I have just heard from a most reliable source,
that from the perspective of the universe
a second of our time can contain an age.
I thought, as I read it, if this is true,
surely I must have had some sense
of that truth and I checked, in that moment
of reading that line on my screen,
if I could feel it. And I could.
You know? We know... We look up
at a jet gliding through the sky
and wonder what the passengers are feeling,
so far above the Earth. Then we stop
the question mid-wonder, because,
if we have ever been on a jet ourselves,
we know they aren't experiencing it.
We didn't experience it. Like we don't
experience the Earth spinning. We're not
equipped for that. Thank God. Thank you, God,
that my existence is not constant vertigo.
It's exactly as Aldous Huxley said:
the brain's is a valve that shuts off
most of the universe, only allowing in
a tiny trickle that we can absorb.
Is that what Rilke meant by writing,
Beauty is just the portion of horror
that we can handle? I never knew
why he called it horror.
I suppose, if I were aware of the ages
that have passed in these seconds
I've been writing this, I might understand.
Though when, at 15, I read Huxley's statement
in The Doors of Perception, I took it as an exposé
of the brain, working for the enemy,
like finding out your literature teacher is not
trying to expand your ideas of what is possible
to express, or convince you that literature is a haven
for experimentation, as the great writers showed us,
expanding the territory we share, but is actually
paid by the state to remove great works
from the school library, stimulate questioning
of the straight jacket we call the status quo.
Now I am thankful my brain is designed
to let through just enough of the truth
that I can wake up every morning feeling I am
still the me I went to sleep being, and the world
is still the world I know how to navigate.
Here I pause, because that thought makes me feel
my heart hold its breath, as if it is holding a pen in the air,
not sure if it should sign the contract, or confession,
that I have placed on the table. No, it says.
I cannot sign this. I cannot stand
for what you have just written.
Yes, I am grateful for the brain's hard work,
like a mother, sheltering us from the deluge
of too much perspective, but I will not say
I want the world to stay within the confines
of what I can cope with.
I want to go the other way.
I want to fly through the clouds and feel the miracle
of that, even if it terrifies me. And I want to feel
the immensity of time in a second, even if
it feels like jumping out of that plane
not knowing if I'm wearing a parachute.
How, after all, does every baby bird
find the courage to step off the edge
of the nest for the first time? Yes,
like Hafiz says, there are two of me in here.
One that keeps me sheltered in the nest
of my thimble-full of reality, and the other
that says, Jump!
Who is it who says, Jump!?
Who is it who says, Trust me?
What is their relation to the other voice?
Are they the mother and father of my soul?
Then I can love them and listen to them
with equal degrees of deference and,
when the time comes, resentment.
Now I am lost. Where am I going?
My mother put antibiotic and a Bandaid
on the scratches and gouges I earned by tumbling
down the rocky foot path through the forest
of anise weeds at the end of my father's street.
My father scoffed when he saw them,
and pulled them off, taking me to the beach,
proclaiming the sea is the best medicine.
I was grateful for any excuse to stand
in the waves, and grateful for the unspoken
explanation – at last – for why they did not live
together, and had not, since I'd learned to walk.
I see it now, all these years later, the beauty
of the reason they had to separate. Nothing
matters more to the soul than the freedom
to love how it wants to love. For my mother,
to love meant to protect from the chilling fog
by wrapping me up in a wool sweater buttoned
up the back so I could not unbutton it, covered
by a second sweater buttoned up the front.
Instinct and love are inseparable, like a kangaroo
mother with her baby in her pouch. For my father,
to love meant to say, "Take the wheel, you steer
and I'll work the pedals", or "Taste this", be it
whiskey or hot sauce or snails.
Expansion, protection. Day and night. I am made
of doubles in every direction: two feet, two eyes,
two lungs, two lips. I am a binary operation. I am
a holographic copy of the source of all that is,
for what else could I be? And I am, at the same time,
a separate entity, just for the thrill of it, and not even
my thrill. But the whole I am part of, who makes ages
fit into a single second, needs someone to feel
what that feels like, and so it whispers to me,
like my father did when he held out his long arms
and placed me on the porch, to say,