blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


NORMAN DUBIE | Book of the Jaspers


                                           — Uma 'ta, Bhutan.

Fool:  Forgot to instruct that this
will appear on Ekajati's forehead
by morning:

You saw before, on Mead Mountain Road?
Right-oh? Yea? Good!            A fool's Fool.

P.S.:   did you like your Teacher as the
Canadian beer-wagon, Nedperse?  Did I
call you landlord?  One is bored, being perfect.

                                                   — in white xylograph.

Dear Aunt Laura:     it is a relief to hear that you are well.
How frightening that your stomach ruptured
while out on the lake.  The appendix is such a curiosity.
Something similar happened to me
in the mountains of New Hampshire when I was twelve.  I secretly
believed it was willful —        a desperate attempt
to escape the local jeweler
who was coaching summer baseball for my father.

I wanted to be with my grandparents in northern Vermont.  Well,
after great suffering, I did get to convalesce
with my great aunt at the homestead in Waterbury Center.
You've guessed

from this casual salute, that Urze-la
is returned to us.  She will write to you soon, but
is, for the moment, still somewhat confused.

It just took my heart away, as she danced before Clara,
the sudden internal movements, the concealed
mudras began to open
and I recognized the grotesque Chöd phrasing
of the charnel ground.  That craning seraph
of the Black Mother's raised right leg.

Well, she quickly passed
from blessing and exorcism to absolute spiritual
ravishment.  She simply vanished.

If Lama Arak was not so precious to me,
I would have grown angry with him.  When I first queried,
he responded like a bold beggar, demanding
one of our horses.  He asked for a ringlet of her hair,
calling her 'the Delog.'

Nothing happens, he assured us.

You must remember, Laura, that the Delog traditionally
dies and passes three days and three nights
visiting paradises and hell realms.  It must be
a much higher accomplishment
to do this in the physical body. Well, our Urze

did just that!

Clara and I, in preparation for her return,
draped Mediterranean blue skirts of poor cotton
over the door and windows of the room
in which she had performed the phurba dance.  We were careful
to see that it remained clean,
free of the presence of food and drink.

I sealed the door in a golden paraffin
of the wrathful scorpion of Mt. Arig.

After three days and three nights
we became discouraged.  We opened the room
and sat there for most of the morning?

Truly, nothing did happen.  Then Clara,
who is a rock, began to sob and shake!  It was dark out,
with fog and rain, but I dressed us in red slickers
and we went out onto the farm.  Near
what appeared to us as Urze-la's pin oak

was this great  painted mare, and we
realized immediately
that she was giving birth to a foal.  As we approached,
through the glistening
azure and red cellophane of it all, I saw
in full amazement, that it was Urze-la.

Clara fell to the ground.

I began fumbling about in tears —
the clear sack had burst
and there, plastered with mucous and blood,
looking at us with eyes
neither of us can describe, was your niece —
steam rising from her hair in all the colors of a rainbow.

At that moment,

every damn horse on that farm,
save the painted mare, began screaming in approval . . .

It seemed a weird celebration.

When I asked the lama for advice he had written back,
'Can I have one of those horses?'  And now he does.
Urze-la will have our crazy-wise
lama for her root guru.

And his sister will have a ring of the Delog's hair.

It always amazes me that he knows what he knows.
If he wasn't such a fool about it, they'd have stoned
him by now.

I think L'urze actually smiled at me. I carried her

to the house.
Clara bathed her and slept with her that night.
She ate fresh bread and soup the following noon
and then spoke, saying, that everything
in our lives seems awkward, cardboard or encrusted
with light.  Then she cried.  I believe

I was amused.
By evening she made a fire in the parlor
and seemed herself.  But, Laura —
Urze-la's eyes will never be the same.
They are amazingly kind and, yet,
intently nervous.  It is the look of the horse.
And it isn't.

This is the Khandro's business, absolutely.

We've just filled a vase
with pussy willows from the riverbank, you know
down near the boat house.

Meditating with our niece is difficult
to describe.  It reminds me
of a night near Portsmouth.  I was sitting on the beach
while a great moon set. There was a breeze
and my eyes were closed.  The whole time
I felt the largeness of it, thinking it was all moon,
when in actuality
an enormous tanker had silently passed between us —

that is, between me and the moon.

It took perhaps five minutes.  Sitting with her
is like that now, except it is glorious.

You can expect a cable from her tomorrow.  Love.    Ekajati.


Dear Aunt:      god, I hope you've recovered from your surgery.
I hope you didn't worry about me.  After all that has happened
I think I should be frightened, but I'm not . . .

