I had wandered into darkness and was pining for the light.
But all around was murky, with the shadows growing more.
And I wondered if that darkness was an artifact of sight,
For my eyes were aged and dimming, not the eyes I had before.
Towards the ending of my journey, as the path began to curve,
There came to me a question, as I sensed the roadway's arc.
And I wondered, if at ending, I would get what I deserve,
But I could not find an answer – or a light within the dark.
But a tumult, from a distance, it grew louder and drew near.
And I listened, in my darkness, and could hear the voices rise.
I was gripped then by confusion and by wonder and by fear,
For the spirit-world was speaking, to a soul that was unwise.
And I heard a conversation. Was it one or two or three,
Who were speaking to each other? Were they ghosts or were they gods?
Were they demons, were they devils, were they spirits flying free?
And I trembled in my terror, as a vassal met by lords.
But that conversation faded, and I thought, “My plight's at end!”
And what was the discussion, and why those sounds of strife,
I could not quite remember, or truly comprehend.
And then, there came a voice, that cut me like a knife.
But I heard that voice proclaiming, “Do not fear, oh mortal man!
You will listen to our voices, you will glean what we have learned.
We are spirits, who are searching, as we spirit-beings can,
But we've come to know our limits. And in hellfire, we have burned.
“And yet, we still are searching, and will search for longer still,
For as spirits we live longer than the ones who live in stuff.
We are eddies, not immortal, and we whirl as eddies will,
And we fade away like others, when we've whirled about enough.
“And we search for hints of meaning, in the vortices that whirl,
In the galaxies and atoms, in the minds of octopi,
In the swirling of the waters, in the flowers that unfurl,
In the numbers transcendental, like your Euler's and your pi.
“And we too have known emotion, that is reason's better half.
And in feeling, as in thinking, we have delved and we have burned.
Like the maid that's lost her lover or the cow that's lost its calf,
We have mourned – and broken-heartedly, the cost of living learned.
“We are born like others beings, we are transient, like this world,
We will die, like other mortals, and we only have a while.
And we pray, that while we're living, in this pit of madness hurled,
We might find, what we are seeking. Then we spirits too may smile.
“And we sense that you've been searching, and your desperation's clear.
So we've come to you with questions, and with yin and yang and crew.
And some of our companions, they had argued, that your fear,
It would make our voices dreadful, but we've settled still on you.
“And we know that you are bestial, that your journey soon will end.
So we hope that you will listen, and be wiser than before.
But we do not know the answers and we never will pretend
As your prophets have pretended, or as writ in human lore.”
So I listened, though I trembled, and I heard the voices speak.
But I only heard confusion, and of opposites that fought.
And my mind was set to racing, and my body, it grew weak,
And I felt a passing pity, for all others in my lot.
“There is reason and unreason, there is heartlessness and heart,
There is cruelty, compassion, there is innocence and guile.
There is slavery and freedom, there is artlessness and art,
There is sanity and madness. There are those, who still can smile.
“There are those who thirst for justice, there are those who seek for self,
There are those whose souls are honest, there are those who like to lie.
There's the mother full of nurture, and the one, who leaves her whelp,
There's the one whose life is easy and the ones who toil and die.
“In this world, there's rarely justice, as the feeding rules supreme,
Yet in oceans roiled with madness there are islands still of calm.
It's a world that's full of hatred, where the evil-doers scheme,
And yet there are the beings, who are loving, kind and warm.
“There is light within the darkness and there's darkness in the light.
There's the frenzy that we're caught in, there is hopelessness and fear.
In a world that's full of blindness, there are still the ones with sight.
In the midst of our despairing, we can hope our ending's near.
“There's construction and destruction, there is order and there's mess.
There is growth and there's progression and the cycle that repeats.
There is confidence and learning, there's achievement and success,
There is ignorance and diffidence, and failure and defeats.
“There are legacies of matter that will swirl about and fly,
There are legacies of forces that will gust awhile and fade.
There are legacies of knowledge, corrupted by the lie,
There are insights that are diamonds that will slowly turn to jade.
“There is laughter here and weeping, there is loneliness and love,
There is bliss that we can savor, there is hopelessness, despair.
There is joy that is abounding, there is suffering sans end.
And we seek for shreds of meaning, when it's torn beyond repair.
“You ask for this a reason, and you wait for a reply.
But the sky above is silent, and the ocean breakers roar;
The earth brings forth its bounty, but will never tell you why.
