nothing for the memory to hold,though mine as long as I look. . . .. . .I won’t retain one blade of grassas it’s truly seen. . . .. . .Salutation and farewellin a single glance.
~ From the poem “Travel Elegy”
by Wisława Szymborska,
who bid us farewell February 1st
"Think of your spine ending inside your head, not at the top of your neck, and feel your head floating there atop the spine," my Alexander teacher tells me as she helps me relearn the posture of a child, one of many tactics of a strategy I am waging to alleviate the pain of repetitive strain injury that radiates from my hands up to my neck. So I focus on the essence of that physical relationship, and the unlikelihood of carrying around an eight-pound weight upon something as thin as a spine, like a Chinese circus performer balancing a white plate vertically on the end of a stick. It is almost easier to picture my head invisible, like those of vestal virgins standing in stone along the lane of the Roman Forum. Those heads are gone from their bodies—weightless in their absence—yet their essence remains, sacred in memory and imagination. However I think of it, there needs to be mindfulness of my head and spine as one, in flow.
What is hidden within flesh and bone? What radiates in spite of them?
The 2009 head shot of Wisława Szymborska, above, magnetizes me. The face was on loan to her for a lifetime, evolving with age, yet momentary as a sunrise. It is now just a memory, a hint of earth on a bronze brow, eyes brown stones embedded in the palest rose sky, cheeks hill pastures in the morning sun, a trace of lipstick on an upwinged smile about to fly.
Wisława returns to the sky and the soil, a bridge between hello and good-bye. At birth and death, we attend to essence as to a smudge stick of dried and bundled sage, carefully lit at the start, held closely above a candle flame. Then small rosy ember-buds sketch fragrant shadows on air for a time, until at last they burn out, just dried leaf-sticks with singed heads. Yet how wild, musky and holy their scent remains as I hold them to my nostrils, opening heaven to earth, and earth to heaven, as if their flame never burns out at all. Wisława's writing strikes me as weight born like effortless floating, all flame and fragrance simultaneously . . .
. . . For surplus and absence alike,
a single action of the neck.
my sage smudge stick smells like heaven to me
Poem "Travel Elegy" by Wisława Szymborska from the selected poems titled 'view with a grain of sand' published by Harcourt Brace & Company, 1993