Poet’s Notebook: My poem, “Bright liberal, you are called”, followed by comments

Bright liberal, you are called

You are called
to attend a wedding
at the bend in the river
where glacial melt
flows out of the mountain’s shadow
and quickens
before it leaps into space
transmuting
into valley water.

The minister is a
full-fledged shaman
whose eyes reflect the mountains
that protect his soul
from the likes of you.

Bright liberal,
you are called!
You obediently followed the river all the way
through the hills
and gorges,
against the current,
to this place of gathering.

You deserve a rest!

You are weary.
All your ideas are weary.

Your dreams
are a flock of birds
chattering in the sycamores
with all the flight gone from their wings
as if it were the end of the day,
but in truth it is still early!

Rest.

The bride’s dress,
river-washed,
is flapping in the breeze
against white peaks.

You, one seven-billionth
of the human race,
you, bright liberal,
are called
to witness this union.

You who have picked clean
the fruiting branch,
sanctioned the undoing of nature,
and are sorry for it at least,
now you,
who brought nothing to share,
will have to eat
whatever others bring.
 
You will dance the animal
at the wedding party.
You will dance the mountain!
You will step barefoot
in the aching river,

and if you trip and fall
because the wine made you clumsy,
and if the river embraces you,
to resounding laugher,
you will rise and laugh along with the party
because, while you were under the water,
you heard the heart-beat of the river
and it filled your heart with joy.

You are called
bright liberal.

The bride is your anima.
Her white dress is the clouds on the mountain
her white dress is the dogwood blossoms
by the waterfall
that are almost too bright to see.
You aren’t Dante in Paradise
dazzled by the light of heaven.
But, like Dante,
you made it through Purgatory
and need no longer be blind-sided
by the bitter world.

You are called

to fully open your eyes,
to become the plaything of time
to source life,
to journey at will
and never lose your way.
Profoundly enlivened,
you will help
recover the instructions
that will enable humans to live on —

people of the shrinking islands,
people of the sinking shores,
mountain and valley people,
desert families,
people cherished by the brightest stars,
people of the river
and the plain . . .

Isn’t this air sweet?
Remember this place.

And when you return to the valley,
tell the old woman
to free the horses.
Tell the old man to patch the tent.
You are called to do this.
The water is watching you
the smoke is watching,
the wind will remind you,
new forms of knowing
are waiting.

Do you know that old man
who just showed up?
The one who is making people laugh with his antics,
the one who is teasing the bride
and now he is taking the groom aside
with his hand on his shoulder?

Of course you do!
He is the shaman.
And he is you.

You are called.
………………………….
Comments:
“Bright liberal, you are called” is another of what I call my experimental poems. I have been rereading The Alchemist by Coelho, and I was influenced I’ll admit, by his drive to spin a story. Also, I have been thinking about prophecy these days, about how the Native American prophecies are being fulfilled. We are mistaken if we think that prophesy has nothing to do with science. Prophecy subsumes science. Science doesn’t hold all the answers. What’s happening is bigger than science alone can explain or even be expected to explain. The human race seems to be hell-bent on trashing the planet. For what? In my opinion, and maybe this is because of my age – I am running out of patience, and I am beginning to resent labels, and I am pretty sure scientists feel the same way. (Some scientists might even secretly consider themselves prophets, such are the times.) But the plight of the planet and the human race is not science’s problem to solve! We can blame each other or ourselves for not paying attention to the science of global warming / climate change / climate chaos but the truth is, there is no worldly explanation for what we are doing to our world or how things will play out. The problem lies deep within our hearts and souls!

I am planning on teaching a course in the Fall (at a small local college) titled, “Prophecy and the Environmental Imperative”. It is my sense that the designation “liberal” or “progressive” is about to fade into history. Was a liberal ever more than just an inconvenient label? I mean, were there ever “liberals” or “progressives”? In this poem, I am calling the “bright” liberal out, and I am imagining that , in his heart of hearts, he wants to be called out. Why “bright”? Maybe I am saying that not all liberals are “bright”! Or maybe I am shining the spotlight on a mask!

We don’t need “liberals” anymore. We need thinking people who see what’s going on and give a shit. What is a liberal but someone who likes to imagine that he or she is thinking for themselves. Almost all the people I know are very upset with the way things are going worldwide and not one of them, when it really comes down to it, calls him / herself a liberal or a progressive . . . except when it’s time to vote, and then everyone tries to fit in somewhere. But after election day, the real work that we face is not political, it is not about pushing or supporting an agenda. The work we face is closer to being mythic. We are trying to save our planet, or more accurately, the soul and vitality of our planet. When I said this 30 years ago, few people “got it”. (See my book, The Blue Man: Poems for the late Nuclear Age (1981) reissued with an author’s forward by Two Plums press.) Now it’s like the hypnotist has clicked his fingers and nobody is clucking or barking or trying to kiss their chair. The spell has lifted, but only because the weather has changed and the carnival is packing up and leaving town!

If we get bogged down in discussions and debates and personalities, we’re like flocks of pigeons that rouse themselves to fly around the barn, all in unison, and then roost to catch their breath before they’re off again, stirred by something in the news. But nothing changes.

The story I am dipping into in this poem is ongoing. I will keep telling it in different forms for the rest of my life. How can it be otherwise? I am this person and as long as I am this person, unless I experience some kind of ecstatic conversion, like Paul on the way to Damascus, and fall off my horse, I am going to work the message that keeps percolating up through my filters.

If there is a coherent story, it is about calling out the “bright liberal” to fulfill his or her true calling, to stop kowtowing to the bitter world that is blindsiding him, but to allow himself to become the plaything of life, to journey at will, to open herself to new knowledge.

The “wedding” that comes up in the first stanza and throughout the poem, is the sacred marriage of the archetypal opposites. He, the subject, is being summoned to leave the valley, to journey to a gathering place and, in the end, to morph into a “full-fledged shaman”.

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