The Distance - Romance (1996)

(I Had a Date with an Angel)

by piero scaruffi


TM, ®, Copyright © 1998 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

 

	Life is not a journey,
	it is a destination.
	The truth
	that is most remote from our own.
	 
	We draw our maps
	for fear of getting lost:
	still we get lost all the time,
	and still we can't stop drawing
	in finer and finer detail.
	 
	We were begotten in a dream.
	And we shall return to the same dream,
	in due time, immune from sin,
	to play the ending that we learned
	at the beginning, till time undoes us,
	doomed by the very route we followed.
	 
	We pause, after the winding ride,
	visitors to a habitat of primeval darkness,
	to a maze of existential hairpins.
	We change the (visible) subject again,
	our silence rhyming with our innocence,
	sitting on the steps of the observatory
	like pilgrims praying in the original shrine.
	En route.
	Nothing is exactly the way we do it.
	A gale that stifles, hissing
        from unknown fissures of time.
	 
	 
	City lights from the top of the hill
	like millions of eyes staring at us...
	gaunt stars nonchalantly spilled 
	on the tedious panorama of homes...
	shimmering ashes of the bonfire
	that devoured shape and depth...
	fireflies nipping the night wind,
	glittering down the ravine we lusted for.
	 
	We don't believe in God,
	but God believes in us,
	and his stern warning commands
	our attention even in the dense
	blankness of our fairy tale:
	there are too many stories to tell.
	 
	I dive blind and breathless
	into the sand of twilight,
	struggling to recollect
	the last words I uttered
	before I met you, before
	I fell through a mirror
	into someone else's life.
	 
	"So shall I live
	supposing thou art true"
	(Shakespeare, Sonnet 93);
	but then also, as in
	John Donne's dreame:
	"Thou art not thou".
	 
	The delicate grace of an orchid.
	The gaze of a cat in the moonlight.
	An ethereal silhouette of sheen.
	A Mozart's adagio perennially
	ringing in your voice.
	Nothing, not even the lily,
	has such small hands.
	 
	Somewhere I have never traveled to
	you have seen me.
	 
	Oh, to caress your soft mermaid
	hair while a flock of swallows
	writes your name in the Sun!
	To cuddle all the passing dreams
	that climb the petals of your smile!
	 
	Dressed in the last gleams of the day,
	the infinite horizons of your eyes
	all flash with thin laughter,
	walking me around campus
	like Ulysses lured by sirens,
	reminded me that the sense
	of the topics we discuss
	changes every moment,
	but it can never
        exceed ours.
	 
	I feel like I am delivering
	someone else's speech,
	tormented by a sense of loss
	for something I have never had
	and it is now so close to me,
	the city below consumed by a cold fire,
	the butterfly-dances of the Moon
	reminding me of what I came here
	to tell you, to share with you,
	that may never go beyond ambiguity;
	the pleasures of intellectual abstinence
	(Socrates' rational debauchery) colliding
	with the dismay of making merely
	a cameo appearance in your life,
	every indecisive digression a further
	step away from the center of mass,
	from the quicksand of plot reversals 
	(your innocence and mine are different,
	two shadows of the same body);
	my quest for absolute purity
	leading to the austere haughtiness
	of Villiers' Count Axel ("vivre?
	les serviteurs feront cela pour nous").
	 
	 
	Has it ever occurred to you
	that time blows through us
	from (sudden) birth to death
	feeding darkness with light;
	that we burn till we die,
	like all stars?
	(Only despair, secure in its bleak
	reasons, neglects the plain statistics
	that most of us have already died).
	Anche nella fine
	il principio continua.
	 
	Then an invisible lotus
	(un fiore identico a te)
	whispers the unspeakable:
	and we belatedly understand
	that the two halves of the sky
	revolve around us; that we are
	time. (Or, with Heraclitus,
	that "time is a child").
	 
	As we learn,
	we know less and less.
	We lose meaning
	as we try to understand.
	We try to explain
	until we realize
	that nobody knows
	if we really happened.
	(Do we think 
	or are we thought?)
	We mean what we know.
	 
	And all I know today is that
	you exist, like nothing else 
	does, like only a poem can
	(am I writing this poem,
	or merely copying it, like
	an amanuensis whose life's
        cherished meaning
	is but the series of frail
	signs he carefully duplicates
	over and over again?)
	 
	 
	Sun rust whirling
	in a lattice of dew.
	A fossil drifting to its past,
	unfocused lens of time.
	Sculptures of foam
	stand still over the cliffs,
	like obscene graffiti littered
	over the plaster of this vast
	expanding shell of galaxies.
	Is this another night, or am I
	living just one long night
	that perpetually reenacts itself
	along different orbits?
	(The answer is, of course,
	Shakespeare's "All days are nights
	to see till I see thee,
	and nights bright days
	when dreams do show thee me").
	 
