Fire on the Mountain
Today I had a fitness session (I mention this to encourage myself; once a week is not enough, but it’s something). Then business at the bank, car insurance and telephone bill, arrangements for a Buddhist protest in two weeks, laundry, trying to catch up with all the detritus of life that I have neglected in the past month. Didn't take any photographs. I came home with two sacks of groceries, tired to the bone, unable to go out to the rally I had promised to attend and photograph, a rally to support young people who have lived in this country all their lives but are "undocumented" and now subject to deportation.
Instead I made myself a sandwich, sat down to eat it and realized it was my first moment of quiet since I got up this morning. Then I took a sack to the garbage chute, right by an open window to the west. Gasp! I saw the sun about to set and ran to get the camera, but before I could get back, the sun had sunk below the line of the west hills. Fire on the mountain, the sign of the Wanderer.
My friend Devorah sent me a poem today that just knocked me out. It comes with a video of the author saying, “I’m glad I don’t believe in God; I couldn’t stand it.” You may hear her introduce and read the poem if you click on this link. If you’d rather just see the words, here they are:
by Ellen Bass
who must have started out
with such high hopes.
What magnitude of suffering,
the immensity of guilt,
the staggering despair.
A mind the size of the sun,
burning with longing,
a heart huge as a gray whale
seawater against the pale sky.
Man god or beast god,
god that breathes in every pleated leaf,
throat sac of frog, pinfeather and shaft—
god of plutonium and penicillin, drunk
sleeping on the subway grate,
god of Joan of Arc, god of Crazy Horse,
Lady Day, bringing us to our knees,
god of Houdini with hands
like a river, of Einstein, regret
running thick in his veins,
god of Stalin, god of Somoza,
god of the long march,
the Trail of Tears,
god of Allende and god of Tookie,
the strawberry picker, fire in his back,
god of midnight, god of winter,
god of rouged children sold
with a week’s lodging
and airfare to Thailand,
god in trouble, god at the end of his rope—
desperate god, frantic god, whale heart
lost in the shallows, beached
on the sand, parched, blistered, crushed
by gravity’s massive weight.