You were born into the tumult, but in silence you will go.
“So your nature then is silence – and to silence, you return.
In the midst of all the madness, there is solace still in this.
When you're turned away from silence, in the madness then you burn.
When you bravely turn to silence, then you taste again of bliss.”
And the voices then grew silent, though the tumult would remain,
And I wondered at the sayings and I sought to find the sense.
There was burning in my fingers, there was fire in my brain,
But all around was darkness – and the darkness, it was dense.
Towards the ending of my journey, as I turned around a bend,
I could see that I had foundered, in the swamps of a malaise,
And I looked for a horizon, where my torture could have end,
But I only saw a darkness, and no ending of the chase.
I had wandered into darkness. It was darkness without end.
And my mind itself was darkness, with an ember still aglow.
But that ember, it was dying. There was nothing to defend.
For my life and for my labor, I had ashes left to show.
And the words that I had written, and the puzzles I had solved,
They would all amount to nothing, they were meaningless and void.
And in seeing then this foaming, in my heart I then resolved,
To turn again to emptiness, to my nature, which is void.
And yet, this world of tumult, it had entered deep within.
The sea within was roiling, it was churning up the I.
And so there was this writing, and this making more of sin,
As the truth was thus avoided in this capture by the lie.
So I then began to wonder if I ever would have peace,
Would there ever be some order, would the chaos come to end?
And I wonder still, befuddled, for the fire does not cease,
Yet the darkness, it grows denser, since I turned around that bend.
But still, there is that clearing, as the mists of maya part,
There's the memory of silence and the quiet of resolve.
In the midst of all the frenzy, as it's time to soon depart,
There's the sense that what seems real, into void, will dissolve.
For the spirits did their talking and they seemed, for moment, real.
Then they vanished into ether. Were they conjured by my mind?
Could a spirit, of that ether, sans a body corporeal,
Find a method, to a body, for a moment, to be kind?
There are spirits that have vanished that were once where we could reach,
And they live within our eddies till our eddies fade away.
There's a spirit that has vanished that was dearest once to each,
And each, who tries to reach it, will be answered with a nay.
To my mother, I would answer for whatever I would do.
She is in my mind forever – and my father too is there.
To my mother, I still answer, to my father answer too.
But my parents cannot lighten now the burdens that I bear.
And the answer to my question begins clearly to appear.
For there's no one who is counting up my labor or my sins.
My omissions and commissions, and the things that I hold dear,
Do not matter. There is silence. So my losses are my wins.
As the ancients thought that Terra was the center of the All,
As in China, it was rumored that the other lands exist –
But they're foreign and malignant, to be countered by a Wall,
So delusions, of that center, in our eddies still exist.
And the voices I was hearing, they were voices in my head.
And their sayings bred confusion, till the silence took its stead.
So the ones, who've lost their reason, are afflicted, it is said.
When the world is utter madness, to the silence, then be wed.
2013 September 24th, Tue. 6:36 am, with stanzas added Tue., Wed. & Sat. nights. Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
A fish was swimming in the sea.
It now becomes a part of me.
Its spirit long has left its flesh,
For spirit-nature tends to flee
A carcass, while it still is fresh,
So souls are of encumbrance free.
Or so, at least, I would presume,
As others mostly do assume,
So all can look at dinners, lunches,
And guiltlessly, those meals, consume,
As well as breakfasts, teas and brunches.
And turning, therefore, to my fish,
Which looks to be a tasty dish,
I see it's sautéed well. I smell
Its fragrance and I fondly wish
Its taste and flavor will be swell.
I pick the muscle from the spine.
I taste the flesh. It tastes divine.
It's sad this being had to die
To make, for me, a luncheon fine.
I eat the fish – and do not cry.
But still, a nagging thought remains,
That nags and nags, as certain pains
May do, that we may wish were not,
But still persist, till each obtains
Attention due, that we forgot.
I wonder if, with tables turned,
By fishy chef, I would be burned –
Have salt and spice on scalded skin,
So I, who's dining, unconcerned,
Would fully pay the price of sin.
And this, I can't but wonder too:
Are our assumptions really true?
Does the spirit truly leave
(As hermit-crabs, their shelters do),
As many smugly may believe,
Until they die – and dinners rue?
2013 September 21, Sat. afternoon, between Chinatown, Manhattan, and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, on the N and D trains, on the way home from the doctor's office in C-t.
She asked him why he left her, but he never did reply.
