After her journey through the underworld of whale fall, following the command of the Three Strange Angels, “Now you must love that too,” the woman returns to the upper world. Now she must journey through harsh, transformative landscapes of desert and mountain, deeper and deeper into the numinous body of earth. But here, in the first poem of the “Black Sage” section, we see her resisting the call.
Beginning the Journey
Something is ended.
She launches the small paper boat of it out onto the ocean and turns to the west.
To wade out through glittering and foam, to lie upon the deep, to be a membrane between stars and mirrored stars.
Then when her throat is full of all the voices she can carry, to turn and swim for shore.
To run back, crying messages from inside whale fall.
That is what she is thinking: not about the journey, but about the coming home.
And if there is no way back?
For now she must empty herself. Empty her knapsack, put it down.
Empty her pockets. Take off her clothes. Empty her old head.
And if there is nothing left?
All her life she has skirted the edges, backed toward it, listened secretly from the reeds.
But to go right in, to drown….
To lie under black water and let what wishes to be spoken grow upward from her empty throat ….
No, no! She is not willing!
Still it presses in, it calls, it wakes her in the night.