Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Poet in Rehab

I have tried to be true to the joy.

I have tried to describe the beauty, the longing, the strange deep truth, the Spirit that hovers upon the waters.    I even travel the land doing this, with an old guitar and a few lost notes that touch a deeper chord than people want to hear.  Also, I sing loud and I get drunk and they put me in rehab.

No matter what I say to that smart-ass therapist, he has an answer for it.  It's all my fault.  I am not well-adjusted, I have issues, I am embarrassing to people, I am inappropriate.

But at dusk, the Spirit descends upon the fields outside my window, or emerges from them.  He lies patiently and quietly in deep and mysterious things.  He pervades my life.  He was by the river with my Lady, in the rain storm with the Princess, in the kind words at home with my wife.

There is a thin web of joy that leads us to heaven - but it is a joy tinged with sadness, or with the realization that we have lost so much, that some time and some where we embraced this joy, embraced it like children, without a hint of guile.

Guile.

That clever (we think it's clever) adult or teen-aged mixture of cynicism, manipulation, duplicity and bitterness.  How we love our guile!  It sets the tone for all of our art, for all of our humor.  Even our heroes are filled with guile, and we applaud them for it.

Of course Nathaniel (the name means "given of God") was said by Jesus to be an Israelite "in whom there is no guile" - after Nathaniel makes a particularly snarky comment about no good thing coming out of Nazareth.  Incidentally, snarky we don't mind.  Snarky we kind of like.  It's my snarky poems that do the best.  I actually earn a small royalty from snark.  It's when I'm painfully honest - when I drop the cherished guile - that people turn away.

But Nathaniel drops everything when he knows God saw him beneath the fig, when the Spirit moved upon the treetops.  "Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  You are the king of Israel!" he exclaims, without a trace of guile. And so Nathaniel (also called Bartholomew) follows Christ and gets skinned alive for his pains.  At least on earth.  In heaven, he gets joy - or the Source of joy, the One behind the forest of figs.

Figs.

"I don't give a fig," we love to insist.   And we don't.  Our fig tree is fruitless, withering, cursed by Christ in a passing moment of judgment, the perfect consequence of being deliberately barren.

Barren.

I sing to the princess and she turns away and acts like she doesn't hear.  I write sonnets to my Lady - hundreds of sonnets, filled with pain and laughter - and she writes back, "Stop stalking me or I'll call the police."  And when all else fails, I even sing love songs to the missus!  My wife at least listens and smiles, then looks at the clock and reminds me it's time for my therapy session.

At least she's allowed to visit me in rehab, though I can't stand the thought of walking into that sterile room with that prick of a therapist and his mousy moustache.  Especially when behind him I see the window, and out the window the dusk, the rain, the dark and somber green of the fields, the Spirit, the joy.

The thin and fragile web that leads us to heaven.

I can give up my drinking, you know.  I really can.  But as the session continues, I clutch at my guitar.

St. Bartholomew, raw and skinless

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