Zelda's Inferno exercise: "a sign"

Posted on: Sun, 04/15/2012 - 20:55 By: Tom Swiss

Zelda's Inferno exercise: write about how an experience caused a change of mind or a flip of perceptions.

a sign

in my head
for the past few weeks I was
working on a poem about heartbreak
what can you do when your heart is broken?
there's drinking (always available)
and meaningless sex (harder to find)
and changing the radio when a love song comes on

in my head
I am working on this poem about heartbreak
as I drive
thinking about what we do with gifts from old lovers --
keep them around, hide them until we've recovered, throw them
       away, burn them
all the ways we try to cope

I am working on this as I drive
(if I were some Zen wise guy I would be just driving
but I'm not
so I'm building a poem in my head as I drive)

and I drive by this kid
this high school kid
holding up a sign I can't read
until I get closer
and I see that it says

"Honk If You're Happy"

I notice that
not a lot of people are honking

and I have to ask myself
am I happy?

in spite of the heart being broken yet again
(like the old car that gets stuck in park, or conks out in the rain,
       eventually you learn its quirks, how to live with it)
it is a warm sunny day, and I am still here
alive and healthy and not defeated
and I have just left the company of friends and teachers and students
(myself not least, but honored of them all)
and there is good news in my life
and an adventure coming soon

and so this is the question that kid with the sign
all unwitting in his bodhisattvahood as he presents his koan, asks me:
can I be both broken-hearted and happy?

is the human heart big enough
to hold happiness and sadness
joy and sorrow
hope and fear
pain and delight
tears and smiles
at the same time?

I honk the horn
sounding my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the other cars
casting a vote for the bigness of the heart

a broken vessel is full of every(no)thing

Hi Tom,

As you seem to have decided for yourself--yes the heart can be hurt and happy at the same time. Just not about the same thing.... You can take joy in the comanionship and comfort of friends, but there is still that ache from the missing piece. (Rescue Remedy helps a lot...)

I wrote out the hurt in poetry/lyrics--then guarded my heart too much for a very, very long time. Maybe I learned the wrong lessons from that experience....

For what it's worth, I really enjoyed your company last year when we met at Cornstalk, and look forward to hopefully seeing you again this year at Wisteria.

Ce-ce / MeAgenn