by Miriam Gabriel
A poetic sensibility is a giving bud that can keep a scholar sane during the most hard-nosed of debates. I am sure that many can relate to this statement of gratitude to one’s inner poet, and I certainly declare it with a rich gratitude to wherever corners of humanity that spilled their poetics into my life.
As I discussed graduate degree options today with my beloved partner in every way Jeremy Johnson and my best friend of six years Eddie Gonzalez – the former who is studying for his masters with me, at the alternative Goddard College, and the latter who is preparing his doctorate and third graduate degree at the established Boston College and about to present for the Vatican II anniversary – I found myself torn between being engaged with the world as a contemplative and as a scholar-activist.
I am passionate about addressing the suffering of my contemporary human beings in the Liberation Theology sensibility of academe, yet – after owning up to my mystic spark, which Goddard embraces warmly and engages with critically and empathetically and in every welcoming way really, how can I ever see that as separable from the yolk and fizzle and silence and activity and signs of life that I am? And can the academic cloister ever let me in as a humble equal as such?
After taking you the reader on this brief loop of heartfelt, existential queries and puzzles about what to become, I will explain why I share this poem with you: because, throughout the night, I knew what not to become. I partook in bashing, and bashed and sneered at a clinical, categorically chaining, unaware-of-its-biases approach that I have witnessed repeated through color-coded terminology like chews on the same stale piece of integral gum, with the saliva proposed as balm for all of humanity. Does not sound very kind, doesn’t it?
I wrote this poem to practice compassion and understanding towards even the thinkers through which, as one human being, I feel categorized and misunderstood and viewed rather than seen. My bashing was a clear seeing that I was viewing as well, and categorizing. After all of the fruits of critical thinking and soul searching, and after acknowledging that the mythopoetic story of my poem may or may never be accurate, here is to compassion.
The Cartographer’s Collected Works
Eyes smothered by a candle light
Warm, not burning, of a noosphere,
Hands numbed treading
As an effort to hold hands
With critics and conscientious objectors,
He beheld his balding head fixed
At the crucifix of shaking it
Dismally, and nodding in humility.
“Now the suffering are most lost
In my maps. When did I lead them there?”
Seas of scholars and adepts and activists
Parted before him usually,
And he walked through the aloof
Back of their neck like justified tension.
Leading… some people, somewhat… “at best?”
The women picking wheat and barley
And with their breasts nursing their muscles
And with men’s nipples piercing gender robes
Locked their souls in thousand deconstructive hyphens
Before the cartographer ever labeled their
Sensitive green ass selves.
Children tanned by their ancestors’ shores,
Danced in riots atop his psychology textbooks
Evoked spirits with a spliff and
Ravished their red consciousness with
Brown and mocha visions
That they shouted outside his window.
The purples and magentas in monasteries
Counted their sins, in communes
Moaned with every dish washed, without
Ever bothering to search for his name;
The inner map of a heart opening
At its back with etheric wings, on a bad day,
Needed a GPS at most to chart its service.
“Not a single holistic blue ever called with a congrats.
“Not a single one called me family.”
Years of waning tendons and spilled ink,
“And still so many never made it into
“The chartings of my intellectual heart.
This is all doubt, dissent, and diddlings
Of his glands in need of further evolution.
That was his brisk mantra from dusk to dawn
And dawn to dusk. Last night, however,
He dozed off with a door left ajar for one more diddle,
Stray barley, shout, moan, phone call,
Off-stage stage of consciousness
From the big mind o’ mine:
Burn it, smell it burning by candlelight.
The cartographer must burn the map
To run on his eternal light.