Monday, September 4, 2017

The Double on the Balcony

You are not my shadow.
You stand closer to the sun.
Of all my doubles, you are the most interesting.
You are watching when I forget you.
You are with me when I don’t notice.
You are not my judge, or my guardian angel.
You are the one who remembers.
You are my witness on the balcony above the world.

My friend the witchdoctor calls you
My “double in heaven”. You smile at this,
Reminding me the African lives are mine, not yours.
You saw all of it, from your balcony,
But did not drink the blood or savage joy.
It’s the other way round in other lives, you say:
From life to life, we change places.
When you come down to Earth
I take your seat on the terrace above.

We are together now, for a moment.
I’ve slipped out of the body
That neither confines nor delights you
To join you on your balcony above the world.
The wine in the cup is the color of moonlight.
Below us are all the roads of the world,
The casts and dramas of the many lives
Laid out in dioramas, as manageable from here
As toy soldier sets, or tea-party dolls.

You chide me gently (since humans are forgetful animals)
For forgetting you. I have been a serial amnesiac,
Losing bright nights when we roamed together,
And an ingrate – not seeing your hand in everyday miracles,
Not hearing your voice in the still sure moments of knowing,
Not feeling the breeze of your wing when you come,
In reluctant extremity, to restrain or release me.

When my road was blocked, you were the one
Who reminded me we can fly.
You love to travel in disguise
And I often missed you behind your masks.
When I mislaid my sense of humor
You burst in as a stand-up comic
And shocked me alive with belly-bawdy farce.
It’s easy for you to bring light, and lighten things up:
You stand closer to the sun.

This poem is in my collection Here, Everything Is Dreaming, published by Excelsior Editions.

Poems really shouldn't be explained. Robert Frost once said to someone who asked him to explain what one of his poems was about, "You want me to say it in worse English?" Nonetheless, I'll add two notes to the poem above because I am interested in encouraging conscious exploration of the many aspects and levels of the multidimensional self.
    The Yoruba of West Africa say that while we are living our lives in the "marketplace" of this world, we have a "double in heaven" who observes us from a higher level, and that we swap roles from life to life.
    In a big dream Wolfgang Pauli encountered a mysterious bright-and-dark stranger. Having been mentored for years by Jung on the categories of analytical psychology, the great physicist asked, "Are you my shadow?" To which the stranger responded, "You are my shadow. I stand between you and the sun." This episode is fully recounted in chapter 11 of  The Secret History of Dreaming.

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