Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nassau, Bahamas 25.5.1993: Thin New Moon, Curious Owl

I write now as night falls, a thin new moon high in the sky, which is still a dome of light above the already dark island. Am I mistaken, or is it not so at home, that the land lies dark while the sky remains lit?

And oh!—wonder—an owl just flew overhead, looked us over carefully, and went through the never-completed church tower beneath which we sit. Fr. George had told us today they live in the tower, and we might hear them creek at night. And we had just done so, and were debating whether it were a bat that had made the sound when, lo, Steve saw the owl circling. I looked up and saw its curious (and curiously miffed) face watching us as it flew overhead. Evidently it’s not pleased we’ve invaded its domain.

Why do some occurrences suddenly feel so right, so portentous, so full of revelatory import, that they simultaneously wrench us from the ordinary and home our hearts to themselves. This owl. This night. This crystalline moon. If only I could know. And so make of the everyday art, meaning, sense, beauty.

But to do so, I think I need a thread of continuity in my terribly savaged life. Have I for a long time thought that one must invite the extraordinary by remaining outside the ordinary? If so, I now think that one can do this only at increasingly great cost, as one ages. There must be some routine, some easy chair and fireplace, to fall back on, if one wants to string together the epiphanies and leave something behind.

(Yet I’m not sure I’ve avoided settling down. It’s more that a callous church and society have refused to accord me a place, to see that there’s something of worth in the bizarre shell beyond which they don’t care to look.)

Salve nos, Domine. Here’s the perpetual quandary of my existence so far: try as I might, I’ve not found an armchair or fireplace. And I can’t for the life of me find a way. If I’ve ever prayed for anything, for any salvation, it’s for this dilemma to be resolved. What Belmont Abbey has done to me cuts to the quick of my life, heart, soul.

Do you hear, Lord?

Under the moon, nothing is clear, yet all things come to light. Under the moon, all is dark, yet nothing is hidden. Under the moon, there are no answers and only questions, yet all is revealed.

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In a word is everything.


Of jasmine haunting the night air
That troubles this island hilltop
While sun dies.


Of the crystalline moon
Suppliant before the light,
Riding on its side
To the sky's ridgepole.


Of ghosts from slave coffles,
Chains clanking all the land over,
White eyes shining endlessly
In the night,
In the jasmine's bloom,
In the moon's clean edge.

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