Illustration from Boccaccio’s De Casibus Virorum Illustrium

For how long had I stared at these walls in silence?
My entire world confined to a despairing vision
Of masses of grey stone always damp to the touch
A barred window above excluding any natural light
The taciturn warden who brings me my slop twice daily
The only sounds the tantalising jangle of heavy keys
But I know that there is no escape possible from here
So I console myself with thoughts from the past

Because it hasn’t always been this way, not so long ago
I lived in palaces with ante-chambers larger than this cell
My wealth and prestige derived from illustrious ancestors
I spoke and Popes, Emperors would listen attentively
My sage counsel would be deliberated by the Senate
I held the world in the palm and from my fingertips
Flowed power in its purest untrammelled essence

Reminiscing of yesteryears glories I lulled myself asleep
And then the dank cell was filled with the softest glow
Emanating from the beautiful visage of a celestial presence
Raising myself from the hard mattress I tried to speak
But the Angel or Goddess placed her finger on my lips
And told me to be quiet and to still my racing heart

“Do you not recognise me, you who spoke so eloquently
On my behalf on many occasions, defending my ways
Against the slanders of the uncouth and ignorant?
I would say you have no reason to be afraid of me
But that wouldn’t be strictly correct, because I am Destiny,
Lady Fortuna, she who must spin the Wheel of Fortune

If you require consolation in your present plight
Do not ransack your memory for vanished luxuries,
You who toyed around with ideas of ethics and philosophy
Were you so enraptured with the transitory pleasures
Of this realm of the senses that you forgot you were human
Eternally subject to the constant Divine Law and Way
That requires that everything that goes up must come down?

One minute you are at the top, Lord of all you survey
The next, after I turn the wheel that requires turning,
You inadvertently offend those you strive to serve
And bemoan the nature of your temporary lodgings
As if it wasn’t the empty space that makes the room
And the state of mind that defines the state of grace
Realise that complete reality isn’t some trajectory
It is nothing more and nothing less than a circle.”

Between Lives

Jean-Jacques Lequeu-Temple of the Sun-Persian Sanctuary

Sunlight streams through the smeared panes of glass
Illuminating the static emptiness of this strange room
Pregnant with the possibility of an expanding silence
Even the dust hangs still, motionless, frozen in the air

Odd how here nothing stirs, constant and unchanging
I am seeking to hold fast to this unmovable centre
For I know that it is the only way towards the mean
That contains at its heart the secret of meaning

Without desire and attachment
Without anger and aversion
With knowledge and serenity
All is temperate and tranquil

Yet the cycle re-commences as it must by nature and necessity
For clearly I am not ready yet to experience the ultimate bliss
My span here was merely a pause without measure, a hiatus,
So at the sound of rustling wings I feel nothing but perturbation.

Encounter at the Obsidian Gates

Retreat in the Spring Hills-unknown artist circa 12th Century CE

“To pass through these Obsidian Gates that separate the known world
From the barbarous Western Lands populated with dog-headed peoples,
Bizarre creatures, devouring demons and ferociously hungry ghosts
You must give an account of the Way, for I know who you are, old man
I saw through your disguise of being a humble hermit straight away
I know that you are the Archivist of the Most August Emperor
You are the one they call the Old Master, the Ancient Child,
A transformed butterfly, the eternal dragon of the Southern Sky.”

The hermit was silent while the mists dissipated and gathered again
There was a definite chill in the late autumnal air, winter was near
The night watchman huddled closer to the flickering flames of the fire
But the old man didn’t move an inch, just sat without saying a word
He seemed to the night watchman to be melting away into the fog
As he fall into a daze watching the play of shadows on the walls
Against the damp stone he thought he glimpsed something other
Then the Old Master began to speak in tones more ancient than days

“Do you know what you ask when you demand an account of the Way?
I alone am still, I recognize no signs, I flow as water and with time
What words or characters could convey the Way, by definition ineffable?
Worse, names and words divide and subdivide the world indefinitely
There are many righteous paths to follow if you wish to go astray
A thing becomes this and a thing becomes that when really it is of itself
But if you insist I will say in terms terse, enigmatic and ambiguous
Because the things we cannot speak of we must forever remain silent.”

Dream Sublime

Bartolomeu Velho-Figure of the Heavenly Bodies-1568

The stars above, the void below only inclines
So tell me what is the force that compels
Enduring love, boundless desire, the dream sublime

Of the unmoving still point, bisected lines
The circumference of a circle that swells
To the stars above, the void below that inclines

Our too human nature toward the divine
Seeking with the uncertain aid of garbled spells
Enduring love, boundless desire, the dream sublime

Rendering us breathless, tongue tied and supine
In the velvet gloved darkness of fur lined cells
Looking at the stars above, the void below that inclines

Towards the solution of this difficult equation, a cosine
That in the timelessness of the One we will dwell
In enduring love, boundless desire, the dream sublime

That now then and what is to come is yours and mine
Nothing in nature or the world can quell
The stars above, the void below that inclines
Toward enduring love, boundless desire, the dream sublime.

The Sound

Hilma Af Klint-The Swan No.9-1915

Now that I have grown older I hear,
A sound with no perceptible source,
Gaining in frequency as this second
Flows into the next without pause
Humming a refrain that all is in vain
A whisper being visible to the naked eye,

Calling onto an other into becoming I,
Somehow neither there or here;
With the attributes of a weather-vane
Gyrating in search of the source,
As secretive as a tiger padding on velvet paws
The first cause, prime mover of the second.

This duel between selves with no second
And no discernible difference to the eye
Leads to fast forward, then rewind, live pause
Looking for the real, the now and here
The recipe for that sublime secret sauce,
That reveals a true beauty, not the vain

Love of self coursing through the veins
That fails to see another, even a second;
Believing nothing could be the source
Beyond the I, except another I
A world of reflections and images,here
There is no respite or rest or pause,

Leading to the envy of a dozing cat with curled paws,
How you wish to just be in that vein,
To understand intuitively what you see or hear
Exposing the sequence of the first, second
As it blossoms into the tripartite eye
Touching the colours at the source

Dissecting the origins as they return to the source,
Now begins the possibility of a pause,
The unity of plurality, the end of the I.
To hear that furious sound wasn’t all in vain
As it grants the chance to relive the second
When we finally arrived to now be here.

To achieve the source, know that you’re vain
Do it now this second and do not pause
To open the inner eye and listen out to hear.