And then there is the abyss
where it all comes crashing
back down on you and there is nothing
and no one, and you grasp
and find only yourself at the bottom
and arise, crawl up and out,
and nothing has changed except
the face of one who saw you fall.
You say words meant to calm
either you or the others, but
they sound hollow, all words
have an emptiness in this moment,
and you know it will pass,
and you know it will not pass
nearly soon enough, and you remember
the moments, once, when you
would think that the abyss
the drug created would last
forever and in that moment
you began the slow return.
His is six and deeply confused,
and asks questions to end that state.
He wants to know if Adam and Eve
had two sons, and one killed the other,
where did all of the people come from?
Ask your father seems and easy answer,
but one he cannot accept, too easy
for a mind that needs timely response.
I stumble around, try to deflect,
and finally admit I don’t know but
that some stories cannot be taken literally.
He knows what that word means, and it
is a sufficient explanation for now.
In a week we’ll have the conversation
once again, this time not Adam, not Eve,
but Shem, Ham and Japheth, and how
the three sons of Noah repopulated
the entire planet, and I will once again
admit to my sad lack of knowledge,
and silently curse the Religious School
for creating the abyss into which
my grandson is all to pleased to lead me.
Horizons are the thing
we have they greatest trouble with.
They are omnipresent, immutable
and yet move at our approach.
They are at once inviting
and fear inducing, though now
we are largely convinced they
do not mark the edge of a precipice
over which we would catapult
into some endless abyss
crossing their margin.
As we age we are allowed nearer
and they see less foreboding
though we struggle to keep eyes open
knowing that too soon enough
we will close them finally
and step across into the abyss.
Between this moment
and the next lies
an unbridgeable gulf
that the mind leaps
with great ease, never
looking back, or down
into the abyss.
It is only when the body
stops, tries to grasp
the space between,
that everything collapses
and falls into itself
until all that is left
The moment arrives suddenly
and appears at your feet, threatening
to trip you into the hole of time
that marks the edge of this moment
as it once did the one before this.
If you stand perfectly still
You may move forward with
the easy grace of enlightenment.
A week from this
Thursday something will
happen that no one could
have ever foreseen.
This is the beauty
and the horror, at once,
of our limited vision,
afraid to see the present
although it is all
that is clearly within
our visual field.
Instead we look back
into the shadows
where memory substitutes
for clarity and truth,
into the abyss.
Standing on the edge of the precipice
with your eyes closed, what will you do?
If I turn you around, where is the edge
and where is the land from which you approached?
If I say you must take a step, do you
gently place your toe out and seek
to feel the earth, seek to know where air is,
or do you step out boldly, certain
that you will not fall into the abyss?
From your position on the mat,
the mind is an abyss is all around you,
so you may step out of your thoughts
without care, for all four gates
are open to the ungrasping mind.
And you just might meet Chao Chou
on the path on which you choose to tread.
A reflection on case 9 of the Hekiganroku (The Blue Cliff Record)