Monday, February 11, 2019

2019 - Love in the Year of the Boar, the Year of Riches

2019 is the Year of the Boar or the Year of the Pig. I never liked pigs. They are too intelligent and too angry with us. And, these days, they suffer too much in huge factory farms where they are endlessly tortured until they die. Not much to be happy about. Actually, something to fight against...

Some people love cute little piglets. The French queen Marie Antoinette did, before her head was cut off. She pretended to be a shepherdess and led her pink, soft, velvety, piglet on a silk ribbon around the gilded splendor, velvet and mirrors of the magnificent palace of Versailles. It was not good for her, and not good for the piglets. Alas.

So, I do not have any poems about Boars, nor any about Pigs, nor Piglets. It seems I cannot celebrate the Year of the Boar, then. . . Even the Boars are too dangerous, too dark and wicked for poetry. 

They used to haunt my Grandma's winters on a lone farm at the edge of the tall fir and pine forest. They used to come out of the dark at night in the late fall and winter, to root for potatoes and grain in the fields. They destroyed the carefully cultivated crops. My Grandma, a widow, only had 11 hectares of land, so every square meter mattered immensely. It made a difference whether she had enough food for the winter, or not. She did not sell the potatoes, but used them to feed the pigs on her farm, fattening them for slaughter and sale. Those were the pigs I did not like, feared and detested; those were the pigs that did not like and detested me.

The pigs were unusually dirty, for one; they stank and they gave you the evil eye, if you came to watch them eat and twiddle their short curly rat-like tails. Or maybe their voices were the worst? All this harrumping, squealing, and grunting? Yes, I ate pork for decades. From the pigs' point of view, I'm a murderer, committing sacriledge. I do not do it any more, as much as I can. Do not buy meat, do not eat it.

So, how do I celebrate the year of the Boar? This is the year of the Earth Boar, so we can celebrate nature, being grounded, serene.   The element of the earth is very comforting, here is where we came from here is where we will return (not exactly, our bodies will, but still, bodies are not prisons but freely chosen vessels for the souls)

Instead of Boars or Pigs, let me share poems about foxes. As devious thieves, foxes do not have the best of opinion in most folk tales around the world, nor do they have a whole year dedicated to them in the Chinese calendar. But there are beautiful Chinese legends about nine-tailed foxes, so I wrote two poems after watching a film about that. 

Sunfire Foxes

I come from a tribe of nine-tailed foxes
You are a gold fox with nine tails too

We splash in the pools of silver moonlight
We chase bright stars through violet sky

We catch a ride on a sparkling comet
Nourished by nectar of honey dew

We leap through sunbursts, sunfire, sunrays
We rest in the golden glow of noon

Our wisdom grows in spirals, circles
Our joy is boundless, our love is true

(c) 2018 by Maja Trochimczyk

This simple rhyming poem is perfectly suitable for the other focus of February - the Valentine's Day, a commercial feast of pink and red hearts, chocolate, teddy-bears and sentimental or ribald greeting cards.  As soon as Christmas is over, the Valentine's Day merchandise comes out. Instead of red roses, and hearts, I thought that smooth, bronze fur of a fox is a lovely metaphor for the comfort seeking and for sensuality. Let's stay in this train of thought, then.

Things not to say on a lazy afternoon in the garden

You ask me, what am I doing?
I’m taming the wild foxes
In you, in me, all around.

Their sharp teeth look better
In a smile. They can learn to stop snarling
Eat berries, not meat, don’t you think?

But what about mice, you say,
Ever mindful of the world’s balance, adding shadow
To every good deed? Mice steal our food, true.
Without foxes wed be eaten out of our harvest
by rodents, rabbits, raccoons.

Oh, the seductive beauty of foxes
With their smooth copper fur
White-tipped tails, waving like flags surrender
The bright yellow eyes, smart and wary
Attentive, always ready to run.

I’m taming the wild foxes
In me, in the world, in you

Every kind thought, word, gesture
Every tender touch of affection
gentles, them slightly, step by step -

From snarls into smiles
From bristles to giggles
Kinder, softer -
More, a bit more -

Come closer, let me caress 
your glossy gold coat -
smooth, shiny -
so soft to touch -

Come, you will like it - 
a bit more -
a bit more  -
a bit more -

(C) 2018 by Maja Trochimczyk

Now that we have moved entirely into the Valentine's Day subject area, let me end this paradoxical reflection on the coming year of abundance and riches, with a folk-style ballad about the healing power of love. 

A Ballad of New Sun

He came out of nowhere
with head bowed down low
in shame and in sorrow,

His face wrapped in shadows,
cloak black as a tombstone,
he came out of nowhere
at night.

He stood there before her
with head bowed down low
asking silently, asking
for love.

Her hands on his chest,
his heart beating wildly,
steady current flowed out
from her palms.

Light and love, light and love,
so much light, so much love,
the black cloak broke stiffly
in half.

