Burn

There are books I read every few years. Do you have such books? I circle slowly back around to them like the orbit of Neptune because I’ve noticed interesting change between the first and second, and subsequent, readings.

Some books, read again, reflected back a new (older) reader with different responses. That helped me know my mind and sense of language better, as well as opening the vista a good piece of Art is.

Sometimes I return to writing of my own with the changed perspective of time. I understand them differently. Even the way I want specific words to communicate has changed

This poem started with a round burn on my hand got not long after noticing a small, dark rose in falling snow; it bloomed late, into a tight knot of petals, ready to face winter. The poem slid around on those two images, sort of a narrative about my own observations.

Buddhism likes to say…well, Buddha said….the world is burning. Our senses are burning. This simple, complex statement has to do with the nature of the world and our attachments to things. It’s a wake-up call about how easily we make ourselves suffer. It’s also now a new layer of the word “burn” for me, and there it is.

So what happens when I go back to this poem? The actual hand burn once got lifted into something higher through the image of the rose. Now my hand provides the poem with the metaphorical Buddhist burning the real rose can’t escape. Once the burn “bloomed” like the rose, and now the rose is burning. (If I’m not careful, I will justify the false impression that exists in the world that Buddhism is a real downer.)

The poem before was imagining connections, and I feel as if now it’s reporting a real connection I finally paid attention to. I have another “thinky” poem that is struggling to go in exactly the opposite direction and soak its reporting in imagination, to revel in imagined connections. My smile at this knowledge of my own tangled Creativity is both wry and satisfied.

 
 Burn
  
 The stove’s sharp blue heat
 invaded the pot handle
 you grasped without attention.
  
 The burn asserts itself
 like the red fist of a rose
 opened late, defying snowfall.
  
 Take note. The earth insists.
 The undulation of your palm
 has always resembled a drift,
  
 snow crept upon by claws
 of sunset, bloody hue under bare branches.
 There have always been things on fire.
  
 The body burns to say it. So
 your same grasping hand sets
 it down, sears white paper darker.
  
  
   

The Shadow Knows

Sh1

I look at shadows. Long ones, sharply vivid ones, shadows of ordinary things and unusual things, shadows I never saw before because I’ve never been to that location in that light. From shadows I get the same small charge of pleasure that I get from fireworks:  I look expecting to see them, but still, how wonderful to see what is both real yet only made of light and eyes.

No idea why this is, that I have a passion for shadows. Some friends might suggest it’s because I used to love working backstage at the theater, and I’m just drawn to my natural habitat. Is it a chance to pay attention to the intriguing Buddhist ambiguity of the (non)self? I do love modernist photography, that’s for sure, and those Artists were gods of form and contrast.

Sh2As a poet and reader, I love me a liquid, sparkling, misty, on-fire metaphor. A shadow is a metaphor, equivalent to a Thing but made of something else. Paradoxically, that something else reveals more of the first Thing to us.

My favorite metaphor right now is Jane Hirshfield’s opening heart as boiling artichoke in the poem “My Species”.  An “opening” heart is a metaphor itself, commonplace but fine.

I’ve been looking at a book by Teju Cole, Blind Spot, where he pairs photos with short prose pieces. A striking one (much of the Foreword also dwells beautifully on it) shows a white house behind a tall line of just-greening shrubs, and the sharp, spreading shadow of a still-bare tree that itself does not appear.

Sh4

Cole writes, “Spring…it is not only the leaves that grow. Shadows grow also. Everything grows, both what receives the light, and what is cast by it.”

Some type of image reaching out from its place of origin, existing beyond the edges of its source, visible when its creator is not. Is that a metaphor for Creativity?? I hope so! I hope It and I will grow this spring. I love shadows.

Sh3

Blind Spot by Teju Cole was published by Random House. The photos are by the blogger.