“Such Phenomena” – New Poetry

Rare snow this day– normally too warm for such phenomena.
Blood flows at last from my darkened places,
auspices of Winter’s night. Long travels.
Cramps loosen. We are not yet to the Land of Spring,
and I am not too eager for light’s exhausting dominion.
We know we sleep deeper still, time slows to observe inwardly
the Soul’s guiding lantern.
Footprints mark a path outside my small burrow;
Who comes to visit me now from you, Darkened Woods,
who are most beautiful.
The Lord’s beasts may visit our dreaming
and will lead us unto snow’s contemplations,
and to the heart’s spark of candle’d delighting,
and to the Visitor who is the face of the good night
Whose footprints draw nearer now
to my aching door.

Gentle J. Pine

Further journaled thoughts today:

Being sensitive is no joke: it means hearing every different type of music your apartment neighbors are playing and therein hearing and feeling precisely every different personality in physical proximity closely around you. It means being painfully intolerant of the smallest insincerity or manipulative lie when it would be easier to not feel or care, or to conspire therewith. Fatigue and Depression hound these good hearts of the Sensitive; it is nothing to mock and everything to respect. A Soul Guide, a Holy Teacher, a Truth Teller, an Underworld Guide, a true Elder, a Mentor to the Heart: all these are the ones whose baseline hyper awareness is ultimately empowered into a rare gift to The World. They learn to concentrate their gift into deep power and truth, without being overwhelmed by the massive, life-giving intensity within.

This Time, We Have Come

Slowly enough to be steady, rowing sturdy canoes,
old-speak appearing in the fog on the water
first language, hand-spoken, fur-hackles
predating the migration of babble.

The land that we love should not be carved into prizes.
Nobody owns a place until their dead are laid down in it.
Are you a wild god of fury?
Are you untamed, as suspected?
There is no safety with you, then,
Unpredictable Storm.
You are the end of safety,
but somehow you are comforting.

You would know, if you are here.
You must know, if what they say of you is true.
You too must have also suffered
a severance from family and tribe.
You must know the sadness
of all songs.

This time, O Lord of Burnt Offerings,
We have come bearing a trial of lanterns
to hunt you, whispering your darkened name

and your old shadow reclaims you,
curls in relief
down in toward wooded night comfort
slinking back into thickets
evading intrusive light.

This time, God,
we have come ready to find you,
wherever you are.

This time, Mother,
whoever you are now.

Into the Dark of the World

The seasons turn, and we go with the eternal turning. It will not be fought, nor resisted, nor contested. No plea is accepted; into the mouth of the great gaping earth we everyone of us softly go. Autumn, the sign of the unstoppable wheel, alighting in fire the humor of our petty resistance to old age and death –to the very vitality awaiting within the acceptance of old age and death! Here is a holy time of contemplation for facing beautiful harsh reality, Elder of the midnight hour, the silver lines as mountain rock of an ancient’s cold hair. Grandma, guide me. Home of memory, place of my hearth and birth, call me homeward once more. The living World is as it is. Acceptance of this absolute reality without a constant yearning to always change it points the way toward loving reality as a fully dynamic place of living, natural magic in its own right; not as a fallen, temporary or resented state of being.

I am petulantly weary of the dull platitude, “change the world”. The World doesn’t need to be changed. The World is alive and doesn’t need us to save it. It is our human behavior and attitudes that need to change. “Obviously,” you say, but it is not so clearly obvious to those who unthinkingly project the dimness of humanity’s notorious myopia unto the holy life of the The World itself. For even we, small hominid creatures of momentary candlelight, are a flame’ breath in the wind of The World, dying and undying, all our passing cultures themselves being also an homage to the world-wheel we swivel upon.

A long time ago there was a man named John Burroughs, and this is what he said,

It is good that fire should burn, even if it consumes your house; it is good that force should crush, even if it crushes you; it is good that rain should fall, even if it destroys your crops and floods your land. Plagues and pestilences attest to the constancy of natural law. They set us to cleaning our streets and houses and to readjusting our relations to outward nature. Only in a live universe could disease and death prevail. Death is a phase of life, a redistributing of the type. Decay is another kind of growth.

Grandpa, give me joy in my days, in my work, in the labors of my life. Watch over me with pride, where you now live in the shining mountains of the world-without-end. Let my efforts be for good and beautiful endeavors, that I may make our people proud, our land a country of the rightful-hearted, softened by the gentle wisdom of elders and children, and toughened by the versant endurance of ages. May I always run to the roar of the night that is frightful, knowing that within what we fear is the fortitude we most desire. May my existence be a light and a blessing unto the beautiful Dark where I tread. Do not forget me, my ancestors! Sustain me, flame of origin! Remember we who yet way-find through our days in these human shapes, and keep us always in your affectionate embrace. So may it be.