Uncle has told you much of it.  But

what I haven't explained to anyone yet
is that I visited the paradise of the primordial Buddhas
for what I believe would be one of our days.
And then I spent the balance of the time
wandering through simply unforgettable, terrible hell realms.

Aunt, at one point, I was sitting on a large rock
observing a very slow and partial
lunar eclipse —           everything was reddening
and suddenly I realized the man beside me,
whose hand I held,
was Joseph Stalin.  Behind him were several mongrel dogs
who were the progeny of a lifetime he had suffered,
circa 720 B.C.

His zone was a clean vajra hell.

He said that he was unlucky; just
a child wandering across a hilly land
which was white with garbage, and
crawling inside an abandoned icebox,
he solemnly closed its yellow cork door.

The great monster of a millenium — and
all he could say

was that he was afraid.  That he had always

been afraid.  That finally, he had made it over in anger,
and so he became one of the ghosts of noon.

I felt contempt for him, then I felt nothing.

I saw the Ffee standing in a yellow river, which I believed
to be urine.  A dozen blue heron
threatened him from above.
I asked the heron not to harass him any further
and they laughed at me with the laughter
of Uncle Ekajati . . .

You know, I think, unbelievably
that he, without any question, killed the Ffee
and then performed the Chöd tea
right there on the dry riverbank.

Don't ask me how I know this?  Poor aunt, I'm growing tired.
I hope I will speak to you within the week.  Love.     Urze-la.

This link to the horse-head, our great lord Hayagriva,

has more to do with uncle, mother, and you.
My connection is to the Khandro,

and if I knew how those two forces met
somewhere in our future,
then I would have remembered
everything from my great dance, or sleep?


Dear Urze:     your bowed aunt has just returned
from a stroll along the inexhaustible
hospital corridors.  I'm feeling a little transparent
and have, in fact, lost some weight.
I never quite had your mother's waist,
so this is good.  And of course, she always envied me
my strength, so you should believe that I will heal
very quickly.

If I hadn't known
your mother so well, I would be surprised
at everything you and your uncle have reported
about the events of these last few weeks.  It frankly does
scare the hell out of me.

I have a useful vision for you
from my rather odd introduction to anesthesia,
but first
I should say that Peter sends his love
and your uncle will be happy to hear that he's
Lieutenant Schofelt once more.  Perhaps
we have Paul to thank?  Though I doubt it.

Now, my dear, I was put under by the old sailor's
method of a little smoke
and repeated flashes of delcloidal light
to the eyes.

I remember nothing from that whole day,
and nothing of the vacuum.  Except
for this dream:            I had the sense
that you and your mother were observing me
somehow from above, while in a great fog

I rowed a boat out to an island
in the middle of a poison lake.  I was carrying with me
a sack of barley.  There in the moving fog
were great raised snakes, purple and yellow,
and they were assisting me.  There was as well,
and this makes little sense,
sleigh bells coming from the direction
where I imagined you had perched.  Sled bells

and the cries of prisoners who were in some vast
wooded place like Siberia?
There was an eclipse expected.  (I was forced to ignore
all of this as atmosphere.)  I rowed to the island with my sack of grain
and heard what I can only describe
as the laughter of cats and pigs.  There was something

pained about it.  They had a great hunger.
I opened the sack to feed them,
and out of it poured
my appendix attached to intestine
which I severed.

I was instantaneously healed
by the very sound of those innocent bells . . .

I rowed back
through the jeweled sulfuric vapors
and heard then, clearly, your uncle
singing a cradle song.  It was
for all of us and, I must stress this,
for all of us and for the young Mother Khandro?

Suddenly I felt nauseous.  I woke
to an Irish nurse slapping me about gently,
calling my name loudly, with her offering
of a scanning thermometer and ice water.  Now, my sweet,

it is my turn to be tired.  I'll speak to you tomorrow.            Aunt Laura.

Post Script:
It was the island of Marpa, the translator?  Wasn't it?
Please share my vision with your uncle.  He must
be exhausted by all this.  I was so sorry to hear of Alfred's death.
Your uncle has a murmur of the heart, I seem to recall?  And
so do I, they discovered during the surgery.


Dear Uncle Ekajati:      the aunt has returned to our farm.
She asked, before everything,
to walk up to the north pasture to visit 'the paint' —
she had two waxen yellow apples that were quite sweet —
and there was a light rain.  I think

she has completely recovered from her surgery.
And you are settling affairs
in New Philadelphia —           I thought
you would never go there again.

Did the I-Ching reverse its warning
about the two women cooking
under the red shell of a tortoise?  Or,

& le ciel obscure . . .

