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Mistaking Opiates for the Clear Light
By Suzanne Paola
There's always been this confusion with white things---
hospitals, cold, moonlight.
They seemed to embody the will
paralyzed into peaceful acceptance.
Blank paper consecrate
to the end of words: I love that,
secretly, more than this.
Quaaludes in my palm, rowers, eucharistic form.
Clear bag of heroin.
Stuff, we called it. Too foundational to define.
In a clear bowl, a pear & a pomegranate wizen
into color. Almost
alive, skins rucking
in on themselves. Cheeks
& carmine, seeming
almost to care about this...
Each a countenance
too private for a face, collapsing
in the hard gravity of color.
I was their opposite, pale girl, not living
or dying. They were
what I feared.
I trust in the bardo wisdom: how the gods,
with their soft white light, draw us in, convince us
their stuporous world is all there is.
I've seen them, slumping
forward, burning themselves with cigarettes.
How grand they were for a while: their leathers, their etched
bodies, a stalled
writhing eagle on each arm.
And their nectars, their secret foods, that gave
an easy kind of sensate order.
Though a god's world finally
suffers itself away from him, braille of the tracks
of a thousand needles, transgressions of red
under the skin---
From: "Bardo" by Suzanne Paola, pages 6, 7 (Winner of "The Brittingham Prize in Poetry")
Oh, how I love this book and this poem. I love it like I love ice cream. This poem whispers to my heart and says, "Well, it's full of truth, isn't it?" And my heart turns away and replies, "Not now, heart, not now...." I'm enjoying my in-between state... I love it when a book speaks to me, don't you?
FYI, here's a tiny bit about the meaning of "bardo":
The Tibetan word bardo means "in-between state." The word is commonly used to mean a state between death and rebirth. However, the Bardo Thodol -- "Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State," known in English as "The Tibetan Book of the Dead," describes six kinds of bardo:
Three are associated with life:
- The bardo of birth
- The bardo of dreams
- The bardo of meditation
- The bardo of the moment of death
- The bardo of supreme reality
- The bardo of becoming.