Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Seventh Dance of Christmas: Swan Song (and dance) for a year that will never come again.

The Seventh Dance of Christmas:  
Swan Song (and dance) for a year that will never come again.

This is the end. My only friend.
Jim Morrison (The Doors) wrote that,
without asking my advice about its spiritual or psychological significance.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven swans a swimming.
She didn't ask my advice either.
"She" is a construct for the purposes of this dance.

Yet, in truth, she is as real as the pain in my arm,
the break in my heart,
the aching regret for every crazy stupid or downright vicious thing I've done
this Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve. 

And the long sinful stream before.

She is a swan, a beautiful miracle bird,
ugly only in her own false estimation,
swimming against the tide of the sad meaning of everything artificial,
dancing somewhat desperately at the dying of the light,
the end of the day, the close of the year,
her fine down far far down

stream this final night of December.
This twilight kingdom of those being perfected
through suffering and such. 

This is the end. But damned if it's conclusion.
In this flowing fluid dancing, ending means beginning,
what matters is whether badly or well 

(and that's the well my dears that needs sounding).

This swan song, dance, swim, gesture, sculpture, scripture,
is giver, gift, lover, killer, mother, enemy, friend.
The end of (a) time, the thousand regrets, still more beautiful messes,
a gathering gloom, every lost love (animal, human, divine)--

yet a line, a break, a cut-off point, a gracious pause from sin and grief 

and failure.

A fresh breath. 

An egg. 
All these lovely mortal feathers 
ruffled again for yet another
absurd plunge 

into the stream of time.

And, after all, it's the eve of the Feast of 
the Holy Mother of God.
So you drive through the rain and fog to reach the zero time 

just in time.
To share the muddy midnight with your rotting writer friend
(the mystic monk who taught you how to 

turn a phrase)
with a bottle of Shiner 
and a prayer to Whomever hears.

Later (earlier?), the chapel is open, so you sit in the darkness,
one light only shining towards the far end 

of the sanctuary.
It's warm right here 

and it's very very cold out there.

You pray by name for a hundred or so of your closest,
wishing you could snuggle with a twenty or thirty of them tonight,
you mumble Our Fathers and Aves and Salves till you doze off into peace.
Not worrying, for the second, about who and why and how . . . .

You are a swimming in or rather floating down a stream,
a gift from your true love,
you too are a swan, the gift and the gifted,
the ugly past forgotten, 

or something like forgotten.

The noise returns you to the world of 

neck pain and loneliness.
The monks are coming into chapel 

to chant the early vigil.
Your watch says 3 A.M. 

Your brain asks, where will I sleep tonight?
Your heart says, this is the future; 

maybe now my breathing will be holy.

It is cold. And dark. And the complex kingdom is a beast unconquered. 

And yet. And yet. 

Things can be different than they seem.
Swans are birds that swim.
This maid has milk in her breasts,

for the lord who leapt in her belly.
A monk is like a lady dancing gaily.

That old stooped one with the beard 

who is not joining in the singing of Psalm 76,
is almost certainly J. D. Salinger (despite the false stories of his life and death elsewhere).

Amen. And Amen. 

Regrets, sadness, loves, 
fierce and desperate thanksgivings and curses--
tonight all things are Omega.

In Santiago, at the end of the pilgrimage, 

you come through a doorway
on which the chrismon symbols are reversed -- Omega and Alpha.
As if to say,

This is the end. So get started.

The swan song (and dance) is paradox, only always performed in the flow. 
Now, good morrow to our waking souls (Donne).

All things are new.
So you can go now into Louisville,
drive past Fourth and Walnut but don't stop just keep swimming. 

Merton stood there once and felt a love that almost killed him.
"There is no way of telling all these people that they are walking around shining like the sun," he said.

Maybe he couldn't then, 

but at 5.20 A.M. on New Year's Day,
it's really not that hard.

You roll down your window, unzip your heart, and say 

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