So she was left to figure out the real reason why.
And though the years have come and gone, that puzzle still remains,
That never will be solved by her, whose time has come to die.
How many years, how many years, of asking for the reason...
How many tears, how many tears, on day and month of season,
The day and month on which he left, as autumn then was ending...
And still she pays, as ending nears, the price for lover's treason....
How lightly men may leave the maidens whom they courted, won...
How sadly ends the dalliance so happily begun...
How deep the wound that rarely heals, though time attempts its cure,
How strange that some have hearts with space for one -- and only one.
How many pitfalls life may lay upon a mortal's way,
How many traps that snare the one who stops from saying, "Nay."
How many mothers warn their girls, who yet succumb to love,
How many men, who leave the maid, with whom they've had their way...
When she was young, she tried, in vain, to youthful heart defend.
Now death approaches and she nears her tortuous journey's end.
We wonder if she'll ever have a chance to live again,
And in that life, for errors past, another will amend.
I came upon a person by the sea,
Of haggard aspect, battered down by time.
He slumped upon a bench with downcast head,
And though the sky and ocean were alight,
It seemed it was in darkness that he sat,
An abject figure, sunk in hopelessness.
I sat beside him, wondering at this.
Had death or separation caused this man
To slouch like this, alone by oceanside,
As breezes blew and all around him seemed
A picture drawn of paradise on earth,
With Nature in her garb of happiness?
So when at last he turned to glance at me,
With a look of desperation tinged with guilt,
I bravely ventured then to ask of him
The reason for his obvious sunken state.
And hearing this, he then began to speak,
With a voice that trembled in its earnestness.
“I am a teacher. That is all I know.
For many years, I labored at my job.
And all, that's thrown at teachers, I withstood
And tried to teach, so students then could learn.
But towards the end, I burned, it seemed, in fire,
And all my nights were seized by craziness.
“The job, impossible for those who are
Disabled by the human tendency
To do their best, and do it honestly,
To care for those they teach, and what they teach,
I still had done, for many, many years,
And even drawn, from it, my sustenance.
“We teachers earn, as workers, salaries,
But that is all. Whatever benefits
Our union got for us, that now erode,
Do not suffice for labor such as ours,
Which sucks, from each who labors, life itself,
And leaves behind a husk – and emptiness.
“And though some fall away, defeated, some
Persist, for reasons various, and each
Has self to feed – and family as well.
And some are able, by some magic art,
To distance selves from what they do each day,
And so survive, by gift of provenance.
“And others find, perhaps, a little niche,
In which they may find shelter for a while,
And even, if they're fortunate, a bit
Of satisfaction, as their students learn.
For that is what sustains the teachers true,
Who cannot feed at troughs of callousness.
“For teachers learn, who truly are sincere,
Beyond their payment, never to expect,
From those who run the show, the sordid game,
A word of praise – or even from their wards,
Who still are young – and unaware of all
The teacher does, in strength or weariness.
“But teaching, just like learning, is a joy,
And when the ground is fertile, even seeds
By sowers lightly cast, untended, grow
And then bear fruit, with more of seeds in turn.
But others fall on ground that's arid, hard,
And all our tending ends in fruitlessness.
“For teaching, learning need some shelter, space,
Some attitudes from those who teach and learn,
From those who run the schools, who make the laws.
For all our culture did not come from those
Who play at high finance or at their wars,
But those, who wove their threads in diligence.
“There came a time when I grew tired of stress,
Of all my labor past and present and
The prospect of yet more until my end.
And all my efforts seemed a waste of time,
So many hours and days and years misspent,
Amounting, at the end, to nothingness.
“And even then, like a horse that's trained to pull,
I strained at harness, though my load grew such
I only crawled. But never, even then,
Did I succumb to any of the scams
That pass for teaching and are glorified,
Though none can pass the test of harmlessness.
“For we have students, who have but one life,
And parents, live or dead, who gave them this.
And every day they spend with us is less
From what they have, before they too are dead.
So can a conscience let one sleep, who then
Gives other than his due of diligence?
“Deprived of sleep, I felt that I was spent,
So all, that once had looked alluring, now
Appeared as dull. And what was savory,
When I was rested, now had lost its taste.
And life itself, with all its promise and
Its pleasures seemed absurd and meaningless.
“The ones I'd loved, the ones who gave me life
Had passed away – and even as I worked.
Not only all my most productive years,
But even those for whom I deeply cared
I'd lost to this, the work that teachers do,
Impossible, in total earnestness.
