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Hindu River Song
By Joe DiCarlo
Copyright 1994, Joe DiCarlo
A poem about life as seen by Indian philosophers.
On the banks of the Indus River, long,
Long ago, mud-caked holy men, grey
With the dry chalking, sat and pursued
Discreet activities and rituals of mind
And will, fasts and disciplines of
Posture and simple chants,
To see if they could read upon the
Face of nature evidence of more design
And meaning than was
Apparent to the village man of
Everyday life.
Commonly discerned - sometimes
In the still heat by the reeds,
Punctuated with the darts of
Dragon flies and croak of frogs,
And sometimes in the early evenings,
Tempered with the ebb of daily energies -
They commonly discerned, and were of
One mind, that there was a REALITY
Hidden behind the physical touch of
The world whether of river or of trees,
Of wet droughts of air upon the face,
Or of the sky or of the intelligence apparent
Most of all, in each other's eyes. They
Were in the immediacy of the primitive
Touch of nature, acquainted with
Capricious twists of storms and scanty
Shelter, and a general grasp of what
We call the Food Chain - in which all
Living things are predators and prey
In turn - the worm, the carp, the heron
And the crocodile - the dragon fly, the
Kingfisher and the hawk - the red cabbage,
The lamb and the lion.
Natural world, with its mutability
Of eating and being eaten, preoccupied
The holy men more than the meaning
Of good and evil in their own world -
For man's was not the dumb heraldry
Of nature in the raw, magnificent in
Beauty, delicacy, excitement, freedom,
Brooding stillness, wild appetite,
Sensitivity, sensual integrity -
Constant danger, alarm, savage
Conflict, rout, flight, sudden
Cul de sac, onslaught, eating alive
Or dispatch with roar and fury.
Landscape of nature as it tends
To itself was, in its independence,
An inscrutable mystery to the
Holy men because it made no excuses,
Was evidently as it was meant to be,
Was by some dread intention not
One whit more or less beautiful or
Savage than it pleased - and
Seemed to warn that ULTIMATE BEAUTY
And Fundamental Violence would draw
Man forbiddingly with eternal unrest
To implacable other-worldly mayhem.
After all, does the moth find in the
Flame? - they seemed to ask.
One of them, an ancient a bit more
High strung than the others - a bit
More susceptible to both the magic
And the dismay of-life - grasped
The mystery in his hands, saying,
Without reservation, that in the
Close of his days he was
Prepared to.meet the being of
His being, ULTIMATE REALITY, however
It might reverse earthly expectation,
Do violence to his assumptions and
Initiate him into the eternal protocol
Of Beauty on a razor's edge of
Are deceived by appearances,"
He said. "Maya, illusion. The world
We think is evil has a purpose, a
Hidden music which is vouchsafed
All men to hear - even thieves and
Murderers - in unguarded moments.
Mainstay of our brief life is
That it's not living unless we
Give ourselves up as bread that
Is broken - as wheat to be ground
By the teeth of the lion, the wolf
Or the bear - when our flesh is
Consumed by the hunger of our
Neighbor, the fever of the sick, the
Desolation of the homeless.
We are of service patiently, whatever
May be the local color of our lives,
Not holding back the best that it
Lies in us to give - then we
Overcome the illusion of evil - for
Each creature gives as it may
Give - the lamb Its throat to the
Lion - the dragon fly its crisp wings
To the kingfisher - the grass its
Mass profusion to the cow and the
Goat - the carp its plump fat to the
Beak of the heron - and man the
Anxious mortality of a lifetime
To the clockwork appetite of the gods
Who ask for more, and yet more,
On the stroke of every hour.
Living things borrow life only
To give it back again - as food
To implacable jaws or - in the
Case of man - who is not good to
Eat - as bread to be broken.
Issue of these Rites of Spring is
Emergence from the broken eggshell
Of life's distempered seasons
And the prospect of a BEAUTY that
Shakes the world with fevers because
Its Face is always ancient, always
New - but cannot be reached without a
Gambler's spirit of prodigal generosity
And abandon to the death that will
Devour us.
Die never to die again - and
So does every creature
Bearing the weight of mortality
And there is no evil in a
Transcendental Food Chain that
Raises up even the humblest
Form of life - a sea urchin
Or an ant - to an exalted,
Imperishable existence in
Are not really born until -
Having conquered mortality -
We live as gods beyond the
Razor's edge of cosmic trial
Which then but serves to make
Our delights - now eternally ours
More keen than mortal weakness -
Our lot on earth - can bear."
Deep peace this ancient then
Sat in meditation. As a youth
He had retired to the wilderness, not
Only for retreat, but because he
Loved in a special way the
Mysterious unfamiliarity of nature
It spoke to him of a REALITY with
Infinite life energies and protean
Combining and recombining BEAUTY.
He had never been able to come to
Terms with its apparent cruelty -
Helplessly loving it and living in
Its embrace but wounded by the
Sharp thorns of the flower he
At last, with unqualified surrender
Having emptied the Cup of the
Strangeness of Beauty - he was
Already on the other side of a
Great Divide and found, indeed,
That it was very, very good.