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I just finished my first eleven day teacher training with Annie Carpenter in Venice, California. Practicing yoga with Annie for only eleven days has completely changed the way I look at my own practice, and is a reminder to me as well that I need to come back to a strong meditation and pranayama practice. Next week, I hope to reflect more on what I learned these past eleven days.

In the meantime, while I’m still digesting what I’ve learned, I thought I’d share something I wrote about three years ago when I was living in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and working at an office job that didn’t suit my temperament as my boss once remarked. It’s a little dark and crude; here’s your warning. But it’s also a reminder to me that if we are willing to look at and study our own darkness, we will see that it’s not who we are. The poem is called Veronica. What I was feeling reminds me of Rumi’s poem It’s Rigged.

But, dear, how sweet you look to me kissing the unreal;
comfort, fulfill yourself in any way possible–do that until
you ache, until you ache,

then come to me

Rumi’s poem also reminds me that sometimes it’s not okay; we’re not okay; and falling to pieces may be one way out of that dark tunnel into the light.  This is not to say that being addicted to the darkness, having a hankering for dark places, or revelling in it is a good thing.  I don’t believe that nor do I advocate that.  But sometimes you have to “kiss the unreal” and maybe write and write and ache to get through it.  I don’t think writing is such a terrible way of dealing with darkness.

For a practical approach to facing your inner darkness using Buddhist meditation, I highly recommend Radical Acceptance; Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha, and the book A Path With Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life.  I found these books a little bit after I wrote this poem; both have rocked my world.

I leave you with the poem I wrote.

Veronica’s been sucking on the same finger
sucking so hard and so long
so long
that the finger has become her only lover
Veronica’s soggy, manicured fingernail will not come out of her mouth
not today
not tomorrow
not while Visions of Johanna drowns in her head
not while those creamy mangos peak at her
through her ratty shirt
not while it’s cold
not when it’s warm
Veronica’s so hardcore she alternates
her attendance between
sucking on the soggy finger that is lodged in her mouth
and sucking on the Marlboro red that is drooping from the left side

The untouchables in her books speak to
her sticky, salty mangos,
touching them with the soft rhythm of their breath
come to me, she asks them,
grab me, push me, but don’t touch me
Veronica is fed up with her own irony

Veronica’s mangos are being scolded
coulda, woulda, shoulda, won’t ya, will ya, can’t ya,
the mangos found hope in Veronica’s dreams,
Brahmins holding hands with their untouchable brothers
Dylan making peace with Donovan
the hand of California holding them, keeping them warm

Everything that Veronica does it not about you or me
Everytime Veronica cries it’s about Veronica

Veronica’s so hardcore she medicates
The hours of the dawn with cigarettes and dark Gorilla coffee cups,
The afternoon with white visions of an Icelandic singer and sweet hashish treats,
Veronica’s so hardcore
She only drinks gin with eight balls
And watches Gondry with cigars

Veronica’s not here nor there

Veronica bites into an orange
and watches the juices drip down her chin, her neck, her collarbone
the juices stain everything they touch
the juices move sweet and slow as a molasses river
the juices turn her thoughts orange

Sometimes Veronica grabs, claws and just bites
mid conversation
You better believe Veronica is fed up with small talk
sucking is Veronica’s own satyagraha
she sucks on the moon’s eyeballs
when they are as dry and lonely as the space between Miss Havisham’s thighs
she sucks the sadness out of Janis Joplin’s voice
she sucks the disgust between Donovan and Dylan
when Veronica sucks,
Rock N’ Roll takes his own communion, accepts his own reconciliation, and begins again,
when Veronica sucks,
Kathakali dancers dance too long and too mythic for Swedish embassy men in Mumbai
When Veronica sucks,
she sews Dylan’s mouth shut and erases his words

Veronica opens her mouth to yawn and sucks in the quiet around the clay figures in a pink and blue Gondry esque dream
opening her mouth, her soggy fingers now hold her toes and now she is sucking them
she opens her thighs to vacumn up California,
the sand, the oranges, Joni Mitchell’s cry,
a homeless man selling weed on Venice Beach
a discarded globe of silicon, soggy vegan sausage, a boy that plays guitar

Veronica doesn’t have to look you in the eye to say
Listen up, you’re not worthy of my love
Veronica will look you in the eye when she scratches n’ rubs her moneybox
Her moneybox is awesome pure, pleated pink
Her mangos are salted and greased,
round and ready

for the moment when

she comes onto her lips, her thighs, her feet and her eyes

When Veronica looks up, you and I aren’t worthy of her love.

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2 Responses to The way we get by: thoughts on my own writing and Rumi

  1. Karen says:

    wowza, look at you, poet. Thanks for sharing. Your words, your words!

  2. Erinne says:

    I emphatically love this poem! Reminds me of some of my favorite goddesses like feminist poet, Jan Beatty and performance artist, Karen Finley. The references, the delicate internal and end rhyme, the stanzas and breaks paced like Veronica’s hungering that can’t be fed, the raw sexuality, the loneliness, the vulgarity, the fear… how it spreads sick ‘n thick like agent orange infecting the “untouchables” (which has so many layers of meaning, but here I’m interrepting others and the body itself, identity iteself as untouchable):

    “Veronica’s not here nor there

    Veronica bites into an orange
    and watches the juices drip down her chin, her neck, her collarbone
    the juices stain everything they touch
    the juices move sweet and slow as a molasses river
    the juices turn her thoughts orange”

    And those thoughts bleed orange into others’ lives. And Veronica’s victims will definitely need some yoga. Ha!

    This poem’s as mouth watering as salty mangos. Veronica’s devilish want is so human and yet, is the ultimate anti-Buddhist desire. I find myself sucking on my own thumb everytime I read this one, R. Yep, when Renee writes about Veronica, you and I aren’t worthy of her words. Keep writing!

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