Received in Today's Mail, Letters from Two PoetsOne measured 7" long. Three inches gauged the awards he won, two inches, his upcoming readings, one inch, latest books read, another half inch, recent parties and contacts. In less than a line he asked how I was. The other poet did not type his words, but wrote like water falling down the page, rising into the margins with large musical scrawls like fish flying from the sea. He spoke eloquently, without regard to dangling adjectives or sentences ending in prepositions. His pen left exhuberant flicks of ink in the most unlikely places. His was the fruitful arbor of everyday awe, no answers overwhelming the eye. Pure mystery abounding. Surprise pulling up the rug at each familiar crosswalk.
"The world exists intact in the flesh," he said, "wild and alone as if in a stream. It waits for you to fish. You pull something up, look around, see today, write tomorrow, pluck food from the hook that wants you to believe there's separation between past and future. What's to clarify by writing? In the stilled chaos at the center of the question, a writer is the sea-ing eye that rocks the wave into existence. If you look from afar, what comes back? Not what you saw, but what happened inside."
On the veranda, I placed the letters on a low table and watched them curl with the humidity. In a foreign land, I was glad for each. They gave me what I needed to know. Outside, two children's kites rose in the breeze, snapping and dancing before a distant, sacred peak. One kite was painted with a dragon eating its own tail. The other held hands with itself, abstractly glowing in unidentifiable colors, transmuted by a blinding backdrop of setting sun.
Out of nowhere, a sifting bowl of rain overturned on the paddies, then evaporated. A full moon rose. Women returned home from the harvest, their sickles--tucked into their sashes--kernaled with brown husks. The familiar eel man was there too, walking like a dancer along a mud dike, empty bucket swinging on his pole. A duck herder met him half way, ushering his goslings through a veil of smoke from burning chaff. A gentle breeze came along. The two letters on my table rolled and lifted right out into the dusk. Fireflies, then. And a woman who never stopped laughing inside her hut. In this cresting dance of the galaxy, who is that laughing, I wondered, and where precisely is the exact point of consciousness?
If everything around me
-Campuan, Ubud '97
Issue #3, September, 1998 :
Santa Fe Poetry Broadside.