Down South


This is what it’s like at the very end of the south:
the land has extended so far
it's like an old witch’s crooked finger.
She’s used the nail for spearing fish at the bottom of pools;
or for dangling bits of meat on as bait for young squids.
Done it so long that now the joint won’t curl back.
When you’ve gone this far south, nothing collects.

Cliffs don’t so much face the great ocean
as are hypnotised by how it shrugs off direction.
It circles out there: beyond certainty, beyond fear,
where the sky swirls its magician’s sleeves and widens
into awe. Beyond its horizon, there’s an island:
monks have set off in their wicker boats
for those blessed shores. There is no return.

So this is the end of all roads. After they wear out.
Way past the villages made of railway sleepers;
past the abandoned silver mines; past final duty;
past the last stage-post of making things work.
Some say it all ends in the swamp of unknowing –
but this is way farther south than that.
Past what even the oldest bones can sing of.
This is where the laws turn around, and as they give up,
find that everything knew all along what to do.

A mystic totters by, saying, ‘Beats me, beats me...’
Words stretch out on the ground, quietly laughing
at how the long-bearded lichen tickles the wind.
A doubt lies on its back kicking the stars;
their light is massaging its travel-cracked feet.
It’s hard to believe how many kinds of anger there are
scrambling among the rocks and wrestling with each other.
Dolphins glide past and take some out for a ride.

So many hours are pouring out on the wing,
out in the abandonment of end and beginning,
that the days first tried to extend to hold them,
then taking a breath, gave up sun and moon;
and then finally threw out all the measures.

The land rests in its grey and brown dignity.
No need for shows. See what you like.
Lightning flashes; each flickering image is a prophet,
stabbing out the need to absorb all darkness –
moment after moment after moment.
We who have stolen and sold them;
who have slaughtered the sick, and all our orphans –
this is where we go to get sane.

It’s a long way from the yesterdays.
So please sit a while.
Tomorrow is still out hunting for something solid:
just give it time.
We will all learn how to kneel and invite.
There are songs here waiting to meet the voices at home.


From: Travels in the Middle Land, Dhamma Moon, 2013.


Posted: Sun 20 Mar, 2016