A stranger approaches. Who is he? Should I be wary? He is wearing a large oval-shaped locket. Pure gold in the sunlight. That’s what distinguishes him. I am sitting at a table at a crowded shopping center. I believe the young man is looking for someone or something. Maybe his brand new car that he is not used to seeking out in the ever widening parameters of an unfamiliar car park.What is he looking for, if not his car then something else. Imagine now, perhaps his girlfriend around the corner currently undergoing a healing ceremony is gently calling out to him. Quite possible then, he is picking up her message through the glistening molecules steaming through the cerulean blue sky. He allows she needs rejuvenation as much as he himself. He affirms they both want to serve people with a greater love than timeless time could possibly allow. As he begins throwing up his hands in the air, he lets them fall and surrenders them to the unlikely calm of the elements. Is the search worth it? Exactly what kind of wisdom is he seeking? Is it the same manner of wisdom we are all searching for each day? He walks by my table several times. Would I allow him to sit down? Of course, healers are always welcome. The table is not mine alone. I ask him: are you able to define wisdom in so many words that are kind? Please, he hesitates, as he whispers words to the effect, you can do that far better than me. It is over one hundred degrees. I don’t feel wise at all. I let him know. Quite the opposite, I say. The heat provides a great excuse. Suddenly, I am moved to write a poem in the air with both of my hands. He says: I notice you like to speak with your hands; you dance with them a lot. I admit to him that’s only because I am lazy and my hands are growing old. Leaning forward, I add, you know my voice is full of invisible pieces of gravel. He says: no, I sense that your hands are still wise and that is what counts. At that point, I admit my hands are but fistfuls of blue veins; like dried up leaves they are seeking a wide ranging, expanse of arroyo. Where is that shimmering, blue oasis replete with oxygen leading them? Here is part of the poem I offered to a complete stranger.
Birds receive beautiful hand signals from altars in the air.
Following the planetary fire arrowing and orbiting around the sun,
Their wings are so bright they break into your consciousness.
Unloosening the stays of your soul, your hands want to dance.
If you want to break into song, as yet, you know you cannot chant.
Has your beloved read the poem to you that frees a bird from the path
And makes it want to land and ride on your wrist for a century?
If water were to steady our eyes, it would almost make us believe,
In the aftermath, in a landscape filled with too much light
And too much love. Filling wisdom’s palace of deliverance
Is the task of the body circling the soul, the soul circling the body.
Meanwhile, unless we are drowned by our apparent lack of reverent Platitudes, ravenous for spirit, is it other birds
That open the feathers of our wounded lives?
Whatever you have been searching for: Is it not the grief of hunger?
The regret of poverty? The loneliness of old age? The fallow
And unseen temples within fields of emptiness
Don’t tell me where the cougar crouches
Whose great green eyes moored in unfathomable foliage!
What is unremarkable is still remarkable. If you let go of your life,
You will leave behind mean-spirited prophecies too cantankerous
For this world’s blind Aesop’s and the insolence of small-minded men.
Unless that present longing that exists in you for the ocean of your soul
Makes you close your eyes once more, you’ll notice the gates
Already closed over the entire landscape of the world
And you were left outside beggared by the misdeeds
Of an indigent preacher or a mischievous scholar.
That is the world you thought you embraced with light and ultimate Forgiveness. Yet no thought exists that will finally cure the sick,
The homeless, and the destitute, for all of these are already healed.
As things stand, I am not sure who it was served up wisdom’s caul
For inhabiting the worshiping flesh of the body and its mystery.
A mystery of presence gleaned and guessed as absence is
Unless presence more or less the ghost of what it was before we met? Was it you, a complete stranger who remained unguessed?
Elizabeth Bishop, Ph.D. is from Bowling Green and is a current humble candidate for a second Ph.D in Women and Spirituality at CIIS.