	We are talking not for us, but for them:
	we are playing our music to the stars.
	The stars have been playing theirs to us
	for millions of nights: we are that music.
	They brought us here, note by note;
	every bit of the universe,
	every monolith of light,
	every blink of cosmic pollen
	dissolving and then recomposing
	countless times before we appeared
	and began our arduous journeys
	towards this secret meeting point.
	And now we play ourselves back to them.
	Now they are us; we their blood,
	their breath, their heartbeat.
	I am a midnight, you are 
	all there is to be
        for midnight to strike
	(As mighty as the infinite atom is,
	how could they pack so much beauty
	into such a tiny clump of matter?)
	 
	All the time this echo of waves
	has trailed back to us,
	has been expecting us to listen,
	like two deaf eternities.
	The echo of all sounds
	in the dark tunnel of history.
	 
	Life feeds on life.
	 
	We humans were told
	to inhabit the ruins
	and we took shelter
	under the firmament.
	We touched this planet
	like a Braille book
	and soon discovered
	the writing in the rifts:
	there is no future
	in the spider's web;
	but that is where ants
	plant their kiss,
	in the glue, in the grip,
	of eternity. Like Caliban,
        "you taught me to talk
        and my profit on it is
	that now I know how to curse".
	 
	Ever since we started speaking 
	this idiom we don't understand,
	ever since we started eavesdropping
	what the sea mutters to the clouds,
	we knew that our role was to be
	merely a mistake that will never 
	turn into a resolution.
	(In Averroes' scathing omen,
	"the destruction of destruction").
	 
	 
	All religions are erosions of truth,
	hesitations of our evolving form,
	bargains with the devil.
	We recoil from our own powers,
	unable to endure the clash
	of forever and never.
	Farewell to the prophet,
	who never preached.
	Farewell to the envoy,
	who never came
	and never went
	but will return.
	 
	Don't you too yearn to climb
	every cliff that you coast,
	allured by a compass
	of sighs which measures
	the distance to the sky?
	Don't you too exile yourself,
	endlessly redrawing your maps,
	on more and more remote
        islands and truths?
	 
	Isn't this a form of daydreaming?
	of escaping from the irrelevant,
	of migrating beyond the counterfeit,
	that are ubiquitous and irresistible,
	inherent in every latent double
	of the world? yet of discovering
	that nothing is everything?
	 
	From a deeper, unfinished dimension,
	from Ernst's "Europa Nach Dem Regen II",
	visions of an impassable trail
	in pulsing sheets of mist.
	 
	I envy the lighthouse keeper,
	who observes and is not observed.
	A deep self hidden from the soul,
	a shadow dressed in my same clothes,
	clasping dead what I loathe alive
	in the debris of the ravaged evening,
	bars my thoughts from entering
	the crumbling tower of immortality,
	from probing Rimbaud's last
	night in hell ("c'est le feu
	qui se releve avec son damne'"),
	from meeting childhood along
	the downward path to wisdom.
	We are both messengers,
	carrying the same message,
	the curse and the miracle,
        on a journey that is part
        Calvary and part Hajj.
	 
	I beg him like monk Hopkins,
	"how shall I make room for myself"
	in the wreck of the ship?
	And still be immaculate
	before your voice begins
	to redeem unbounded deserts.

	 
	The impossible and the absolute
	are one and the same,
	nuances of crystal waterfalls
	on the far side of your halo.
	(If I never dream will I ever die?)
	 
	One wonders if Baudelaire's
	joy of martyrdom ("et dites-moi
	s'il est encor quelque torture
	pur ce vieux corps sans ame
	et mort parmi les morts")
	was a case of ventriloquism
	or of a witness lying under oath.
	 
	Your eyes are too near,
	and so far away.
	 
	Can you balance yourself
	on the thin wire of my folly?
	Will you still follow me,
	angelic Alice, with silk wings
	of trust, up the stem?
	Goya's jagged holograms
	to Bruegel's huddled outcasts.
	The specter of Faust's guilt
	rising from a choir of skylarks.
	If you ever affix the signature
	of your frown to the frigid
	spires of Angkor Wat, or
	to the limp pyramids of Tikal,
	you too will then perceive
	your existence as indivisible
        albeit imbued with signs
        of otherness, like a love-letter
	from a parallel world,
	delivered by sentient rabbits
	through quantum diaphragms.
	Our planet, multiplying
	into thousands of tiny planets,
	will appear from design
	but a disorder of the mind.
	Up the stem:
	in the bloom we trust.
	 
	Words, however futile
	and insignificant, need
	to be anchored to our fate
	by participating in sacred
	rites of communion.
	I, for one, turn to you,
        to the question to which
	there is no answer, with quivering 
	voice of foolish hope and numb
	desire, with Eliot's Ash-Wednesday
	whine ("and let my cry come
	into thee"), like Lucretius lost
	in his mirror image ("nam tu sola
	potes tranquilla pace invare mortalis").
	 
	And you, ocean, shall remain,
	to divide us and unite us,
	one bird flying back and forth,
	weaving dawns into sunsets.
	 
