My mother’s eyesight

437926-contact-lensNew poem for you, should you fancy a shufty. This one was written a few days ago whilst on a Wolf At The Door writing retreat at Dhanakosa (the anchoring place of my spirit). It’s about my mother searching for lost contact lenses, something that seemed to happen on a daily basis through my childhood, although she swears it was a rare occurrence. Years (and soft contact lenses, and bifocals) later, my unearthed memories of this once-commonplace activity came back to me like hallucinations.

Contact Lens

My mother is blinking like an owl treading water.

She has spatchcocked her palms, is strip-searching

the carpet, patting the sofa down, looking for her sight.

 

The world, transparent and the size of her pinkie-tip,

has fallen out of her eye and now, out of malice,

it will not be found. Or worse, it has sailed away,

 

intrepid coracle, to the dark side of her eyeball.

She tents her lid by its guy-rope lashes. I see inside her

it’s as red as a desert noon. A morbid rolling

 

hoves the fugitive into view. Retrieved, she lathers it

with spitwash, pinions again her Clockwork Orange eye,

and deftly launches the tissue-thin glass bowl. It floats,

 

meniscus on meniscus, world upon world.

On retreat

Any repeated action has the potential to become a form of meditation. ‘Form’ not only meaning ‘type’, but also ‘form’ in the sense of ‘a shape that we can follow’. The shape of the repeated action endures, is a constant; the breath, a tai chi sequence, the schedule of a day, the structure of a retreat. We repeat the form not in order to ‘get it right’ or ‘be good at it’, but because by placing ourselves into the constancy of its shape we can more clearly observe ourselves. We provide the ever-changing contrast.

So this retreat was both the same as others, and at the same time completely different. Dhanakosa retains its form, breathing us and and breathing us out, but the dynamic of the people changes. We are here as a chance sangha, temporary and at the mercy of random association. We make the best of the situation that we can, through our external actions and relationships, and through our private contemplations.

The bells calling us from sleep to waking, from silence to community, from leisure to attention – these are like the changing postures of the tai chi form, guiding us to act and move to the same purpose, in the same direction at the same time. In this way our individual energies are brought into synchronicity, and are amplified, until the sangha emerges as a single energetic organism of which we are the cells.

The repetition of the days, our willingness to immerse ourselves in the joint endeavours of meditation, cooking, eating, silence and writing – these are the things that polish the retreat until it becomes a smooth, heavy gem. Then it is able to drop deeply, taking our joint and several practises to more profound levels.