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Cyrus Cassells reads from Soul Make A Path Through Shouting

I heard Cyrus Cassells read in Bryant Park a few weeks ago and afterward asked if I could record him reading some poems. Cyrus was staying in the neighborhood for a few days before he left for Spain so it was easy to pack up the camera and get over to him. He wasn’t feeling well—a stomach flu—but trooper that he is, Cyrus sat down to read from his favorite book, Soul Make A Path Through Shouting. The book is about a journey, a walk, each step a poem through crowds of haters, angry mobs, revisits to gulags and concentration camps, and even slipping from life to death during the AIDS crisis. But where is Cyrus taking us? The book begins with inscriptions from two other writers:

The day will come when, after harnessing the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Teilhard de Chardin

Come, see real
flowers
of this painful world.

Basho

Basho was a traveler too; and like us he traveled through a troubled world. Cyrus takes us on this dangerous journey to a real flower that we can hold—call it peace, call it love, une fleur is there in the last poem Cyrus reads. Enjoy.



FLEUR

No, it is not suffering that engenders it;
it is beyond suffering,
The Flower—
though it rests beside
the tears, the million barricades,
fusillade upon fusillade…
it rests
soft as a fontanel.

*

Fifty-four whales beach on the shore,
vials of blood, and syringes,
so that we might perceive The Flower,
cry out for it.

*

With sternness and delicacy,
Georgia O’Keeffe,
that clear-eyed woman,
leaned into its sacred warmth,
with her paints,
her probity.

*

Yes, its stem is like
the jammed, astonishing columns of crutches
the healed leave behind,
a column of miracles
in a snowlit, hallowed shrine.

*

Stopping on the road to Tula,
to Tolstoy’s estate,
I found a flower
like one from my childhood,
a great seraphic bloom.
But there were missiles between it
and its Western twin,
missiles!, missiles!,
and a killing mystique.

*

Not long after Chernobyl’s gasp,
I looked from a window
in Dostoyevsky’s house,
and watched a man pass a sinister wand
over the vegetables for market,
over the flowers.

*

How much can the petals withstand,
while we hasten the leavings,
the radioactive waste?

*

It cannot last,
the juggernaut, this whirlwind futility:
surely joy will outdistance
the century’s mass graves,
the earth’s furious junkyards;
surely joy will outdistance us.

*

A woman strokes the numerals
seared forever into her skin,
and with deadsure fingers examines
stark photographs from the war:
this happened to me,
and this—
and still I survived…
Yes, there were lupines in the camp,
and our joy in them was real,
as real as our misery.
We would find some little corner of the barracks
to put them on display;
we would pick and scoop them into our arms,
after a day of forced labor.

*

Oh once, during the war,
there was a boy,
bewildered, deaf from birth,
unable to comprehend
the men in dark uniforms barking
Jew, Jew
get down on your knees!—

so that his father had to coax him
to touch the paving with his mouth,
to take part in the wretched street cleaning.
And after wetting a stone
with a sullen tongue,
the boy found his work
had made it shine.

Then ridicule, and bullying hatred,
then indignity gave way
to something rapt—gave way
to sheer accomplishment.

Undaunted he found a tiny flower-shape
set deep into the stone,
let its brief, invisible pollen brush him.

And for that one instant, let me believe,
the universe was moved,
all the gall of the day
was changed to wine…

ma fleur, ma fleur…

On what would you give for that flower?


As I listened to Cyrus taking me on his journey to real flowers, I thought of T.S. Eliot, at the end of Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


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Soul Make A Path Through Shouting is published by Copper Canyon Press. Check them out here:

https://www.coppercanyonpress.org/

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