Day 122 10/25/13: Overheard While Meditating

Cropped screenshot of Humphrey Bogart from the...

Cropped screenshot of Humphrey Bogart from the trailer for the film The Petrified Forest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I had the first shark dream in a long time. I only remember fleeting details: night sea (a common setting),  a white belly, a thin black line for a mouth. Although sharks rarely  drift through my dreams, they often materialize in my meditations, appearing and disappearing just as they do in the oceans. Silent images—another kind of thought.

When I meditate in my little office at school, I hear the urgent scratch and peck of someone writing in chalk on the other side of the thin wall. Across the hall, hollow and booming, lectures on economics: the virtues of spreadsheets, the falling markets. When I meditate at home on the couch, the blissful silence is often invaded by street noise. How I achieve higher consciousness when I can’t even transcend Los Angeles? Applause and laughter erupt from the 12-Step meetings in the church basement next door. Other times I hear one-sided Hollywood phone conversation– an unseen starlet squealing about an upcoming audition, or a deep-voiced man describing an upcoming job to a potential stunt guy:

So here’s the scene:

The wife is cooking for her in-laws (car roars past) and so she takes butcher knife and cuts off her husband’s (motorcycle speeds by) and feeds it to him. Think you can do that? Can you light yourself on fire? Are you good with smoke? Knives? The husband’s a football player-esque type. Your general asshole.

If all of life is an illusion, Los Angeles is the illusion within the illusion. Living here for so long, I’ve experienced many a surreal collision between past and present, the living and the dead. Walking through the Hollywood Forever cemetery, I once found a man building a styrofoam mausoleum for a horror film. It  looked as solid and cold as the actual stone tombs that house the first movie stars and passengers from the Titanic.

Even if my meditations are often interrupted, L.A. feels like the perfect place to contemplate the fleeting nature of all things.

Driving through a block of Hollywood Boulevard, I once found myself surrounded by cigarette billboards and 1940s cars, under a marquee advertising a Humphrey Bogart movie. I needed a few minutes to orient myself, to understand this movie wasn’t a revival showing, not a matter of nostalgia, but a meticulously organized, briefly resurrected world as bright and new as it must have been in 1945, that would likely be gone by morning.

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Day 121 10/24/13: A Poem for Sharktober

I don’t know how I feel about this poem yet…..what do you think?

Requiem Shark

By Rad Smith

This morning as I gulp five gleaming white
capsules of shark cartilage
to make me strong again, I want
another look at the terrible
eye with its nictitating membrane,
those extravagant fins,
the ampullae of Lorenzini freckling its snout,
all of that huge body on the rippled sand
in turtle grass
with an entourage of neon-blue barjacks,
and a remora wriggling in
and out of its gill-slits.
I even want to touch it again,
and this time not just with my fingertips,
but my palm, loveline and lifeline,
my wrist, the underside of my forearm.
I want to press my cheek against its chaste
astonishing skin smooth as a headstone,
want the touch that feels like a blow,
the summoning touch, the touch
of reckoning, the consummating touch, as well as
the stinging sandblown touch of regret,
the stranger’s touch on the train,
the reproachful touch,
even the last touch of a human
who has lain down with a shark,
the touch I have spent my life so ignorant of,
your touch as you unbutton my shirt,
the searing, unbearable touch.

Source: Poetry (March 2000).