Quoted in Symbols

I will not fear the peaceful
and wrathful ones, my own projections.
          —The Tibetan Book of the Dead1


Like the moon in water
which dissolves into fire,
flagrant as a dagger
of lightning plunging tongue
and shard into tears of
myrrh, troubling earth’s warm bowl,
jarring its plates with storms
thundering open walls
of stone to brake their growth
around a moaning noun


that’s indeclinable,
a proverb lost in its
chronicler’s translation
from scribe’s inkhorn to saint’s
crowning thorns, each quill’s prick
hidden truth’s roundhouse kick
sticking its foot in an
angel’s mouth, a finger
in the socket shocking
off of every rock


its moss, and the skin off
every skull, in each
season of a fever
bolts of heaven fall, speak
not of being deceived
when, between sleeping and
waking, god’s hands, beneath
what consciousness clouds, reach,
plunging deep to thread seeds
of saffron pearls of milk


swell and sweat out of, pool
around as ink does, soot
and scent wed to the flesh
this tragic mask’s comet
descent tremors, writing
in warmth on your breast with
searching caress figures
your heart’s alchemist learned
from his friends, those flowers
of the underworld, her


gemstones, crude jewels whose
hewn embers crucibles
of desire’s desert air
transmute above their lair
from ruby to rose cross
elixirs your body
remembers only as
pain when ill, but treasures
as wisdom turned crystal,
whispers of medicine


whose burning breath wounds to
cure all, when it’s your soul
that’s unwell, quoted in
symbols, this collision
of matter with spirit
is weather’s way, shaping
a saying’s phrasing no
sage’s manuscript can
relate, its tearing of
the veil annihilates


the will which is freedom’s
gatekeeper, your fear which
keeps you prisoner, in
the thin liminal hour
before he returns, you’re
æther nearer to their
creator than the stars
to hear what prayers the world
mourns, their murmurs’ meaning
lost in the light of day.

1Guru Rinpoche according to Karma Lingpa, “The Main Verses of the Six Bardos”, [Verse 5, Line 6], in “Inspiration-Prayers” of The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo: Translated with commentary by Francesca Fremantle & Chögyam Trungpa, published at Boston by Shambhala in 1987; page 99.