Poetry / May 2010 (Issue 11)

Along the Way

by Keith Brabender

Lao Tzu and I agreed to take the journey together
In order to become lost,
In order to find a home,
A place where nothingness is not everything,
but is something.
Where a human breath is the breath of life, and
forgiveness is unnecessary.

"In order to reach the mountain," I said, "we'll have to go by foot."
"This is America," Lao Tzu replied. "To become motionless, you have
to travel as fast as you can."

Lao Tzu and I stopped along the highway to burn
The maps I had stashed in case I grew afraid.
It was a ritual burning, a purification of want,
An end to the belonging that I had only wished for,
but never achieved.
A denial of oneness in order to possess it.

"Are you going to be giving directions from here on?" I asked.
"Not if you intend to follow them," Lao Tzu replied.

The highway appeared to end at the sky,
Even though it was a path, like every path,
Whether by donkey or sports car,
That ended at the Foot of the mountain, where
With the permission of the guard,
The self passes through the gate
And begins its descent by climbing in order
To find the self that has always existed
Outside the self and has pretended to be the
Other, the One we cannot hold, but only desire
In silence because words would only make it
Real, and then it would not exist at all.

"How long is it going to take to reach the top?" I asked.
"That depends," Lao Tzu replied. "The slower you go, the faster
you'll get there."

The mountain had no compassion.
It can be nothing other than what it gives in return,
The summit of things, where the self can visit,
But never stay, only think of returning when the Other
Has abandoned the self and there is a loneliness
Of finality in which nothing can be learned.

"Why did this have to be so far away?" I asked.
"If you knew it was right next to you, you wouldn't pay any
attention to it," Lao Tzu replied.

The distance between the summit and the sky
Is a serenity beyond love,
Like a mirage that is really a sky,
That is really a deep clear abyss,
That is really a womb, but
Not a womb at all since it cannot
Be abandoned or longed for,
But is everywhere, always
Incapable of being found.
A stillness in constant motion.

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