When the Spirits Return
It was one of those days that started like a hammer;
teeth aimed inward
softened only by a Mozart's Mule,
or some other concoction from the waiting wall of bitters.
All the luster seemed to have worn-off everything.
I pondered how every relationship seemed virtual, passing, surface;
how people rarely seemed to be who they say they are these days;
how the times we're all living through seem to be a phase
when everyone is merely going through the motions
just to satisfy agreed-upon-civil-pleasantries.
A Time of Retrogression-With-Aggression,
'tea and sympathy' isn't going to cut it;
least of all with all the ferocity, deceit, aging, and rust.
Suddenly, I felt the "spirits" call out to me.
'How interesting,' I thought, 'that we call spirits spirits and bitters bitters.'
I looked around and saw waif-like men displaced from themselves,
("No Hara", they would say in Japan);
men trying to squeeze 'some-elusive-something' from Life
but going senseless in the process.
Some of the women seemed to be trying to find themselves, too,
either in the Fawning Cult-of-Image,
or, worse, in a man.
Blind leading the blind.
One of the Apothecarians saddled up across the counter from me
and asked, "What'll it be?"
'What'll it be, indeed,' I thought.
I started to say: 'Surprise me'
but a deeper wish caught these words in my throat.
"Everyone here is trying to forget. I want to remember."
His eyes flashed wide.
He nodded knowingly from behind his heart-length beard
and stepped away to do his alchemical calculations.
Moments later, a solid-base Old Fashioned glass
was lowered to the swirled marble in front of me.
I raised it to my hawkish nose and inhaled.
Tanned women on white sandy beaches somewhere south of the equator.
I opened my mouth and inhaled again.
The 10,000-step, blue-tiled rose garden of the Alhambra.
I took a first sip.
A flash of lightning on a mountain in China.
A flower thrown over a shoulder into the center of a golden mandala.
Sparks bubbled up and down my spine.
Orange citron and coconut on the front.
Smoke, Earth, and Freedom on the back.
Umami bitters, pear sake, Zirbenz pine, Campari.
Thick pine winds swirled all around me
as if I were a feather-cloaked Taoist flying through clouds.
As I settled in for another, I paddled my way through the sumptuous nectar like a river.
I named the elixir: "Goma Fire Burns Brightly, Becomes A Liquid Bonfire Sutra."
My spirit was overtaken by Essence of Smoky Lapsang Souchong Reduction.
The I Ching hexagram for Mountain Above, Lake Below floated in front of me;
it, too, is all about reduction.
In the words of mountain immortals:
Reduction is very auspicious and blameless if there is truthfulness.
It is appropriate to be steadfast and upright.
It is worthwhile going somewhere.
There is a lake below a mountain. Reduction.
Thus, cultured people eliminate wrath and stop cupidity.
I stepped away from the counter,
bowed to the Memory Conjurer,
and walked out into the late Spring night.
Having climbed the ladder of memory again,
a soul-part that had been in-hiding was returned.
Once again, I felt a sense of at-home-ness on this precious earth,
my oldest of memories rewoven into this pulsing DNA
that stretches back to a time
when the feel of the road beneath one's feet
and the words of one's poetry were one and the same.