She thinks of a former teacher who, running into her at a conference, blurts out: I hear your writing is as exquisite as ever, but that your life isn’t. What does one say in the face of such a stupendous welcome? She could have said, Let me start from the beginning; or— no, the beginning before that beginning. Which thread would you like to follow? But then again, it doesn’t really matter, does it? The ball of red yarn might tangle in the bushes, catch on thorns; but always, it leads back to the beast that slumbers in the center. Sometimes there is one beast. Sometimes the one beast is many. It’s grown fat on the gristle of the past and its bedroll of stories: pity, fear, the hurt from a pebble in a shoe. It never spared a thing, lover or child, parent or sibling. In remembering, she remembers too how myth is perhaps the baddest habit, the hardest one to break. Who said she couldn’t lay that tightly wound mess at her feet and simply walk, finding the way back by instinct? Who said she had to pick up the thread, retrace the steps she took before? She wants to leave it, leave it where it is; the signs say it’s time to unhalter her story.


In response to Via Negativa: Helmsman.

One Reply to “Unraveling”

  1. Long ago, when I was very young, there was a walled city in the desert.
    A circular road followed the inside of the city wall and other roads radiated from the central square. In the middle of the square at the middle of the city was a stone plinth. On the plinth lay a lion. Not a sculpture but a real live lion. He was asleep much of the time, and when he was awake nothing moved but his fierce golden eyes.

    One night I found myself walking on the circular road inside the city wall towards the gate on the opposite side. The streets were empty, the shops, inns and houses locked and shuttered. I came to one of the intersections and looked towards the centre, where the lion, brightly lit by a full moon, lay splendid and terrible on his plinth. I did not know if the lion was awake or asleep and I did not know what would happen if he saw me but I feared for my life. I thought my best chance lay in not attracting his attention.

    What is the worst thing that could happen? Is it better to be locked in a walled city with a lion of unpredictable temper, or locked out in the desert?

    But what is a lion doing in a city? The desert is the lion’s home. The walled city is a cage. The lion is locked inside the city of myself.

    The walled city is a mandala. The lion is the dot at the mandala’s centre.

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