing Kahlo's paintings, which she came to embody, and they her, even those images and words sought which seek expression upon human tongue in human eye, still seek to deny or decry that Presence, Dark Night in broad day, all appearance, a drift beyond meaning, only a swaying bus careening yet again, repeating collision of the Virgin's hymen, amniotic Host forever a Lover divided yet again, Crepuscular Christi, all this in Kahlo, revered now, cultic, for she is Woman Christ multipli-imaged Suffering One with breasts, concealed antlered uterus wincing at anviled annunciations verified only in wavering beliefs such are weeping statues and surreal apparitions strung out on coniunctio, Gethsemani Girl seen, no longer concealed at all or hidden in plain sight, Christ-o-form agony, isolate, angry, raging, bereft human confusion, "despised and rejected", the
meanness within ourselves destined to see our deities through to the end though beyond capacity to smell necrosis, to see the exit wounds of soul coagulating disguised as skin, muscle, sinew.

But it is we who are seen and thus the imperative mercy and compassion, o endlessly, endlessly, for existence as it is and the miracle of that Shining Stranger encountered on all our Emmaus road all the more Real-ing. Lest the bread be broken by that Stranger our eyes cannot see, cannot taste the Thou in existence extending Himself, or Herself as Kahlo-Christ, into our reaching hands and mouths to take, eat all of it. We take when we can see it what is offered by that Shining Stranger who returns us to that "Thou dimension", all our suffering then contained, held, though never satisfactorily explained so easily reduced to formulaic glibness as so much theology past and presently done to this day.

The Shining Stranger knows a rod rammed in - o touch his hands and feet, his bleeding side, his weeping womb - and knows Miraculous Dimensions within the apparently real, discovers that very self to be a Miraculous Dimension, an experience, not a Word, nor an image, for both words and images do stumble punch drunk on the once-was-new Wine and Word, those paper scraps unnoticed, unseen, unread, unheeded, or if heeded are only Its, objects devoid of meaning, and not Thous, just another "drunk singing in a midnight choir" (Leonard Cohen).

Emmaus is the road I walk. I pray still. A kind of swoon. I do not balk at strangers encountered there, shining or not. When words are put to "Thou" purposes as the Shining Stranger did at the camp's cook-fire on the Emmaus road then at some point, when bread is broken eyes are opened, a whole loaf now rent into edible pieces rendering wholeness mouth by mouth, once teased ears suddenly recognize sense in sounding voice, that Meaning Itself is before them, feeding, teaching, reaching to touch our own wounded hands and feet, the bleeding sides. All is changed and yet we are returned to life again as it is, but now having heard, seen and tasted ever "Christ-haunted" for such Grace lingers in aftertaste-yet-a-foretaste, o Gloria, to say the least, even this lingering grace is a feast, a proffered shining hand remaindering our own shine dim in comparison but loved all the more by "the Face", It's "angels" shining.

Christ the Bread, also the Confounding Stone upon which all our glibness breaks.
http://www.4marks.com/videos/details.html?video_id=2258


This breaking tells. We are not unloved by that, that Rod and Presence Who knows and partakes of what Kahlo's images as did her life as lived portray. No blame. Only awareness of the stain which is existence, exquisite as the burial cloths of the One Rammed to a tree, suffering Divine Paternity, Kahlo arriving on the threshold of the bus which has just, yet again, circulatio, stopped at her stop to carry her forward into Legend.