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Being Inside

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  • Mary
    TO LOSE THE EARTH To lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 29, 2010
      To lose the earth you know, for greater knowing; to
      lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends
      you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind
      than home, more large than earth . . . Thomas Wolfe

      The wreckage of Europe or the birth of Africa,
      the old palaces, the wallets of the tourists,
      the Common Market or the smart cafés,
      the boulevards in the graceful evening,
      the cliff-hangers, the scientists,
      and the little shops raising their prices
      mean nothing to me.
      Each day I think only
      of this place, only this place
      where the musician works.
      He plays his flute in a cave
      that a pharaoh built by the sea.
      He is blowing on light,
      each time for the first time.
      His fingers cover the mouths of all the sopranos,
      each a princess in an exact position.

      If you can find it,
      the music takes place in a grotto,
      a great hole in the earth.
      You must wait outside the mouth hole for hours
      while the Egyptian boatman howls the password
      and the sea keeps booming and booming.
      At that point you will be in a state of terror,
      moaning, "How can we?"
      for you will see only the unreliable chain
      that is meant to drag you in.
      It is called Waiting on the Edge.

      At the moment of entry
      your head will be below the gunwales,
      your shoulders will rock and struggle
      as you ship hogsheads of water.
      "Here?" you will ask,
      looking around for your camera and shoes
      and then you will not need to ask
      for the flutist is playing.
      This is the music that you waited for
      in the great concert halls,
      season after season,
      and never found.
      It is called Being Inside.

      It is close to being dead.
      Although you had expected pain
      there will be no pain,
      only that piper, that midwife
      with his unforgettable woman's face.
      The left side of the flute cannot be seen.
      It grows into the wall like something human.
      It is driven into the wall like a pipe
      that extends, some say,
      into the sun.
      The flutist sucks and blows.
      He is both a woman
      and a man,
      abandoned to that great force
      and spilling it back out.
      He is the undefiled,
      the eternal listener
      who has cried back into the earth.

      In the distance other travelers,
      others like you who came out of simple curiosity,
      remain for generations.
      From all sides of the cave
      you will notice the protruding fingernails
      of the dead.
      From their coffins
      as stale as cheap cigars,
      through the tons of suffocating dirt,
      they heard
      and dug down immediately and persistently.
      They scratched down for centuries
      in order to enter.

      At the far right,
      rising from an underground sea,
      his toes curled on a black wave,
      stands the dwarf;
      his instrument is an extension of his tongue.
      He holds it fast
      as if it would get away,
      wet and cold and slippery as it is.
      He is the other half.
      The one you hadn't expected.
      You will jump up and point at him
      shouting, "It is you!"
      but he will not listen.
      He plays his own song, cursing the wind
      with his enormous misshapen mouth.

      And you, having heard,
      you will never leave.
      At the moment of entry
      you were fed—
      —and then you knew.

      January 1963

      The Complete Poems
      Anne Sexton
      First Mariner Books
      New York, 1999

      posted without permission by Mary
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