The new gardener, this Uri Vanekin,
has done you proud —         out in the flowers
he has arranged hillocks of jasper,
obsidian and translucent flints.  'The paint'
had for a stud-companion
a local appaloosa called Jaspers.  It died

of an encephalitis, this last December.

In the paper today there's a photo
of the airport at Nîmes
closed amazingly with drifting snow
that reaches nearly the noses
of the stranded airliners.

The pilots refuse
even to use the maple-leaf shearing lifts
against this weather.  I heard your trip to New Philadelphia
was stormy.  We are late in this eleven year cycle
of magnetic phlegm from the sun.
You should walk out
to where
I heard the laughter of kanglings.  Also,
in the paper, all these children
coughing blood in the east of the Sudan.

Those butchers will go blind —
we can't even imagine, uncle.  Red clouds and black
crossing the long burning train
until it spills off the bullet track
into a flooded granite abyss.  Just cabbages
floating on the surface while the sun sets.

These men are not your brothers.  You never sat with them.
But one can become angry
with your sex, uncle: '

Then I shudder and say, Khandro,
khandro of the staggering snow plateaus, remember the poem,
the cradle song he wrote in Amsterdam:

it described peasants dressed warmly
in sack, spreading out
past the margins of white space,

past the blue canal, to an horizon
indentured to its foreground
where before dawn the children
have gathered wet armloads of calamus and roses
to be boiled for the perfumes
of a now artless Nouveau Provence.  Broomsticks

stirring sweet grass from Mexico, all the petals
of tiger-lily and nasturtium.
Baskets of dried rue, green claw, and the
Master's hornpout preserved on a block of ice.

Can I cry to you, 'the Ekajati,' across these cold
lyric grasses of North Europe?  It is your punishment
to dream again of your childhood
with its cloud-wheels, in Flanders:      still, there are

magpies plucking out the eyes
of a condemned Protestant farmer
in his blue jacket and orange trousers.

The child is weeping at the foot of the great pole.

You cannot forget her, or this painter, the elder
landlord, Brueghel.  He had two sons —

I swear on their scriptures —   one
was christened 'Hell,'

and the other 'Velvet.'  On this planet
let us put down the candle, the book
of confessions, and a purple scarf
that mother made
during incessant gray rains last Oktober . . .    soha.

This time, I will forgive you.

L'urze, Khandro of Sumtsek.

                                           (.1/.9 jibes.)

Dear Urze Ekajati:    we regret the death
of your uncle, Paul, by heart attack
on November 3, 2279.  He passed
in the city of New Philadelphia.  The sun was not rising.
This is my stockgram.
You do not know me.  I am Alfred Talbout's mother
from Old Canada.  I was visiting your uncle.  I was not
one of his women!
Again, with regrets.      Jane Talbout.

                                             — in empty lading.

To L'urze, the Khandro of Sumstek, at Achi:
I was a poor advisor at best.  I am now
returning to the assemblies.  Here is a poet,
who was your father, who did also drown himself,
but in the River Seine.


The World Isn't a Wedding of the Artists of Yesterday

                        They were with me, and they were me . . .
                        As we all moved forward in a consonance
                                     silent and moving
                                     Seated and gazing,
                                                Upon the beautiful river forever.

                                     DELMORE SCHWARTZ

A stub of red pencil in your hand.

A landscape rising beyond the carcass
Of black larkspur,
Beyond the Milky Way where
The lights of galaxies are strung out over a dipper of gin
With a large sun and the rotund

Fuchsia moon. Her closet is empty, except for the manuscript
With your signature. She has left you!
Where was it in the field
That you threw the telephone:
After moving away
From the farmhouse, you found it again when
Returning for the lost cat—

As you walked through the low chinaberries calling
Her name you found the white horn
Of the telephone. You are alone calling to the frozen
Countryside of New Jersey.
She sleeps
In the yellow wicks of the meadow:
You are calling the mopsy cat back

From the ditch, but Dexedrine presses a pencil
Up against your eyebrow and temple. And
You've forgotten—what was it?
Out there in the field calling

Across the cold night air, drinking from the gold flask,
Again tucking that stub of a pencil
Back behind your ear. You read, this morning,
In the crisp pica lettering of the old Remington
How boatmen navigated the winter shallows of the Seine
Guided by a lamp burning all night
In a narrow window in Flaubert's study;

And all of a sudden, under severe stars, beside water,
You remembered everyone who was a friend.

But why your hand is locked on a red pencil, again,
At the bottom of a wintry meadow, in New Jersey,

Is the mystery rising behind you on a wind.  

return to top