Rays of bright light exploded:
he flew out of his cage
in a lightning, a flash
of delight.

He was free, she was thrilled.
Two halves of dark shell
fell down on the ground
far below.

In brightness most fine
with high outstretched arms
her rose up, the birth
of new dawn.

Oh, sweet love has healed him.
Oh, sweet love has freed him.
She let One Love flow
through her hands.

No matter how dark,
no matter how lost,
we can wake, we can shine
become stars.

How to tell what she saw?
What she felt, what she thought?
How else to describe 
breaking charms?

But did he have wings?We don't know, we can't tell.
It looked like, maybe,
he did.

Could he fly? He did fly,

bursting out of his shell
like a phoenix, a comet,
a kid.

In a lightning of love
he ascended so free
shining true, a phoenix 
of might.

She was happy, so glad.
She laughed out so loud -
such miracle, the dream
of her heart.

In a whilrwind of rays
comets, stardust and sparks,
divine brighness, so dazzling,
so true.

There's a new star, new sun
as he grows, laugs and shines
turning midnight into
high noon.

He's her brother reborn,
gold prince of new dawn,
floating on weaves of
fire and air.

Now her job here is done,
two hands on his chest
healing, breaking the spell
of despair.

We are free, we can fly.
We are clear, we can shine.
So much love, so much light,
so much care.

It's for us that this love
flows so brightly tonight,
and I sing of new life
of new world. 

(C) 2019 by Maja Trochimczyk

It would be hard to describe this vision of a magical healing, a transformation from imprisonment in a shell, a coffin of sorrow, into interstellar, galactic flight of freedom and joy in free verse. It would be either too repetitive, or too brief. But the folk ballad rhymes and rhythms place it far away, elsewhere. The use of the third person for both the healed man and the healing woman in this poetic narrative also serves to distance it from the reader. 

What could happen if the third person, objectified and distanced, were to be replaced with the first person, first just for the woman. So the poem would be about "me" and "I" and "him" and "he" - told from the point of view of a lonely person narrating the unusual adventure to someone else, a sympathetic listener, such as the poet's audience.  It would not be easy to change the third-to-first person for the man, mostly because of his silence at the outset of the poem, and the role of a "receiver" of the healing, an "object" to be healed, rather than a "subject" that acts.

What if we changed both personas to first and second person format? It could be from the point of view of the woman ("You stood there before me..." "my hands on your chest/your heart beating wildly") or from the point of view of the man ("I stood there before you" "your hands on my chest/my heart beating wildly"). 

Both have advantages and disadvantages. In the first option, the woman comes across as too smug and conceited: not only did she serve as the conduit for the man's healing, but also insistently described the process and took credit for the miracle.  In the second option, the difficulty starts from "how to tell" stanza, because it simply makes no sense for the "object" of the healing, inquire after the emotional and cognitive state of his healer.

Back to the third-person account then, and a delightful love story that is not a romance made just for two, but rather a universal story of healing - people can and do heal each other all the time. They can and do, if their action are not based on selfishness, greed, desire, or control of others, but rather if they exchange their gifts freely, openly, and with joy.  

Love is the glue that holds the world together, it is best captured in the color green, the color of plants that give us oxygen, food, and beauty.  It is green and jade that should be everywhere on Valentine's Day, not red and pink and mauve...

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

New Year, New Gardens, or the Alchemy of Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh, "The Poet's Garden," 1888.

On January 3, 2019, I went to the Art Institute in Chicago, when attending a conference of the Polish American Historical Association. I flew in on a red-eye to make time for this visit and it was well worth the effort.

At Art Institute
dark netting of winter trees
catches the sapphire

the viri-green lion
welcomes me under the azure
dressed for Christmas

how to be meek?
only with gold pattern imprint
upon the air

No, I have not seen everything, not even close. But I found a new Van Gogh I never encountered before, some new Monet's and a friend, an Ascended Master from ancient India, smiling at me across the centuries.

On Being Green in Vincent's Garden

A white rose faints
on a cement sidewalk.
Crisp clear azure sky
encloses the city in a cupola.
Art vibrates on the walls
of the Art Institute guarded by
green-patinaed copper lions
in bright Christmas wreaths.

Van Gogh waits for me.
Frowning, uncertain.

Yes, I love your iridescent greens,
celadons, aquas, emeralds, jades.
The vibrant grass, uncut new meadow
and the explosion of bushes and trees
vibrating with the full force of life

Leaf opens after leaf - after leaf -
exploding with cosmic energy
alive - so alive - so  alive - so alive
so real, emerging from canvas
coming into becoming - stretching - 
growing - being - breathing -  alive -

Even the sky vibrates in hues of green -
and yellow, turquoise and aqua
Each plant, tree, bush marked with a thick
layer of paint, intense brushstrokes.

I understand now. Vincent was one
of us, the seeing ones. Awake.
He could not tell us any louder
than in this saturated greenest paint:

Open your eyes.
We are all here.
The world is ours
to see.

