March 2014


i.

Buried under twenty feet of pine mould,
Magnolia cones, and red soil washed out,
Sins of a dozen generations, decomposed,
All these tendriled roots reach into our living flesh.
We are still the scattered bones and blood,
Slave and free. Marbled pillar and rotting red rock pile
Mark their places, where our dark roots reach in,
And draw up our half-hidden present.
The old chains, which once we forged,
Rust close, next dissolve
Into the tannined water over red clay and white sand,
Black depths and inner sanctums,
The crack of bone, and the body in prayer.

ii.

At a certain age
The hearts of loblollies and longleafs go dark,
And rot. The fire takes them. Ash and smoke.
The remnants, transmuted, filter slow
Into the lost seas, the departed mountains, the wasted
Pasts that lapped up our blood, and the blood we spilled.
All trajectories merge.
Yet, things grow more fertile,
Marked by flame and flood—the
Mercy may overtake the Wrath, but both
Remain, this the great dialectic. None
Of us escape, only pass through.
Then—seeds open, and sing.

iii.

Open your mouth, taste
The old life, the new death hanging
After that morning’s rain, bearing a bit
Of those dead uplands to the unending sea. Know.
Other things happen, though. Those saplings’
Taproots run terribly deep. So you too
Must burrow, must find the far down place
Rooted in the life-giving decay and parted hills,
All the way down,
To the first Place,
The no-place. Uncreated.
Have your feet there, and the Fire will not consume you.
Only singe.
Then—
Return, rebirth, and the resurrection of the dead.

The following is one of four truly gorgeous and insightful short films of contemporary Chechen Sufi rituals. They are all well worth watching, as is the veritable treasure-trove of material the film-maker, Vincent Moon, has accumulated over the past few years, not only in the Caucasus but across the world.

LE GRAND JIHAD • soufisme en Tchétchénie (1) from Vincent Moon / Petites Planètes on Vimeo.

We have no prairies
To slice a big sun at evening—
Everywhere the eye concedes to
Encroaching horizon,

Is wooed into the cyclops’ eye
Of a tarn. Our unfenced country
Is bog that keeps crusting
Between the sights of the sun.

They’ve taken the skeleton
Of the Great Irish Elk
Out of the peat, set it up,
An astounding crate full of air.

Butter sunk under
More than a hundred years
Was recovered salty and white.
The ground itself is kind, black butter

Melting and opening underfoot,
Missing its last definition
By millions of years.
They’ll never dig coal here,

Only the waterlogged trunks
Of great firs, soft as pulp.
Our pioneers keep striking
Inwards and downwards,

Every later they strip
Seems camped on before.
The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage.
The wet centre is bottomless.

Bogland, Seamus Heaney, in Door Into the Dark (1969)