In the third week of September I flew to Oregon for six days to visit my friend Linda Sussman, author of The Speech of the Grail: A Journey Toward Speaking that Heals and Transforms (Lindisfarne, 1995). As Sussman said of Wolfram von Eschenbach's epic, Parsifal, "I know of no other story of such length, complexity, and historical importance in which the essential heroic deed is an act of speech."
The trip West was amazing - the landscape of Salt Lake City, where I changed planes, was unlike any I had ever seen before - a desert and a barren plain, yet colored in such exquisite tones of earthen red, orange and yellow, and in the embrace of mountains all around. It is truly astonishing to fly from Philadelphia clear across the country - and I am glad to report the journey was pleasant. I could not stop looking out the window as we crossed into the "flat states," so unlike the East Coast -- with miles and miles of circular fields that, someone later explained to me, had to do with the irrigation systems. I looked and looked until my neck ached, and still I could not have enough with the wonder of it all.
Linda lives in a pastoral neighborhood. People have gardens, ride horses. The sides of the roads were filled with blackberry bushes bursting with the ripe sweet fruit. The afternoons were hot; the evenings and the mornings cool - colder than normal, I was told. Linda cares for an ailing horse and three goats, leads book groups, gives lectures and workshops on spiritual psychology, storytelling, mythology, and nurtures friendships locally and around the world. She reads and thinks. She always has something interesting to say. It was an honor to be in her company. It was a rest, renewal, and inspiration.
Since my return I have felt emboldened to put my poetry out in publishable form. I have revised one them, called Indulge Me Once, to send to Booksurge.com - going, once again, the self-publishing route. The second, The Blue Watch and Other Poems, I will submit to a couple of literary contests. And that too is another attempt, following upon many such attempts. I have tried these things before. I seem to be always going round and round my own Castle of the Grail, and the kind of "act of speech" my poems aim at seems hardly to be the fashion. Yet perhaps they should be taken out of their drawer. Maybe, just maybe, I will arrive at the Castle of the wounded King and I will be ready to speak.
In honor of Linda I am reproducing the following poem, from Indulge Me Once:
114. The Banquet
This is the time of all times,
This is the banquet of all banquets.
I was in the feasting-hall of Arthur, when he smashed his glass to the floor
And watched the blood-red wine trickle through the cracks of the stone,
And glanced at his wife, and saw that her thoughts rested elsewhere.
And I came to the hall of the wounded king,
Where there was feasting, and much to drink, where the king was sitting.
But I could not ask him the question, I did not say,
"Why do you suffer? What ails thee?" And so the castle
And the feast and the hall were taken from me, and I wandered
Many years in the waste, not knowing myself or what I did.
And I was with you at your feast
When you passed the cup to your friends,
Saying, By this you will remember me—
And you said one of them would betray you, and one did betray you,
But you returned.
And I feasted in the banqueting hall of the symposium,
Where that rascal Alcibiades whispered passion into the ear
Of Socrates, and all the young men lay on their couches
Getting drunk on divine philosophy.
And I went deep into the well of the past with Joseph
And his brothers, the twelve sons of Jacob,
Who feasted in the banqueting hall of the prince of Egypt,
And the eleven did not know their host was the brother
They had cast into the pit so many years ago,
To whom now all the power of Egypt was entrusted.
And to begin at the beginning: I feasted
With Adam and Eve in the garden. But we know what fruit
They feasted on – it was bitter, and its taste is lingering.
But we who live still tell of these things,
Remembering the great stories as we rejoice among friends.