“For teachers, as I said, to labor true,
Look not for praise, but need – the space to teach.
But even this, to them, is now denied,
And all the castigation of the world
Is heaped on those who labor most to teach,
And they are left with naught but hopelessness.
“And yet, I could not leave my job, because
On it depended life and family.
And teaching was the only thing I knew,
And from that thing, that all my life consumed,
I'd drawn my meaning, structured all the rest
Around that thing – that turned to shamelessness.”
He stopped. The blood, that seemed had drained away,
When first I saw him, pounded in a vein
Upon his temple – and his face was flushed.
He'd straightened, gestured, come to life, but now
Again, I saw, had started to collapse.
I took my leave, in sudden fecklessness.
But when, returning from my evening walk,
I passed that spot, I saw, in gloaming's light,
That selfsame man, that teacher, self-described,
Was sitting there, with eyes affixed on ground.
And seeing this, I hastened then my step,
And passed him by, in haste and wariness.
Those verses were written in the teacher's lounge of the Brooklyn Studio Secondary school, when I had begun subbing again after working for a year at the nearby New Utrecht High School. Teachers' lounges are a rarity in the New York City public school system.
The Brooklyn Studio Secondary School is in the Bensonhurst district of southwestern Brooklyn. The building is on 21st Avenue, between 83rd St. and 84th St. It contains both a senior high school (grades 9-12) and a junior high school (grades 6-8). An adjoining building (which can be accessed from the basement) houses an elementary school (kindergarten to grade 5). There was a time when a student might spend all his/her years of K-12 schooling in those two buildings.
The New Utrecht High School is also in Bensonhurst. The school building stands between 79th and 80th Streets and between 16th and New Utrecht Avenues. This six-story building, which towers above the surrounding residential ones, can be clearly seen on Google Earth, along with the school's playing field and the elevated train tracks over New Utrecht Avenue.
Both of these schools must be close to a hundred years old. When I looked up their buildings on the NY City Map website, at http://maps.nyc.gov/doitt/nycitymap/, I found that the current buildings for the Brooklyn Studio Secondary School and the New Utrecht High School have official construction dates of 1909 and 1931 respectively. However, I think that the original school at the first site commenced operation a few years later, around 1913, which would make the school there, in all its incarnations, a century old as of now (2013), while the second (New Utrecht) started a few years later.
Bereft of reason and of virtues, filled with much that's vile,
With ancient humors each replaced by substitute of bile,
A prey to all the vices old and host to evils new,
The modern human stands and even struts for us to view.
And all the subtleties that marked the one of “culture” are
Now vanished. All that now remains are crudities that war.
Yet all the innocence of one who's “primitive” is gone,
With gentle arts replaced by those in cataclysms born.
What once belonged to Nature, just as much as does a flower,
Is now possessed by devilry, and fully in its power.
So songs that issued forth in melodies are now replaced
By screams as only lunatics might voice, with madness faced.
Where was once had pulsed a heart, the metal pistons loudly stroke,
And where there once was mind, we only find a tragic joke.
For garbage fills the hemispheres and excrement now flows
Through vesicles. And when it speaks, its inner state, it shows.
For surely, “it” is all that's fit for such as human is,
That's been transformed by factories to such a state as this.
And though compassion rises, hesitation follows soon,
For if such products would depart, would not that be a boon?
And yet, this is a human, kin to all the beasts and birds,
And still a child of Nature, yes, despite our vicious words.
And so, to that one spirit that we still conceive as good,
We pray that evil should depart – or we've misunderstood.
They're fighting now for their control of continents and oceans.
And night and day, the war goes on that taxes all our patience.
The battlefronts are drawn across our land, along our coasts.
They curve upon the rolling plains and cross the mountain hosts.
And every week brings new advance, that's followed by retreat
Or even more advancing, as the pincer-edges meet.
The islands left of foes appear to swiftly melt away,
As bones are gnawed at nighttime and lie bleached by searing day.
The corpses now are everywhere. They rot in wetlands and
Are strewn in withered piles across the fields and shifting sand.
The powers aren't lords that live in palaces and those
Who battle aren't soldiers who're as human as their foes.
The conflict raging is between the roiling airy masses.
The limbs severed are those of trees, of bushes and of grasses.
And those who rot, in regions wet, or wither, where it's dry,
Are worker leaves who toiled and died, for whom no kindred cry.