The Words that Matter

I haven’t wanted to call myself a “writer”. It sounds like another big-deal identity label with all sorts of implications. The sound of it brings to mind people way more disciplined than myself, who are way more at peace than I am with sitting in a chair for long hours on end. They’re more organized than I am, and more determined to advertise themselves, and they use desks (I prefer the floor). Writing is just one thing I do as an act of devotion to remembering God.

I can be meditatively content indoors, like a writer, especially on a stormy or smoggy, hot day. It is delightful to be in a beautiful monastic place, like my house or a church or the library. But sitting in a chair? Feet down on the floor, my butt falling asleep? No. I need to sit criss-cross, then lay on my stomach, then my back, then stretch, then squat, then sit back in the chair with my feet up on the table like I don’t have no manners, all while getting up to walk around every 30 minutes or so. There’s a reason most of my pieces are brief. I agree with the sentiment of Thomas Mann: “I would rather live life than write a hundred stories.”

I’ve felt leery about the pantsuit of “writer” as an identity because I sense an attitudinal trend of self-absorption, cynicism and lack of heart-centered joy among the current writing scene, dating back a solid three-quarters of a century or so. People get stuck in their heads, something I’ve certainly been prone to but which I’m getting further away from, and happily.

Back in college, in one of my writing classes, I was engaged in a discussion about the responsibility writers have to real people on whom fictional characters are based. To what extent must we care to disguise their identity and protect their privacy? What gratitude do we owe this great source material that is reality? We covered the moral and legal implications to this, but a number of my classmates insisted they have no obligation to tread carefully with characters who are nearly synonymous with real, identifiable people.

It’s been said that writers don’t participate fully in the magic of imminent life, because they’re too busy writing about it from a distance. I think there’s some disturbing truth in this. The temptation is there for writers to long for the experiential magic of the beautiful world, then find it but not know what to do with it except take notes from the sidelines, where it is lonely. Then they become embittered that they feel shy and self-conscious and depressed and why aren’t they happy being stuck in their head all day? This has become the case of the modern writer.

Again, I say this because I’ve certainly had my own moments like these, but then I figured out it was ridiculous and not good for the human heart. The page is not the world. The vitality of the lifeworld comes first because that is where the sensual life of the world breathes and moves and it is where God is found looking out through the eyes of all creatures. That is the image of God I most love, the Beautiful One who looks out through the eyes of all creatures, feeling as we creatures feel, but larger than our individualism, our stupid notion of segregation from each other. How can life be worth the energy spent on anything else? To be a good writer and a worshipful human is to remember God always and play affectionately with the rambunctious Creator in the off-leash dog park, to look for the mysterious Lord, the Beloved, in all creatures and places, unto the shadows of moments. To worship is to stand in the presence of this deep and powerful Beauty, for you get the privilege to live in the Beloved’s breathing world of natural and ancient enchantment that hasn’t ceased to be in search of us even in modern, cranky cities. (How’s that for a paradigm shift?)

To get into the practice of this state of mind as a writer, it may require not writing for a time, if the result is to come out of self-absorption in your head to live more immediately in the lifeworld. You will finally not think so much about what you are pissed off about, but will revel more in the great Beauty that includes you but is more than you and outlives all our petty problems. Yes, then to write about it, to catch those images with words that strike the heart tenderly –that is to be a good writer. To practice, as devotion, the act of worship in writing. To do anything else with the gift of writing is to waste precious mortal time.

I don’t get the sense that the current “writer” identity has much awareness of any of this. There is not the act of standing in the presence of great Beauty: there is a sour attitude of nihilism. That isn’t to say that the occasional heated bit of written constructive criticism of injustice isn’t good medicine sometimes (the prophets of old knew this well). But now our words are sold for anger, for clicks, for the divisive poisoning of my beloved species.

Back in that classroom discussion, I said we have a responsibility to respect the lives of the real people who inspire fictional characters –and the lands that inspire fictional places–, for this marvelous reality is the world upon which all others are based. We can give praise from our hearts for that gem of inspiration, grateful that we get to live in such an enchanted world as this. We are not to abuse the source of the inspiration itself. This same principle should apply to all who would call themselves “writers” but use words of anger not for healing real and serious injustice, not for shining truth unto evil, but for instigating squalid fights over trivial political pickings that cause not healing for the people. Such poison words you sew are an infestation of resent among your countrypeople, among your own humankind, ye mobbing horseshoe extremists of any and every party.

