Lama Michael is not often wrong, so I recall vividly the times he was. One time he was speaking about seeing someone after many years of absence, and how what was disturbing about it is that people change, and we're not willing to let that happen.
He was so wrong about that. What's uncanny about seeing someone after many years of absence is how relentlessly the same they are, how often you are rocked by it. “Oh yes! He always did tilt his head that way, when he was thinking. How could I have forgotten?”
I'm down with the illusion of the self, down with the fact that whatever lives on, body and memory die. But the tenacity of the self, in this life, is no delusion. More of a tragedy.
Burdens of sky, burdens of water.
This is not much of a poem, and I doubt anything can be made of it, but I've been mulling the topic over, the last few days. What does it mean to boys, growing up as the ugly sex, the grotesque sex, the repulsive sex? And what would it be like to grow up some other way? I called this "The Ugly Sex":
We are the ugly sex. Forever outside.
The joke of a naked woman
is that you want to see her:
the joke of a naked man is that you don't.
We are monsters crouching in the yew,
listening to the harps inside the hall.
Are we in the palace, or are we not?
Plates of shivering meringue
move on unseen hands:
we frighten girls witless
by the mere in-drifting
thought of our reptilian flesh.
It's all true: that we are brutal,
half-tamed, dazed and wounded beasts
you can't trust for a minute: also true
that we wander in our gilded halls
unable to take form, longing to be seen,
knowing that one glimpse of us
would send our lovers shrieking into hell.
It's a tangential response to Marly's Psyche, of course: at the heart of that myth is the simultaneous wonderfulness and repulsiveness of men. Which are we? Could you creep in with a lamp by night and discover the truth? Maybe you could, but what would be the price of knowing?
I wrote that in response to these lines of Marly's, the end of Psyche's account of her first night with Eros:
I lay within a nest of shattered twigs.
A shape with wings was sobbing on my breast,
Some wall between us battered down to dust.
I touched the face invisible to me.
His serpent pinions beat convulsively.
Marly Youmans, Throne of Psyche
But I think I'm too trapped in the male experience, just now, to receive this on its own terms. How ghostlike the male experience is! How we wander in our palaces, supposedly masters, but at the price of being unable to appear in our own shape! That's the myth of Tolkien's Ring, of course: oh yes, you can have power, all the power you want – but only at the price of not being able to appear as yourself. You can claim your power or you can appear with your own face, but you can't do both.
The sun gleaming on the endless, endless miles of the North Pacific.