He began his trek up the mountain early in the morning to allow time for the ascent and return. He’d planned this carefully, and proceeded slowly so as not to be put off his goal. He smiled as he passed through a low hanging cloud layer, erasing the ground from which he set off on his journey. He plodded on, seeing the summit growing ever, if slowly, closer. He finally reached his goal at the summit, sat and smiled broadly. He had made it. He gazed down, feeling as though he had at last achieved flight. He was one with the sky. A sudden shadow passed over him. He looked up at the eagle circling, mocking him, as if saying this is flight, you poor earthbound creature.
He said he did not want a funeral, certainly did not want to be buried. It would be a waste of wood and metal, and its only purpose would be to enrich the mortician and it is not like he will run out of customers any time in the near future. Not, at least, until he becomes a customer and he doesn’t want to consider that. No, he said, “cremate me and put my ashes in an oversized box for I want a copy of Dante’s Inferno cremated with me. I won’t make Moses’ mistake with the desert. I’ll take a roadmap on my journey.”
It is progressing, but that
should not come as a surprise to you,
for they told you it would happen
and you accepted that as a fact.
It is the speed at which it has progressed,
much faster than you imagined,
what was once clear, now vague
ever more amorphous, half already
effectively gone, and the other half?
I imagine what would happen, will
happen when the other begins
the same journey, nothing known
to impede it, and how the four
remaining senses might fill the abyss
that the departure of sight
will leave in its growing shadow.
We have now forgotten what
it is like to take flight, to seek,
to finally find a true freedom
from an always grasping land.
Once we did it out of necessity,
lives incomplete, prisoners
who committed no crime
save those of thought and faith.
Now we only claim to admire
those who seek what we
once did, watch them with
mock awe, but deny them
perch when the journey
for them could end, and even
the birds now shun us, for our
lack of compassion and memory.
They walk slowly, each step
measured as to both length and cadence.
The need not speak, they have
long been synchronous, now cannot
avoid being so without great effort.
They say nothing, words
have grown superfluous,
and would only interrupt
the slow procession
of the clouds, the ducks swimming
against the river’s flow, the birds
playing tag, each
claiming to be it in turn.
Each day they turn together,
at different spots
along the river walk, and
return home, amazed
at all that is different
on the journey back.
Have you been here –
who will know?
The sun and moon
record your journey.
What you release
gathers joyously around you,
what you cling to
flies off on the slightest breeze,
mountain and cloud
enfold each other.
Will you join them?
A reflection on case 35 of the Iron Flute Koans.
The one thing that will drive him crazy
is a sign with a star, or square,
or anything that says “You Are Here.”
The one place he has never been,
will never be, is standing on a map.
He admits he may be nearby,
but here is out of the question.
He’s never really sure where he is,
but he is always here, even
if no one else can be.
He would like to go there
sometime, but he knows that even
if he makes the journey when he arrives
he will be still be exactly here,
so why waste the effort.
He always paid passing attention to the coconut palms.
It wasn’t that they were so attractive as to merit attention.
Quite the contrary, they were remarkable ordinary as palms go.
But he knew that if the drivers here didn’t get him,
a ill-timed coconut leaping from a palm
would be pleased to do the job.
And that was just too horrid a way to go.
He could see the obit: “Killed by an angry coconut
whose natural gravitational journey
he had the temerity to interrupt.”
He feels like a rock
cast into a river
partially rising above
the water now forced
to flow around him.
It pulls at him, seems
to say you belong
in the sea, let us
carry you there, but he
can no longer move
and knows he will meet
the ocean in bits pulled off
by the jetsam of other
people’s lives as it flows
past him on this leg
of its endless journey.
The sitting of Shiva
is a tribal right
performed with Kaddish
The mourning is harder
for the adult child,
for the now severed bond
grows with time
and not distance,
and there comes a point
where the loss
invokes your mortality.
Tonight we all speak
of the departed
off on a journey
we never expect to take.