Years ago, I led a conference for teachers called “The Fire and the Rose.” (based on the last lines of a poem by T.S. Eliot) It was based on the theme of resilience, and growing the resilient child out of the challenges of being a middle and high school student. On Saturday, I went to a poetry reading by my friend Tony Brown, who has been on occasion the “Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere.” He just wrote a poem for me, and I, inspired by his visit, wrote a poem for him based on a couple of words in one of his more complex poems.
For Tony, I hereby present, newly revised after its improvisation on Saturday…
The Fire and the Rose
Draw a line through any space:
for best effect, draw it between the horizon points
of sunset and sunrise on an equinox,
the theoretical east and west of the world.
Pick a point anywhere on the line:
the place where you stand;
the place where you live:
the place where you work;
the place where you met the love of your life.
Draw a circle with that chosen point at the center:
define the inside
and the outside;
the realm apart:
the boundary, the temenos, the bleeding edge;
the line of Janus, keeper of boundaries.
Measure the diameter of the circle, and arc it,
from where the circumference and the original line cross,
in two places:
Form the cat’s eye, the reptilian slit, around your circle.
The almond emerges, the seed-shape of what will be:
This is poison to look upon, toxic to the eye:
you will never see the world without geometry again.
The mouth of the mandorla will swallow you whole,
draw you into the womb to re-birth you again.
Where the two arcs cross, find two points;
and join them by a line, perpendicular to your first:
Behold the cross, the sacrificial place,
the altar where
a God became Man,
where Man became Mathematics:
one for all and all for one,
an alleged theologic-algebraic substitution
where x marks the spot.
Four points now define the circumference of the circle:
North, South, East, West,
Earth, Fire, Air, Water,
of a Solar wheel,
the chariot of Apollo
a Pueblo basket for hiding the Sun in,
a Lakota sweat-lodge or Anasazi kiva.
Note the distance from circle’s edge to center,
and arc it, four times, hinging out beyond the circumference,
henging out, cantilevered beyond the edges of original space:
behold the rose, or perhaps the Buddha’s lotus,
floating on the still pond of the forgotten mandorla,
the open womb of earth where the Cross still stands.
Connect the dots at the ends of the petals,
behold the four-square world of manifestation:
The well-ordered grid of the Cartesian plane;
here overlaying the more ancient worlds
of the predatory eye in the darkness,
the labial doorway from the liminal world,
the round world with its imagined corners,
the cross of sacrifice, and the rose of nature.
Which do you see most clearly?
The eye, the cross, the earth, the womb’s door,
the sun, the grid?
Or is it something else that comes alive in you?
Is the rose bursting forth, in all her beauty,
where your mind and your heart bow down in tearful discovery?