Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Blue Bone Bridge (July 2002)

The strong, inwardly quivering bridge
of the mediator has meaning
only where the abyss between God
and us is admitted—:but this very
abyss is full of the darkness of God,
and where someone experiences it,
let him climb down and howl away
inside it (that is more necessary
than crossing it.)

— Rilke, letter to Ilse Jahr, 2/22/23
transl. Stephen Mitchell

When I was 5 my mother took me
to a matinee of “Puss And Boots.”
Two images forever twined in my mind:
in the first, a terrible night thunderstorm
caused a tree to fall on the hero in
an overloud, horrific crash.
In the second a boy jumped
bare-assed into a smiling summer pond.
Terror from the first scene leapt up
in a strange howl, made huge and
loud by the weight of that savage trunk;
a warm delight of the second scene
to lathe my fear in a rich white goo.
On many nights thereafter I’d wake
from nightmares of crashing thunder,
only to press my face to the pillow
and watch myself jump into
warm waters to save a girl.
For all the simple carefree days
which composed my early years—
nurtured and loved by my parents,
safe in suburban neighborhoods—
that dark sweet imagining
kept seizing me like a claw up
from the floor which flicked
me in a pool.
My friend and I built monster
models—Creature From The
Black Lagoon, Dracula, The
Forgotten Prisoner—the two of
us in thrall with the dripping
caverns and rotted cells of
revenants and skeletons.
I found in actual woods
near home and school
a dark sexual joy of
peeking and revealing,
play-acting Mommy and
Daddy not as I knew
but thrilled to guess.
As a child I only guessed at
that blue bone-latticed
land, walking as I did in
relative safety, knowing I
was but a hand away from
some parent’s hand.
Far different was the night
which called me from home into
the tropic lush of my 14th year:
bolder and colder that moon,
wild and intoxicate,
sexual with swollen glands
and aching fingers.
Growing up meant straying
far into that insatiable wood;
a self’s composed from paths
far from home and God.
The musk of crushed oranges
seared up from the rot of ruin
which came on a stormy night
much longer ago, when my God
decreed I craft these craven
images from what I bleed
and perilously need.
How I bandage myself up
from that horrid land
and link back—to the living again
and to a loving hand—is
a complicate return
to a forest night
where a thunder merges
with all the joys down under.


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