The Enchanted Glass
Dreamed c. 1980 (before 1983) by Charles Gullans
I have been here a long time, and I know
This place is not a ring of hell, for cold
Familiar moonlight falls between the leaves
Of oak and aspen; and the shapes of men
That move within its tenuous dispersion
Are all familiar, too. Old memories,
They move through shadow, one by one, and each
In strict, zodiacal succession moves
Behind the other, Lover, Teacher, Friend,
And by their side a crowd of lesser shapes,
Vivid in some particular, all else
Vague presence and unrealized intent.
I have been here before. And though I know
The darkness stirs with unformed energy,
Bull, Ram, and Stag, The Goat, The Wolf, The Ox,
I was afraid. All time derided me,
As I stood, passive, waiting for the blows,
With my sight clouded, knowing they could kill,
As they had killed before. The ancient types
Repeat their journey on the zodiac
Until we understand, and know they are
The pattern of our bondage to the earth,
And to the flesh, and to our love of earth.
Yet all my strength dissolved before the choice:
I could destroy the pattern and the pain,
And I could live in the dark hermit's cave
Within the heart, in nerveless chill,
And sink to silence and to emptiness.
I, rapt and spent and furious, awoke
I sat down on a rock and told myself
Gullans never plainly says this was a dream, but it certainly feels like a recurring nightmare, and the sandwich structure resembles poems of his that are explicitly dreambased.
Gullans claims our bodies' senses and wants tug us so hard we turn subhuman. He makes a creepy case... but I disagree. Yes, some think too little and want too much--but others deny their animal desires; ideology fuels their crimes. Was the Holocaust animality running amok, or a cold denial of feelings-- guilt, empathy, horror--in the name of the Übermensch? Is it animal passion or disdain for animality that drives the Islamic State?
Gullans says this isn't Hell but argues it is structured to make us bestial. Buddha might concur, but I'm not so sure. You can err either way--grow blind to mind and spirit, or grow deaf to feelings, body and desire. You need both sail AND keel, high and low--or the boat drifts.
SOURCE: Under Red Skies by Charles Gullans; 1983, Robert L. Barth, Florence, Ky.
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