After my first public reading from Wife of the House, someone said, “I felt so present during the reading. I went into an altered state.” That’s what it’s all about, I thought, remembering from my literary studies how poems are best when they “poke holes in consciousness.”
Before I read the poem, “Dream,” I said that it was about the nature of what I had heard the Buddhist meditation teacher, Jack Kornfield, call “the wanting mind.” The poem begins:
I wanted to ride the elephant
but got the camel instead…
The audience laughed, because we recognized how the wanting mind can place us in hilarious predicaments if we let it.
I also read, “Paradise Canyon” which begins:
Wind for weeks you’ve had your way
with air you won’t bed down
and be satisfied…
We also know that aversion such as the hatred of wind can function as a friction to bring us higher lessons. It felt meaningful to share those moments (when poems poked holes in my consciousness) with a larger audience at the book release reading. It is healing when we honor our common humanity with laughter and also with tears:
…he switches on the light
he returns to the center
holding the dark
at four corners.
from “At My Window”
After the reading, I woke up at 1:00 am. It was my birthday. I woke up to a poem. I was tired and yearned to go back to sleep, but I could not for 3 hours because the poem seemed to need to make sure it made a strong enough imprint so I would not forget. So, eventually, I went into a quiet, deep relaxation practice that my students do at the end of yoga classes, and the poem remembered itself with ease.
Birth-Day After the Age of Reason
I think I may be
Is that a problem?
The mind goes quiet,
the body still.
I am the stars,
and the stars are me.