Monday, June 1, 2009

The Angel That Troubles the Waters

I have seen you as a purple bruise in a yellow sky,
as a Scottish soldier with drawn sword
at the edge of the tame land and the wild wood,
as a snowy owl with fierce talons and fiercer eyes
as a Hindu death-lord traveling abroad
in a Johnny Cash outfit, swinging a lasso.

I have felt you enter as a gentle breeze
stirring the curtains in a hospital room,
and in the raw, thrusting horse-power
of the dark lord bursting into the maiden meadow.

You are a sexy devil.
I love you better than your brother Sleep.
Through aching nights of absence
I have longed for your embrace.

I have run your errands,
speaking in your voice to the old golfer on the plane,
negotiating with your razor-sharp precision
the terms for a possible life extension.
I have taken ailing humans by the hand
to your deep pools, to find you – if they dare –
in the troubling of the waters.

Few can look into your black sun
but those who do are different.
To know you, to walk with you,
to feel you always at the left shoulder
brings courage and October light.

You love to dress for occasions.
I have encountered you as a dandy in evening dress,
as a red Irish big-bellied god, and an Indian flame,
and a white lady whose footsteps are frost.
Your image is rarely in public places
though the medieval mind, like the mind of Mexico,
puts skeletal reminders of you at every turning,
mocking the vanities of the world.

On our wedding day
I want you to reach down from the sky in your robe of stars
and catch me in your voluptuous embrace
as we leave my old garment in the blanket of earth.
But if you choose not to come in your goddess form
I want you to be wearing my face.
Note: The graphic is a rare image of Serapis, a lord of death and of healing. In The Secret History of Dreaming I explore the evidence that Serapis was the original "Angel That Troubles the Waters" at the healing pool of Bethesda.
On this theme: I am leading "Making Death Your Ally" one of my most powerful workshops, at Mystic, Connecticut on October 24-25.


Diana said...

Robert, Such an incredibly powerful, just so and beautiful piece of poetry. Thank you for your generousity in sharing this with us. I'm looking foward to your workshop in Mystic later this year. Diana

Robert Moss said...

Thank you Diana. I'll look forward to welcoming you into our circle to meet Death as an ally in October. The address for this is perfect: The Dragon's Egg, Mystic...

Carol said...

Death will come to me as a bird.

Will it be the eagle?
Swooping low to snatch me
by the nape of the neck
As I swim the cold lake waters?

Or a flock of sweet chickadees?
Cheerfully chirping, plucking
the edges of my nightclothes
Floating me through a sweet dream?

The red winged blackbird?
With a shrill, she scolds me
overhead with an urgant message
unbeknown to me.

No dive bombing barn swallows
or bird kites
looping out of control.
All is calm.

I know I will be an old lady
bent and round
wearing a sensible wool coat
into the autumn woods.

I will push a shopping cart
filled with pumpkins
finding good friends, a warm fire
and plenty of good stories.

The topic of death makes me think so much about life and the things that are truly important.

Robert Moss said...

Dear Carol - How lovely for you to choose a winged Death, and honor it with your poem. Yes, we dream on Death in this way to gain vital energy and clarity for LIFE!

Unknown said...

I find these beautiful words true at the very core of my being. I too will be wedded at the end of this life and want to be welcomed in angelic rapture. Do I ask too much or is this one of many divine gifts? I am hosting this workshop. This is the second time we have this theme and I love it's catchy title. Making Death Your Ally~~~I can not think of a more pressing mission.

When I remember, I live my Life holding hands with Death. Such a companion! It is good to re evalute my relationship and renew it with Death and I welcome you to join us. You need but a bit of courage and sense of adventure and the return you may receive is priceless. A fresh Life. A Spring Green Life. This is not a sad , morbid exercise but a Life affirming dance with Death. Are you ready?

Robert Moss said...

Hi Susan - Thanks for holding the space for people to join hands with Death, move beyond the little stories that shame and bind, and bring through super-abundant energy for life - at that marvelous creative site in the woods where dragons are often seen!

Unknown said...

I love this. What will stay and stay with me is "I love you better than your brother Sleep."

Death's errand boy, eh? A very compelling thought...

Thank you for such divine expression on this big topic - already I feel many fears re-framing and old dreams shifting.

fran said...

Robert, I love this poem, but it ends too soon for me and feels like it could be part of a much larger piece. If you ever extend it, I hope you will post it here. Thanks!


Robert Moss said...

Hi Fran - What an interesting thought, that this "ends to soon". I'll have to discuss that with Brother/Mother Death, especially if he/she happens to turn up earlier than expected :-)

Yes, Robin, I find Death more interesting than Sleep, even though they have been compared by no less than Shakespeare. ("But in that sleep of death/what dreams may come?") I was very conscious of running an errand for Death on a plane to Cincinnati to lead "Making Death Your Ally", the workshop, a few years ago, when I found that a 90-year-old golfer had taken my seat by mistake, and needed some gentle help in crafting his exit strategy, a story I told in "Dreaming True".

Robert Moss said...

PS to Fran - Your icon is even more enigmatic than the original seen as a clip on this greatly reduced scale. If I am not mistaken, it is Remedios Varo's "Creation of the Birds". Want to say something about what this image and this artist mean to you?

Unknown said...

The wedding, the final wedding. That's what it is.

My father crossed dark water in a boat and was helped out of the boat by bronze hands and shown to an inner chamber where his wedding was going to take place.

Guests were gathered together in another room adjoining waiting to receive him.

That's what I saw in a meditation as my father was passing.