Before visiting this timeless art, I paid homage to the mysteriously alive lake, licking the shore with its waves, all made of the precious hues of jade.  Here I illustrate it with a painting of a sea...

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "Seascape," 1879.

A Treasure Hunt

The jade lake waits for me, I know it's there,
turning turquoise and lapis at the horizon.
Restless, it is confined by stone walls
of the harbor - but still remembers
the delight of our date in September,
its massive waves, wind-shorn breakers,
breathing in the ancient rhythm of wind
and earth. Wave after wave, lapis and jade,
droplet to droplet, rain into stream
into river into lake. Into the ocean.

I walk to the museum. Tiny green twigs
sprout between dead leaves to give me hope,
so much hope. Oh, there you are, my lovely,
my sweet - you know the secret of being,
growing, laughing in sunlight. A small square
of soil surrounds sleeping trees; sighs heavily
imprisoned among cement sidewalks
and asphalt streets. I found life in Chicago.
Who said, you could not?

On my last day in Chicago, after all was over, I left some time again for doing the "touristy" things. I went again to the lake, but it was too windy, only the lone kite danced on its long string. So I returned between the tall buildings, and went to the Wallis Towers to look down on the city, from above.  I thought of what I heard in my last tour, of the suffering and darkness of each metropolis, and of the light you can suddenly find in a friend's eyes.

As Above So Below

Up on the top of the world
103 floors above ground to be exact
I drew my strength from brown squares
of dead grass, from jade waves of the sleeping lake,
from clouded sky.

The city was so dense, its air filled with toxins,
my ears assaulted by the noise, day and night.
Once 800,000 heads of cattle crowded
Chicago stockyards - herded to die, to die, to die...

What a dark city. Shadows around it.
Rickety stairs in narrow workers' huts
with stained, blank windows. Bricks
almost touch train cars wheezing,
speeding by.  You'd think: "Hell on Earth."
You'd think: "Escape from darkness!
Run, now!"

Maybe, just maybe, you'd see
a tiny twig of hope, a green sprig
growing where the earth could not 
breathe or sigh, en-burdened with
its heavy toil. And then, a miracle of art. 

I walk upstairs and stop
in front of a thousand-year-old
carving. His eyes smile at  me;
his hair, upswept ad knotted.
Here's my brother who tread this earth
before me. Here's Lord Maitreya.

He tells me how to live in this dense,
saturated  blackness, opaque
like rivers of dry, icy blood,
brittle like burnt bone. How to
turn inward, make it all sparkling
again, breathe in the vibrant 
energy of life, from waves, from air...

An interesting experience, looking into the eyes of thousands-years-old sculpture and feeling a recognition of the person portrayed within. So pleased, so serene, so peaceful. Fascinating!

I wished the lake
into azure above the city
that never sleeps

After coming home, I unexpectedly descended into shadows, same old tired feelings resurfaced that I carefully suppressed and put away on a shelf of "do not touch, do not use." In vain. They come back if they want to. Maybe for the last time? Finally, I figured out what to do with them, though, how to transmute them in the alchemy of emotions.

A Poem with No Name

First you cross the Salt Plains of Rejection
into the Desert of Abandonment.
Mount Disappointment lies just beyond
The Valley of Regret. This is a huge country.
You lived there for decades. You explored
every nook and cranny; path, boulder, crevice.

Ever since your mother disappeared
for five months and a year. Ever since
you learned to write at six to send her
your desperate pleas: “Mommy, come back.
Mommy, I love you. Mommy, why don’t you
love me, any more?” You re-lived this story
time and time again. In every marriage,
romance. “I love you so much!
Why don’t you care for me at all?”

Now you know too well how it feels like.
Now you can open the enchanted book
and say the words of magic.

The transmutation has begun.

You pour out a river of molten light –
dazzling, white hot, yet cool to touch –
over the chaff of broken feelings, the dust
of memories you wish were not yours
to keep and gather for the ancient One.

The chaff burns.
The shadows flee.
You find a grain of gold
Under your feet.
Smooth, shiny, polished,
It is yours to keep.

Is it a grain? Look closer, a golden acorn
Rests in the palm of your hand. Plant it
in valleys. Plant it in deserts.
Plant on bare mountain slopes.
Plant on wind-swept plains.

It grows so fast. Soon, a magnificent oak tree

spreads out its gold leaves and boughs.
New life springs in your landscape
of desolation, more real than the chaff
of regrets and dust of sorrows.

Look through its branches.
Be mindful, attentive. What do you see?

Here: the fertile fields of bonding.
There: the rainbow meadows of connection.

Look carefully now. See the pristine
peaks of fulfillment, the rainbow garden
of gratitude? Filled with every kind
of fragrant blossoms, the heady perfume
of rose and jasmine, the delicate scent
of lavender and violets.

This is not a mirage.
This is your world.
To conjure up,

create and explore.
Give me your hand.


This is your gold grain.

Let's go.

Our journey has just begun.