Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Repose of Needles -- A Response To a Questioner Who Says She is Rotting Within, and Dampening

[Photograph taken at sculpture gardens in Princeton, NJ, July, 2008, by Warren Falcon. Click on the image to enlarge.]

This essay, Repose of Needles, continues last month's theme of Death while including the dimension of Questions and Questioning for this month's Learning For Life Group newletter topic. This essay is for my father.


Green, how I want you green.
-- Garcia Lorca

Not my hands but green across you now. -- Richard Hugo

All questioning is response, is memory ensconced in withered hands holding seeds...planting is a deed, an act, a contract with the Invisible Stranger in the Soil with Whom you could more easily relate...the Word, o father who waited and waited, Unheard now in the heart and Heart, It's appeal in Existenz insists some poor poetry-as-harvest from me, the ensuing Silence, then, not merely your pall but the shining palace in which the more dizzying gaze and the grizzled world splays the "stained white radiance"*** into "more deeply untellable stars".**** --W. Falcon*****


Dear LoRuhamah [whose name in Hebrew means, not loved, is not the questioner's real name but is the name, rather, I call my Anima, my inner feminine thus in this response I am addressing Her, as well],

It is precisely when the rot and dampening are most present that one can work the soil of one's inner garden...

You are mulching, LoRuhamah, mulching, which is rotting and requires the dampness of one's deepest and darkly rich sorrows and questions where in all that decaying the fertile nutrients for new life are derived; and from all other questions, too, of all whom we have known, currently know and will know and of those whom we have never known, do not know now and never will, remaining unheard, we also do not hear those contributing inquiries -- the silent screams of the crab, the unheard flutter of the fading bird, the unaccounted cries and gestures of the many creatures and plants going going going down and underneath into silence and ground.

From all this new life does comes, it comes bearing all the decaying hopes and dreams, the braying, the screams, the being reduced to numbness and cataleptic staring wonderingly turned into striving shoots of maize newly green, a sea pup mewling alone on a rocky shore, an old woman leading an old man with her cane tapping slowly a march onward into life, that emptying promise, the cycle of eternal burn and return of loss and gain, and the question again and again.

It is precisely when you are most bereft that a deft heart can discern in querulous prayers from pain and despair that which the heart yearns for, refers to, rhythms discerned once again, and felt, even if first in imagination. Life as it is in its spectrum of shades and bright colors, its subtleties, innuendos and inflections, twines forth a thin frail tendril not betraying the mighty force driving it toward the reaching sky and deeper into the cloying hurt which is dirt.

If you need to stand or lie in the shade for awhile then do so as farmers do, as did my father who farmed his despair in the hot sun then lay beneath a pine tree in cooler shade to rest and dream that his activity between dirt and sky meant some lasting thing in its doing even though he had ruined his life, distorted his children, his wife, and could not make it all right between them and himself between the mulch pile and his incessant weeding of literal weeds.
Between the garden and the untilled woods he would lay and rest, repose of needles and bark, the hot sun insisting its question slowly, night dawning when he could at last stand and return to his personal decay with a practical vision of green shoots to come. He could trudge up the lonely hill to the lonely house and will himself to life enough once again, speak some words to his wife, move widely around the silence of his wary children and live to be an old man whose loss of memory left it for me to forgive and live on in the rich rot of that ongoing question which nurtures me and his memory gracefully, haltingly on.

Astonished, I have arrived at love for him who hurt me most, have learned to enjoy the odor of decaying things, myself included. Within the decaying dream of staying, the tendril and my heart, my aging body takes on my father's form. I, too, like him am a farmer afterall when the tendril moves in its reach up and down, rooting and rising, which gives horizon.


*from Garcia Lorca's poem, "Romance Sonambulo" from The Selected Poems of Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca, translated by William Logan. Published by New Directions, 1955.

**from Richard Hugo's poem, “The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir” from Making Certain It Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo. Copyright © 1984

***from Percy Shelley's widely anthologized poem, Adonais.

****from Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1963, J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender translation.

*****from Warren Falcon's journal kept around the death of his father, Warren Falcon, Sr., in September 1998.

[With gratitude to Lynn who sent the link to the Kunitz poem which led to my being able to respond thusly above. Thanks, Lynn]