Poem
Saturday, 15 October 2016

Ghost Among Men

Francis Pedraza
Dec 16, 2018 · 5 min read

Written after Scott’s wedding and a number of other occasions in which I felt as if life, people, and common concerns were passing me by, I was uncommonly detached and uninvested.

Ghost among men
That temptations no longer tempt; not for virtue, but for void. I sin still; but even that, hollow. Taken by the hand, a mumbled consent to robbery, assisted self-saboteur.

Surrounded by people, no more than the sum of their behaviors, yet so convinced of their personality.

What was once natural, is still natural to others, now seems strange in my eyes; An algorithm, now conscious of itself, that seems strange to itself, surrounded by other algorithms, that seem yet more strange;

Even simple people, ordinary things, basic concepts, monosyllabic words: bizarre, alien, weird. Is that so? What is this stage, this set, these costumes and props? Elaborately contrived tricks and spells.

A mandala; we are masks, persistent illusions in a dance of form, an elaborate unconscious ritual, incarnating rhythms, endless variations on themes… to dust we shall return. But to others, this is all real, all invested, attached, serious, participating — They whirl and whirl around me, into a blur of life and color and sound and smell; samsara.

Sometimes a noisy bashing concussive dizzy din, other times a birdsong, but usually they just buzz like bees, so busy. Why bee? Why does this nectar so please, entertain, preoccupy you? So serious you are, about this important business of being a bee. I suppose you can’t help it. You’re a bee, you can’t stop that. Play on!

But to me, aloof, detached — am I not a man, still flesh, still blood? Ought I not to desire? Why do I not partake? Not desire? Not buzz? Well, I buzz. I’m a strange bee. I’ve been bee-ing all my life, but I need a reminder. How do I bee again? Show me. I don’t remember. How do that? My antennae is broken.

I have died to life while yet living. It has lost its bite. Pain, pleasure, all felt as a necessary, a going through of motions.

Four paths have I taken — repentance, resignation, rebellion, reincarnation — they led me back here. I can’t escape this koan. Trapped in a paradox. Thankfully, it’s just one lifetime. I suppose that’s all I can take. If they sent me back, wouldn’t I just be too tired to be serious about this bee business? I’m already tired of it, although there are still flowers I haven’t tasted; and it’s still a wide world. But already I’ve seen much, maybe too much? Enough I’ve lost the childlike wonder and foolishness. Already I’ve loved and lost, loved and lost, loved and lost; Already, many times I have died, in this one life, only one third lived. Youth I am still with you, but I have already said goodbye — I’m too old to be much longer. I’ve been squeezed like an olive; twice over, thrice; four times and there’s still more, apparently. More to give, more to receive.

Mono no aware; too sad to be sad about it. Sublime ambivalence. What can it be compared to — to feel anything? It just is. Suchness, thusness, is-ness.

I have less now, than I ever thought I’d have. I go without. I make a sport of poverty. Material poverty is nothing compared to this wilderness of soul. I should cry. But numbness dresses casual these days. The tragic is no longer quite dramatic. Can a nightmare be, if it is familiar? An everyday affair, this suffering.

And I have more now, than I ever thought I’d have. And what of it; this abundance? Look, yes, so many beautiful people, things, words, ideas, toys, stuff, music, art, creations of both God and man.

I see these things, yet the best of them now seem no more than shadows playing against the walls of this cave, cast in light no more than firelight.

I hear whispers of a light called the Sun. A place where shadows ascend to form, approach the Light.

It’s all whispering to me. Like a memory. A forgotten thing. Half-grasped at inklings of the beyondness of things. Scraps of parchment from ancient mystics writing of what cannot be written. Oh, the futility of our Babels!

These whispers keep me in thrall; palms turned up, knees bent. Tears of surrender and gratitude to Your Mystery. If it be your will, let this cup pass; but Thy Will; Thy Will. Not mine. Thy Kingdom; not My Kingdom.

I don’t know the way. I am lost and confused. Take me by the hand like a child. Teach me to be a man. With patience, patience of a Father. Love of a Mother. Passion of a Lover. I can’t do this for myself. I am impatient, hateful, and apathetic. I cannot be as kind to myself as you are to me. But please, please. Do for me what I cannot do for myself. Spoon-feed me. Give us this day our daily bread.

In trust, faith that there is Purpose in all this. That I’ll find Love and Beauty in this labyrinth of many-layered Truth — wrapped in skins of dried lies. It makes me cry when I cut it.

Do I desire not enough, or too much? “I want more than this world has to offer.” Oh, I want! I want so much. I’m sorry, you can’t satisfy. I’m sorry, it’s nothing wrong with you. I’m impossible to please. I’m a snob, but I don’t mean to be so cruel, and to spurn your approaches: that really is a lovely dress. No, it’s not that I’m too good for you; the opposites. But I have the faintest recollection of another woman, from before. Long before, maybe even Time began. She wore a perfume. I’ve never smelled anything like it. Haven’t gotten over that first break up. That Fall from Grace.

But I’m here. Stranded on this island, the thing to do is to survive, but not let survival turn me into a savage, nor lose that sense of the Noble Civilization. And while I’m steward of this place, make it as like home as I can manage, but without the China — I’ve just got crude instruments to make my thatched hut. How strange would it be if I forgot the Palace, and confused this temporary shelter with that?

And lastly, build the biggest watchfire I can — maybe someday a ship or a plane will pass by and take me home.

This is all passing by, a life is a moment. I participate. I come along, I smile, I laugh, I cry, I desire — I’m here, still, but, not like I once was, once did. An affected belief; a make pretend. But…

A long moment, but just a moment.

lowercase: poetry

Every poem, an explosion. Spirit moves through all beings who let it. Move through me!

Francis Pedraza

Written by

Is spirit moving?

lowercase: poetry

Every poem, an explosion. Spirit moves through all beings who let it. Move through me!