Brother of Clouds
ask you to tell them about it, but don't really want
to hear. Darkness frightens them. Flail and whip of
wanderer to them is but a horse long lost and foundered.
They you ask how you are but don't really want
your answer. To know is to make too real. Politeness' sake
is a ramp down to strata where ears have fossilized,
hardened of hearing, filled with cemented sand.
Silent snow falling on darkest green pine boughs
along the foot of cloudhidden mountains.
Cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown. The old mountain
sage evaporates into mountain mist, leaves behind
a ceremony of blossoms whitening the trailside meadow.
Nowhere to go but up, unless it's out and suddenly
down. Down by way of being rejected by even land's law.
Grains of petals at the foot of his sandals. He waits
a long time for you to find yourself and return.
Stories the world is made of. Story the elements.
Single candle flame becomes a silver vase, hanging
in the darkness. Where's that lantern when it's hopeless?
What sign? A tarantula-dance of shadows shot with lightning.
Nothing hear but the last echo of hooves. Sinew
makes a bond that only bone can break. Rolling in
whitened fields of dry old bones, a single wild rose.
Where did he disappear to, the ancient one? Snow,
belling elk, alder branches, the fall of light
on a frozen water cascade. Spark and glint. Now winter.
We all fall down. All fall. Down into everything
that falls. Under what's fallen is compost and cinders.
Moss into rock-crumble, lichen into rusted bowl.
Nothing left of this battlefield once deemed so
important but empty eye-sockets of caved-in armor
where crickets live. Long thrum of rarest of locust.
If you say it enough perhaps you'll come to believe.
Convincing yourself comes after. Believing before saying
is tongues of gypsum crusting into still small sands.
No meaningful residency. Why this mountain? Why this sky?
This long road. This dusty trail. Marks of a walking stick
left behind even after the wind washes all else
to another valley, another desert lake. Walking stick
pocks in tempest sand. Ancient marks of a lost path.
Flailing at the walls of the conventional. Pull back
from that cliff-edge, heart hammered into silver leaf. What
non-mystics never understand is gods-seeker's necessary
solitude. Whether mountain sage or respected diplomat,
apparently lost to the world or apparently lost in it,
each quiet solitary iconoclastic mystic needs to
to hear that still small voice. That voice drowned
in worlds of convention and rite. You almost lose
any ability to hear it when you spend too much time
in the marketplace of the mundane. There are no substitutes,
accept only the real thing, and we'll tell you what that is.
Even when you sink and fall again into cool relief of
Always a risk to believe that words can save you. Always
tempted to record your journey in words, as though words
could contain any journey. You know they don't. You know
the unsaid, unknown, unspeakable, is more real, more true.
Mountain sage can go four months without saying a word.
When he comes down for a few days of gathering and harvest,
out of his lips comes an unstoppable wind, a raspy clear voice
with no words shaped, but meanings clear and graspable
as painted icons on stone cave walls. Nothing could be plainer.
Get back up, from where you've fallen. So they shot off
your leg, so what. Bind the blood and walk anyway.
If you have to pull yourself along even when will fails,
bleeding a trail behind you from that belly wound,
you've found the right track. Nowhere near what
you think you're owed. Nowhere near inherited guides or maps.
Far off to the side of hard times and bitter fruit.
Pull yourself together even when each atom flies apart.
You have to come to stillness to see his trail-markers.
They are subtle, almost silent. Markers known
more by absence, by what is not there, what has been
removed. Look for the void in things. A single milkweed stalk
in a field of yellow daisies. An angled stone removed
from a pile of shingle beside a switchback. Fallen horses
could not be half so serene as this eaten grass. Look on
those days when closest to the edge of despair and self-death
for a marker towards which the wind is drawn, nature
abhorrent of vacuum, magnetic field in place of mineral.
Look. Here's where a stone once rested. Only an outline now.
So someone has been here, and left a sign.
Find it's absent shape in the dark damp stillness
where the wind replaces sense in the desperate night heart.
Lose your mind, just leave it by the trail.
Where you sat down to eat just forget to pick it up
and carry it any further. It will get along just fine alone.
Gradually quieting. Just forgotten. Why it ever mattered
no one anymore knows. Be absent-minded by intent.
Here's a gap in a row of aspen quaking with absence.
Higher up, a crag you can't see, veiled with unfallen rain.
Thunder's distant rumble almost as though clearing his throat.
Nothing could be plainer.