Yet each was born as tender thing, and grew and lived in beauty,
As soldiers do, who die for naught, although they're told it's duty.
But though the combats rage on scales beyond a human war,
And were and will be past our span, they're better – yes, by far.
How beauteous is a tree that stands against the sunset sky,
With all its limbs outspread – and topmost branches reaching high...
And when the morning sun is seen, that tree is standing still,
As sunlight catches dew-wet leaves – while hearts, with hymnals, fill.
Its grace and balance can't be matched by those who walk and run,
For it must stand as seasons pass and draw its strength from sun.
In stormy winds and pouring rains, in droughts and blizzards too,
It still must stand, where we would flee, as those, who're like us, do.
It happens that we're walking in the mist – and then we see,
Appearing, in that whiteness, with its darkened limbs – a tree!
And though at first we're frightened by its hugeness, we perceive
It holds for us no danger – and, in gratitude, we leave.
But when the sky is clouded and the rain begins to fall,
Then birds and beasts take shelter with the trees, and so do all
Who wander in the open and from nature's wrath must flee.
And in the tropic noontime, these find shade beneath a tree.
We come and go, the trees persist for generations more.
And some are standing still, that stood and silent witness bore
To all those things we've read about in sutras or in bibles,
Or even when it's claimed the gods we worship battled rivals.
And though they're strong as edifices that we humans build,
In elegance they stand – and are, with Nature's beauty, filled...
And though, at times, they're clothed in leaves that flutter in the breezes,
And at other times are standing nude, their structure always pleases.
And so, against the sky at dusk, with all its changing hue,
A tree may stand and be as one – and human faith renew...
And when the dawn lights up the sky, the tree is standing there,
To greet the rising sun – and those, whose eyes, that witness bear.
2013 August-end & September14th, Sat. Bensonhurst Park and at home, Brooklyn
With Harlot Falsehoods When we've walked the road of verity, Throughout our lives – with all our human faults, Abstaining from the vices of the lie – The path of falsehood then cannot be borne. And when we've been obedient to the call Of conscience, ever heeding heart's advice, To disobey is as a living death, A torture, hell ascended to this earth. And yet, observe, how in survival's name, Or merely for ambition, some, with ease, Can lie throughout their lives and can benumb Their consciences and hearts for worldly ends. And slaves, be they in chains of iron or Of silver, must obey the master's lip. And those, who quickest shed their scruples, thrive And do not shy from wielding lie and whip. So should we martyr minds and bodies for The quiet voices that we hear within, Or should we yield to fear or seek to rise By doing what we see the others do? The question comes and must be answered, yet We seek, from this dilemma, some escape. We all have duties to our selves and kin. Should mere survival then be viewed as sin? And yet, those voices, that we've listened to, Will not be stilled. They fill our nights and days. To path of justice, heart and conscience call. And every step away dismays the soul. And those, who've wedded selves to truth, cannot With harlot falsehoods lie a moment long. And yet, the webs of lies entrap their souls, And they are found, where they do not belong. ****** The ways, that lead to what some call as "god"
And others, "truth", are varied, manifold.
So each may choose to walk upon the way
That's fit for him or her, while harming none.
And all creation, all that's filled with light,
Has source in this. Compulsion kills the soul.
But even that, which free creation brings,
Is used to slaughter and to dominate.
How many ways have humans engineered, To make, of others, slaves! So all, that minds Have wrought, in innocent ingenuity, To free us, then is swiftly turned to this.
So farming gave us brigand kings and turned The freemen into serfs. And now we see Computers, mathematics used to serve As watchdogs on the herds that daily teach.
It will not be. We shall not be a part Of evil, though our backs are loaded, bent. We'll bear our burdens, labor as we've done, But will not harm our wards or blur our truths.
Our lives have taught us that humility That those of hubris rarely see till end. And yet, whatever remnant self-respect Remains, demands we do not dance to lies.
For how can we fulfill our duties core, When heart and reason clearly say, "Do this." And fear and slavery proclaim, "Do that."? We choose the freeman's path of clarity.
Whatever punishment that brings, we'll bear, With inmost beings calm, in dignity. We'll do our work and walk the path of love, And that will be, for us, reward enough.
stanzas prior to the break written 2013 September 4th, Wed. night (after being briefed for two days on the new teacher-evaluation system in New York City) and stanzas following the break added September 5th,Thu. and September 6th, Fri., Bensonhurst, Brooklyn