11 November 2008

pilgrimage reduction

as an ode to reconstructing education, i'm here in the house of my highschoolenglishteacher, amidst the wind and the fury of a port city extended gingerly on the quimper peninsula. there are sleeping dogs and humans upstairs and my body pulses warm from yoga and delicious hot water. we worked for 10 hours yesterday, going over the "sometimes we walk alone" manuscript with shears and curiosity, melting pats of better and looking out for the confused reader. we got through 10 days (of the 26) and have another four hours this morning before i hitchhike back to sequim to teach a four-course cooking class on squash.

ironic perhaps that the buses don't run on veterans' day, when most of the regular passengers out here seem to be down-and-out veterans.

but i'm always thankful for an armistice, and even hopeful this season to see a few more.

last night, before we cooked dinner (pumpkin in a guajillo sauce, made into enchiladas) chris assigned me to take a chapter of the book and boil it down into a poem. a reduction he said. he's trying to speak my language, you see. so i tried -- the chapter was about an old man i met, 91 years old, who had met gandhi on the same road 76 years before, had his life changed, and spent the rest of it fighting for freedom, against the dictates of family and caste. i've probably posted that excerpt sometimes in the past.

march 14th : matar : reduction

This can't be real
Pilgrims are supposed to be hungry,
 touching the feet of their elders,
Hopeful, humble, invisible amidst the hubbub.

This can't be real
To walk into a foreign land
be trumpeted and garlanded
after long meditation on my unworthiness

They take me to the statue.
They take me to the fair.
And they take me to our grandfather

In India, family is life.
J. gave up his life to begin it.
To midwife a nation, besides

Beaten, tortured, and scorned
A shadow of a son's pain
of being a son, no longer,
to his father.

There's no turning back
The future is jail,
struggle, revolution, triumph

As our grandfather defines ahimsa


That's the poem and if I could boil it down to a sentence it would be "I mean, God Damn!". But chris liked it and maybe wants to destroy the book and replace it with poetry. But he's just like that and we've both known it for years. He has a friend and colleague who saw life and everything else in Rwanda, came away with a book of poetry that includes a poem that includes some sayings he learned there, including

"Let only laughter scar your face"

Which, I think, is even better than everything else.


1 comment:

Brian said...

Nice posting. Do you know about this edition of the Gita?