	A sense of sunrise meowing
	behind the thick curtain;
	of you, sleepy and barefoot,
	bowing to fondle it.
	 
	You are everywhere
	my mind has been.
	 
	 
	Did you notice that every step
	can be taken at any point
	in any direction without changing
	the course of our trip?
	 
	As we advance, following
	the grand footprints of fear,
	the world changes all the time
	in every point, thereby hatching
	stories of stories of stories
	that no man is capable
	of telling anymore
	(the last word being
	the same in all languages).
	 
	Omens spread in rings...
	in prophetic codes that
	the oracles cannot decipher,
	but that we can still use
        to orient ourselves as we hold
        each other's hand...  rainbows
        of doodles on the only page
	of the only book of the only
	library of the world.
	 
	The winged horses of oblivion
	carry us inside an endless memory.
	Intimations of Augustine
	preaching the holiness of time
	(his corpse was buried under stones
	that have been growing ever since).
	 
	Maybe only clocks are alive.
	 
	Silence cutting
	the splendid marble of your thoughts,
	stillness splitting
	the burning silence of your emotions.
	 
	The mind is a rehearsal for a substance
	purer and deeper. 
	 
	This poem is about the words
	that do not yet exist
	for what you are.
	 
	The tide at last recedes 
	revealing a trail of seeds
	in the Zen garden of our lives,
	in the om of our seashell,
	in the breeze of stars
	that ruffled our souls.
	Let us wait
	where there is no beyond.
	Let us wake up
	at the other end of time.
	 
	Let us collect the words
	that were never
        uttered by anybody,
	we twin endless rivers
	flowing to no ocean,
	and hide the chasm in our currents.
	Let us pass through the unnamed
	wreckage of this Earth, blinded
	by the explosion, and return
	where we met, two beings, one voice.
	 
	We have no sins
	but the one
	of not having sinned.
	If we do not inherit
	a paradise,
	we shall inherit ourselves.
	 
	Alice "looked up, but it was
	all dark overhead; before her
	was another long passage,
	and the white rabbit was still
	in sight, hurrying down it".
	 
	Maybe this is what
	we were meant to be:
	to walk together where
	no one else ever walked.
	 
	There is no "there",
	only "here".
	 
	Meaning is not what we have,
	but what we search for,
	blindfold, in our souls.
	 
	"And yes I said yes I will yes"
	(James Joyce, "Ulysses").

Translations

Villiers: "To live? The servants will do it for us"

Italian 1: "Even in the end the beginning continues"

Italian 2: "(a flower identical with you)"

Rimbaud: "It's the fire that flares up with the damned"

Baudelaire: "And tell me if there still remains any torture For this old soulless body, dead among the dead"

Lucretius: "For you alone have the power to delight the mortals with serene peace"


Addendum

I hold her hand like a key

as birds dance along
the invisible thread
of her thoughts.
Her mind steers away from mine,
leaving a glowing wake
of unspoken words and unfelt emotions
in the space between our beings.
I may never find the bottom
of this wind, which seeps
through shrouds of dead leaves
as if trying to wake them up.
Blades of grass reflect her steps,
but not mine, a sure sign
that I was not meant to follow her.
She nods below clouds on fire
to the pulsing husk of the skies,
each eye a galaxy of little suns.
And no silence is the same
anymore.

The path was darker than we expected,

but the edge of the world was still
a long way off. The wrong direction
Turned out to be the right direction.
The ravines we coasted were not borders
but wounds in the soul of the universe.
We paused to watch the stars bloom.
We pushed them around, arranged them
in faces and words, glued them in patterns
that we could communicate with.
The night took a shape in our hands
like an ornate map of the future.
When we returned to our tent,
by the dying fire and the dead lake,
we hardly knew where we had been.
But we knew "what" we had been
and will be for a long time:
the kiss that we didn't kiss.

I still see you resting above the lake,

doomed to outshine all flowers,
music tinkling in the butterfly of your lips,
summer drifting through your hair,
while clouds melt with the pearls in your eyes
and the winds whisper more mirages
of fabled lands to your yearning heart.

Tired, you are so small,

walking next to me
through the narrow alleys
half-asleep.
Tired, you are so young,
delighting in a kitten
that meows at our shadows
in the dark.
Tired, you are so helpless,
mumbling your poem of sighs
and whimpers at the cold night
that is closing in on you.
Tired, you are so sacred
as the heavy eyelids
quietly surrender
to the heavens
and your deep eyes
slowly disappear.
Tired, you are so much
of what matters in life.

In your hair

curls of ink blend
with sunset beams.
Your lips part
like petals
flash with dew.
And I breath your breeze,
you mirage of horizons
that I was never meant to see.

At the end of the path

crouched barefoot
in the luminous shell
of the night, I shall reach
the infinite sunflower
of your face
rising once again
to greet me
on the threshold
of eternity.

Sometimes a poem

is only a way
to say goodbye
and then sometimes
it is a way
to say hello
and the distance
between the two
is but a spark
in your eyes.

TM, ®, Copyright © 1998 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.