Words have consequences; writing is a moral act,” writes Philip Zaleski, editor of The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004. “To recognize this pays a triple dividend, for it inoculates us against the three daily literary devices of pandering to popular taste, creative laziness, and didacticism. The last item may surprise those who fear that any talk of moral writing will unleash an army of bluenoses ready to censor at will or of apparatchiks who will demand a political subtext to every sentence. But such worries stem from misunderstanding the obligations placed upon us by the nature of the craft. To write ugly prose, or to cripple one’s language to meet the standards of the day, or to warp one’s creation into a political placard –all this is to write immorally. The task of the spiritual writer is to uphold truth and beauty at whatever cost, in whatever way his art demands.”

To be a good writer is to accept that writing is limited. It is not a living body, it is not the indescribably glimmering image about which a thousand words must be called upon to cumbersomely begin to describe it. It is not eternal, for language changes constantly and may persist in one intelligible form only a few hundred years, then be lost to the winds of change or forgetting. A thousand thousand languages have already gone this way, for as long as our ancestors had the vocal chords and brains to speak. Writing is not sound or light or touch, but a hopeful second-hand account of these. Writing is young in the age of the earth, and it is brash. Writing thinks itself to be authoritative and know a whole lot, like a teenager.

 

 

To be a good writer is to form words with loving joy and reverence, to stand in the presence of great Beauty. The human duty to live with such a heart is more important than getting a book deal or social media followers. Social media shall all someday be ground into dust by the shifting of continents. So, too, may the human heart, but its affect has more serious consequences, and underpins any value our media technologies may lay claim to. This temporality puts our priorities into perspective. Now, when I think about my own self in writing, I worry the most about choosing the right words with the right heart, because life is short, and I have the strange and rare privilege of being born a Homo sapiens with a species-specific power so rare among the eons. That is my identity, Homo sapiens, inheritor of the Phylum Chordata, called to know and love God. The call of the good writer is exuberantly subservient to this.

I don’t want to put anything into the world that I wouldn’t want to eat with my own heart’s hunger in another lifetime to come. I may be a Blue Whale someday, and I may find myself hungry for good krill and the love of my pod and a deep black motherly ocean, so may my words be as good as these. I may be a little worm hungry for comforting good soil to build a little house in the ground; so may my words be as good, as whole and right as these. I may be a cheerful speck of dust or a beam of golden sunlight who rides the space between the sun and sweet Earth; so may my words be as good as these. For God saw fit to make these friends of hers, and to put voices into our hominid throats, but it is we who sculpt our own words. May they remember her, these brief words of humanity. If I am to be remembered myself, I want to be remembered as the one who remembered God amidst my contented, hilarious, peaceful insignificance. Don’t write words that don’t matter, that you wouldn’t want a future intelligent alien civilization to discover five billion years from now and the words you wrote, providing their ability to decrypt your long dead language, are the only account of life on earth they find. There are so many words that don’t matter. Choose the ones that do.

Sources

Zaleski, Philip. “Introduction by Philip Zaleski.” Introduction. The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print.

 

image sources: here and here

How to Remember Math

The + sign means “together with”.

Together with God, with each other,

with the strings

                of the atom.

Sacred geometry,

                crosses and circles.

Adding a negative

                is the same

                as subtracting

                               a positive.”

Adding evil

                is the same

                as subtracting

                               good.

To subtract

                a negative,

add

                a positive.

 

 

 

image source: Creative Commons CC0

Night in the Kitchen: Poetry Fragments

 

 

Blessed are you,

Lord God of creation,

who does not guard us

from the work of your hands.

It is good that we are supple

It is good that we are fragile

adaptable and strange

among beasts

that we may continue

to be always remade.

For You have forged in white fire

the red of eyelids,

the cave of the earthquake;

You have set hominid-kind

among the vastness,

stoneground in waters

in alluvium loam

 

 

The body capable

like a canyon–

arms open

 

 

Night in the kitchen,

me sitting on a stool by the sink

while you wash up the last dust

of the light

Miles later, end of spring,

remembering the bed we have shared

and the air is warm and damp with rain

a pre-waking flood,

rising steam

 

 

Turn in toward

the path of the arrow

that you, with shields of

protection, will let

open, splitting,

the old wounds

of the warrior’s sting,

the nettle’s good venom

letting medicine in

 

 

the wingbeats of Sophia

whisper to the ground;

Her wisdom in the Aves’ taxa

knows no vertigo,

Her course unbound

 

 

Every small moment in worship

through some willing element of matter,

a word, a stolen kiss, a skirt of gold,

a bird diving or falling

from the vault of the firmament.