Robert Moss said...

Naomi - What a beautiful passage your father made. I love the image of being helped by "bronze hands" from the boat to join in the sacred marriage.

I am interested by how often, in dreams, both death and spiritual initiation (which involves death and rebirth) appear as a wedding. And how, when someone who has just passed is on the right track, we sometimes have the sense of attending a celebration, like a wedding feast. I felt that at my own father's funeral, because he was ready to go and on the right path, beyond the body of pain.

Patricia said...

I think this will replace my raging, raging against the dying of the light. I wonder what side of death I have been raging and trying to cling to anyway?

Your writing is as charged, but flows different, as your drumming. It so easily pushes and moves me into ... sweet Jesus what next? I do believe I have never "not met" such a true heart that has magic in his writing/stories. One day I will do this for children!

It is a bit scary to be so moved. But I can't resist the adventure.

fran said...

Robert, one of the things that I love about the dreamers around you is how willing they are to plumb the depths. Case in point, the lovely discussions people have about death. I find that a lot of people tend to shy away from that topic, or limit it to very small areas. Since I wish that more people would talk broadly and honestly about death, I think that I'll see if I can bring some of that into my daily life when the right kind of opportunity arises.

As for Remedios Varo's "Creation of the Birds", I must admit that over the last few years I've fallen in love with her and her art. I wanted to honor her and I chose an image of hers that fits in with my own dreaming history in a significant way. The oldest dream I can recall, from when I just a few years old, was of an Owl who flew up out of a hole in the ground, followed by a huge flock of birds who swirled around. The second time I journeyed, which was to use the Tree Gate as you described in 'Dreamgates', I met that Owl again who took me on a journey into the roots of the Tree.

I've had a lot of birds appear over the years to make big announcements or to give confirmations and many times I'm not sure why they are there. Lately I've had a lot of birds racing me when I'm driving. Today I was driving in the middle of the city and a low flying hawk was gliding toward me above the road. I had to pull over and watch and she made a few circles above the car then drifted off in a new direction. As she went I could see two other hawks, high above her, moving in the same direction. I think they were her children. So this Owl creator who forms birds out of starlight seemed a good choice to bring a bit of that energy into the web.


Robert Moss said...

Fran, Thanks so much for making the link for us between that powerful and wonderful childhood vision of the owl and the Remedios Varo painting. As you know, the owl is a great ally when it comes to working with death and seeing in dark places. Thanks, too, for your account of the hawks on the road. Whenever I see red-tailed hawks flying right or feeding well, I feel all is good. Like the owl, the hawk has a great gift of vision.

As I jot these notes, I am reminded that bird-watching has been second only to dream-reading as the preferred form of divining what wants to happen in the world, across the whole course of human history. The inspired graphic designers at New World Library have put the image of a bird bath that may be a seer's mirror (a mirror of water) with nine bluebirds around the rim on the cover of the new trade paperback edition of "The Three 'Only' Things", which delights me.

Wanda Burch said...

You well know the power of these images for me - and the power of your poetic reminder of meeting death in the "rushes" stirred by the angel that troubles the waters. In meeting death we often meet the full energy of life when we choose to stand up, take the hand offered in the all-seeing guidance of the divine and accept the challenge.

Robert Moss said...

Wanda - You are one of those who knows the pool of Bethesda through direct experience, and who found the courage to meet the envoy of your own Death and renegotiate your life contract. You tell that story beautifully in your book "She Who Dreams" and over nearly two decades now I have been privileged to witness how wonderfully well you have honored your agreement with Death as a dream guide, patient advocate, author and healer.

Savannah said...

So beautiful Robert... those images gave me chills of recognition. Not entirely surprising after recent online discussions and viewing Wings of Desire -- I dreamt of meeting my second shadow a few days later. I caught a brief glimpse of a male form but then was left with the image of a second shadow extending before me alongside my own that followed me no matter which direction I turned, no matter where I was in relation to the sun. It occurred to me in that moment of the dream that Death and the Guardian Angel were one and the same being, which I hadn't ever considered before.

Unknown said...

As a child I adored owls. I imitated owl sounds, made faces like an owl beak and walked (so I thought) as an owl might.

In my adult life, birds have served as messengers to me Red tail Hawk, Raven, owls...

The painting by Remedio Varos has such vibrancy for me. It's rather like looking at a symbol of the creative force that designed and brought the "bird" and the "bird's wing" into being.

I'm working toward bringing that kind of power of symbol back into my own art work. It's difficult to let go and trust what comes out at the end of your fingers. Following the child within is the key to it all. Just like when I was in love with owls as a child.

Your dream of the birds, Fran, was such a gift to you and your life. Thank you for sharing it.

Robert, thank you for the poem.

Unknown said...


I saw the picture on the new edition of The Three Only Things, and thought it was a stroke of genius.

Robert Moss said...

Savannah, I am most intrigued by your dream of the sourceless shadow that moves independent of the light. If this were my dream, I'm not sure I would identify this as either Death or the guardian angel, but I would certainly recognise a presence - perhaps one of those who are sometimes called Watchers - and would want to know more.

Karolyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karolyn said...

Riveting Robert! I was especially taken with the last line, for as a child I was terribly frightened by the image of the black-cloaked figure of Death brandishing a scythe precisely because it had no face! If it showed up with mine, whatever is there to be afraid of?

Shelle said...

What a stunning poem, Robert. Well done.

Life is never sweeter than in the face of Death. I hope you'll do a 'Making Death Your Ally' workshop on the west coast sometime, too.


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