Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Epic of Mandala: Canto I

Mandala stood and waited for the light
To change so he could cross the street. His right
Hand held his black umbrella to keep off
The mist. The storm’s rain turbulanced the trough
Between the sidewalk and the concrete street,
The remnants streaming in chaotic beat
Into the drains below his feet. The cars
Slowed at the yellow, red electric stars
That ordered inefficiently the spins
Of endless satellites. The crowd begins
To move. Mandala moves with it. He’s budged
Into the street and as he walks he’s nudged
In random walks as he flows down the walk.
He thinks that he and Barbara have to talk.

Mandala lived with Barbara, and they’d been
Together through his Ph.D., from when
They met in his first year when he was reading
His poetry. The coffee shop was needing
More patrons, and they opened evenings up
For open mics at night. She had a cup
Of mocha which she sipped in rhythm to
Manadala’s rhymed iambic verse. She grew
Enamored with him with each rhyming line,
Until she almost felt his wisdom shine.
(It hardly hurt that he was handsome, whole
Addition to the beauty of his soul.)
he finished and she went to him, and they
Had been together from that very day.
And now Mandala was prepared to dine
With her tonight, Antonio’s at nine.

Mandala could not learn enough, and so
His education started with the low
And least complex and moved into the high
And most complex, from math, the simple lie,
Precise approximation of the truth,
A sentiment that many thought uncouth,
Through quantum physics, then through chemistry –
He also majored in biology.
An economics Master’s he achieves,
Then Ph.D. in the humanities,
With major publications in them all,
He nonetheless felt he had hit a wall.
The only time that Mandala felt free
Was any time he wrote his poetry,
Disorder that exploded in the form
That helped contain the dialectic storm.

The rain engaged the waves of hair that fell
Down to his collar, stringing it. To dwell
Upon his past with her, the problems he
Would have without her, warm nostalgia’s plea
Combined with comfort’s soothing voice could not
Dissuade him from his course. This was his lot –
He knew what he must do – he heard the voice
That led him well. He had the choice
To listen or ignore it, yet he knew
Ignoring it would make deep pain his due
And he would end up doing what he should,
And only then would his life become good.
He learned his lesson the way we all learn:
by suffering. All people seem to spurn
Advice from everyone. Mandala was
The same, and so he suffered, as one does
When one ignores what one knows one must do
And wanders off the path one knows is true.
Mandala wandered once the woods – those free
Of messiness, of pure geometry.
But he was told, “My son, it’s time to go.
The world must grow complex so you an know
The way the universe became to be –
You must reflect the university.”
But he resisted, wanting to remain
In heaven’s harmonies. He would not deign
Consider messiness a worthy thing
To understand, to study, or to sing.

And so he fell in love with one who would
Refuse to love him back. He thought he could
Convince her, but she said she was in love
And would not leave her boyfriend. His love of
She who he could not have drew him away
From all his friends, into a forest gray
With shadows, where he wandered, then alone
The first time in his life. The trees were bone,
The ravens watched with eyes of stone, the sky
And leaves were textured, greyed the same. A fly
Annoyed him with the only sound. The path
Wound down into a valley where his wrath
Turned in upon itself, and when he saw
A deep abyss, he looked into its maw.
The empty blackness stared at him, he fell,
And would have kept on falling into Hell
Had not a rope been flung to him. He reached
And grabbed the rope before the darkness leached
His soul from him. Mandala felt himself
Pulled up until he reached the abyss shelf
And aw a bushy-mustached man, his hand
Outstretched to help Mandala onto land.
“It’s fortunate you did not have that far
To fall,” the man said. “You’re a dancing star
Who neither knows he is a star and still
Must learn to dance. You have to climb the hill
Before you now before you can shed light
On others’ paths to tear away their night.”
“You throw me in the pit to help me out?”
Mandala asked. “You fill me full of doubt
Then try to give me confidence to ruse
Above the rest?” “Of course. He who denies
Me, I will come to them. You fell, I came.”
Mandala breathed a long, low sigh. “Your fame,”
The man continued, “Will increase if you
Learn to embrace and speak to all what’s true.”
“I always speak what’s true. I speak in math.”
“A seeming hard, but really simply path.
You have to grow into complexity
And not get weighed down by your gravity.
A single poem has much more to say
Than all the man you know or ever may.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mandala said.
“There’s much more that you need inside your head,”
The man continued. “Physics up through life,
The brain, the social sciences, the strife
That drives complexity, humanities.”
A jasmine scent embraced them on a breeze.
The man said, “Someday soon you’ll see the truth.
And now, I hope you don’t find me uncouth,
But I must leave you know so you’ll find you
Beneath the things you learned – there lies what’s true.”
“You start off well, then leave with a cliché?”
“It’s really all the same from day to day.
You surely know the song, ‘It’s All Been Done,’
The verse ‘There’s nothing new under the sun’?”
Mandala said, “Now wait a minute, there.
That’s patently untrue. With every pair
Of paradox resolved in constant strife
The universe complexified to life
And man, whose brains complexify with time
And social density, to reduce crime
And deaths by war across our history
As liberal social orders make us free,
Emerged to understand that universe,
Ourselves, as much as we are bridge and nurse
To more complex and thus more beautiful
New forms of thought and being in each skull.”
“My lovely boy, you’re wise enough to know
All that, so what is it that dims your glow?
Closed mind, and system, falls to entropy –
Both open both, increase complexity.”
With that, the man then walked away to seek
The crest so he could leap from peak to peak.

But that was many years ago. He grew
To learn to love the chaos, for he knew
It would self-organize without his thought
To pressure it into new form – it brought
Itself about, much as the thought that pulled
Him to decide that it was time he culled
His life of Barbara. What he had to do
Required that he dissolve any glue
That held him to a certain time or place.
He hoped that he could cut her off with grace.

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