Sunday, June 22, 2008

Meditation I: A Cloud in a Teapot, by Quentin S. Crisp

Meditation I: A Cloud in a Teapot

An aerial view of my teapot - simple china circles bellied over the straight lines of bare floorboards. The blue flowers on the delicate pale-blue background seem blurred by a wash of moving water, like ornamental goldfish. Everything here is hard and intact, crisply focused, as if it could not be any other way, and all the world is reduced to this self-contained minimalism.

The glaze of the teapot gleams. This is the discipline of beauty. The china of the empty pot is cold to the touch, but filled with tea it conducts heat quickly, and when its hot round belly is cupped in the palm of my hand, I could almost believe this was still malleable clay. From the spout there is a suggestion of steam. There is such potential here in this thing so inert and fixed.

This is the main accessory of my ritual when I write. I pinch the knob of the lid between thumb and forefinger, turning it upside down as I remove it to view the contents. There is the swamp water, and drowned beneath, a swirling canopy of green, all of it turning to rising steam. These leaves have been shipped or flown or teleported from one intersection of latitude and longitude to another. They have come to me like a dream comes in the precipitation of sleep, from the evaporation of the sea of unbeing. Pouring hot water onto these leaves, I have brewed up a new cloud containing mountains, forested slopes and streams. When I pour from this pot it will be the curling clouds of the Immortals as seen in ancient scroll paintings that pour from the spout, since within this portalled matrix of bellying circles, every latitude and longitude intersects in infinite steaming potential.

Looking at the spout now, I see the dark brown stains just inside its lip. This is the precious and elegant filth of all culture. This is the stained and wrinkled cheek of the matriarch of a dying tribe. Most of her teeth are gone now, though she still chews the betelnut until her tongue is red. These stains are the superstition and the love which together form the magic keeping the tribe vital and alive. Something is happening now, and the numbers of the tribe are dwindling. She looks out from the treehouse at the mist rising up from the valley, and to the cataract beyond. Where will the spirits of the ancestors go now with no one to honour them in life? A fragile rainbow rises from the falls. The souls are disappearing, one by one, beyond the falls, going into seclusion. Soon only the waterfall will remain. Mist rises, the valley seems to break open.

The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name, and with strange aeons even death may die. O Gaia! O Tao! O Great Cthulhu! The smaller cycle is disrupted, shed like a skin, a shape green and monstrous erupts through the shaking canopy of trees from its sleep - the new shapeless shape of eternity, the ever-mutating Way, the self-transcending forever nameless Name, the root and the mud, the darkness within darkness, the subterrene flow, the gateway and the spawn. A sticky yinyang all tentacled with Tao-slime, beyond Good and Evil.

That probiscidean face!

Now the inside of the spout is revealed in the human experience of time. Time is twisted and turns inside-out. It buckles and chasms, and from out of the chasm comes the cubist rainbow of Dreamtime.


The body of the Great Old One, the Tao, is a viscous cloud of green, and the claws are a deluge. Pandemonium foams down the filthy brown spout. I am sitting at a desk in a darkened study, and sheets of paper fill with inky code telegraphed straight from the nightmare of ultimate and infinite blackness in a warning that can save no one. This poetry that purports to uncover the truth of a great doom, can neither confront nor reveal, though the blackness of the ink is the very same blackness as the endless night that swallows all. The message is lost in the vast night of the truth, and the truth is lost in the enfolding meaning of the tiny writing of the message, and there is only an awesome redundancy in this script found in the pitchy void, a redundancy like the scent of a candle snuffed out by a breath of nighted eternity.

The claws of the deluge come. Dreamtime. Pandemonium. The pages are scattered. The last of the tribe. The ancestral spirits gone behind the waterfall.

I pour some more tea in my ritual and uselessly, compulsively, as if enslaved by a telegraph signal from some dreaming darkness too vast to pour through me, I write.

And with strange aeons, even Dao may die. And in Dreamtime, even death may dao.

The Dream Cycle

In July, 2007, I started, in my Moleskine notebook, a series of what might be described as prose-poems, which I decided to call meditations. To be honest, I wasn't really sure what they should be called as a literary form. I wrote down five titles, and wrote pieces for two of them. Then other parts of life encroached in such a way that I never wrote the other three. In fact, I even had an idea for a sixth piece, whose title I didn't even write down, though I remember it.

I have decided to start posting these pieces here on Chomu in the hope this will encourage me to finish them, and because I also need to give more attention to Chomu.

I have also decided, for now, to call all the pieces, collectively, The Dream Cycle. These are the five titles I wrote in the notebook:

I: A Cloud in a Teapot
II: Oneironaut
III: The Magic of Childhood
IV: Presence
V: The Last Word

The sixth meditation, which I might have been intending to insert at some point, rather than tag on the end, was called, 'The Serpent'.