You could not have learned

any other way

the road between

here and another.

 

 

the eyes of the telescope

the mirror of the wonderer

the bowl of celestial milk spilling–

whatever comes out of my wondering

is the same as the prophets’ own.

Pristine spilt milk is so light,

let it fall like a flood

every ten thousand years

the great void percolating

into my living room,

to coalesce with a big bang

this second, somewhere

 

 

Holy fire settles

the continents in magma–

shifting nerves of Hades

 

 

Rosehips of the Nootka Rose,

the names of creatures, created order–

stars on the forest floor

 

 

Now it is time

to go from here

to leave and leave behind

the bundle, setting down the weight

of your years, time to put away graves

who are at peace in the ground

and what the long road

behind you

remembers.

 

 

Squall line,

white bark pine,

I go visit in my time,

long time

skipping out

 

 

 

 

poetry by Gentle J. Pine compiled 7/31/2017. Written all over the place 2012–2017.

image source: Creative Commons CC0. Please support the Public Domain and related freedoms.

Tellurian Words; The Harrowing of Hell

A collection words I have known while

various word-checkers haven’t:

Abrahamic, akathist, alluvius, applaudable, arse, barefootedness, bowdrill, chinchy, deoxyribonucleic, discipled, dreamt, duende, empathetically, entendre, full-hearted, hacktivist, hatchling, honeybush, inrushing, inwardness, Judaica, limbic, liminally, magnetics, Manzanita, miacid, millennia, montane, oxytocin, patrollers, permaculture, personhood, Pleistocene, putzing, prefrontal, primally, primitivist, reactionism, recusant, relatability, ridgetops, rooiboos, rosehips, sempre, sensei, shapeshifter, spilt, ultraist, unrighteously, vaulty, wonderstruck, yesterevening,

 

What’s a spell-checker for

if not to cast spells

with good words?

 

Tellurian

[te-LOOR-ee-uhn]

adjective 1. of or characteristic of the earth or its inhabitants; terrestrial. noun 2. an inhabitant of the earth. Origin: 1840–50; < Latin “tell?r”– (stem of tell? ) earth + -ian Alluvium [uh-LOO-vee-uhm] noun 1. a deposit of sand, mud, etc., formed by flowing water. 2. the sedimentary matter deposited thus within recent times, especially in the valleys of large rivers. Origin: 1655–65; < Latin, noun use of neuter of alluvius, “washed against”.

 

The Harrowing of Hell

Harrow. “hair-oh”.

noun

one. an agricultural device

with teeth of spikes or disks upright,

drawn chiefly over tilled land to level,

break up roots of clodded weeds, etc.

verb, (used with object).

two. to draw a harrow on the land.

three. to unsettle sharply; gall the mind,

feelings, etc. verb (used without object)

four. to become ravaged by harrowing, as soil.

five. of Christ. to descend into hell

to free the righteous

held captive.

 

 

 

 

The Harrowing of Hell was written by Gentle J. Pine on 10.31.2013

image source: Creative Commons CC0

Laughing in Mountains

 

 

Beloved, Beloved,

come out from within things,

as you look out from within things,

from the eyes of your creatures,

from the spark of creation

as from the inside of a tree

there comes fire.

Come down, o love Divine,

and complete my half-written words

for your glory, my love,

for your beauty, my love,

so that all creatures

may seek you and know you.

Most beautiful!

The One who is love incarnate!

Follow my heartbeat, as I follow yours,

tracking your footsteps in the land.

My face, sometimes it is sorrowful.

If you may look upon me in love,

even in these times,

not turning your sun from me

even in these times,

then surely not a sparrow falls

without your swooping down

on mother-bird wings

to comfort and carry

each home.

You lead me

through vine thickets and brambles

to see the great stag leap

from his cavern!

Most beautiful Lord,

friend of plants, laughing in mountains,

draw from my mouth the good words

for hearts sorely in want of you.

 

 

 

image source: Creative Commons CC0

A Child of the West

“And where are the fancy ideas about Western vanity now, the arrogance of persons and the limits of individualism?

 

Be careful how fast you dispose of the individual self and its pretensions. If the self is no longer inviolable, evil will violate it. And who will there be to judge that this is wrong?

 

I remain a child of the West, and a grateful one…. This small self is the gift, and burden, I have, and am. It is the self who goes out into the world to see how the others live. It is the same self who calls murder, murder.”

–Todd Gitlin, A Skull In Varanasi, A Head in Baghdad

 

 

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