"Another Way" in the Water-Stone Review
I am pleased that the Water-Stone Review has published "Another Way," the third part of my trilogy, The Broken Cup. The trilogy links lyric essays about the acceptance of life as it is, a letting go that opens new possibilities for discovery and love. It is built around three paradoxical images taken from the Tao Te Ching: wu, mên, and tao. Wu means emptiness, but like the hollow of a cup it is an “emptiness that works” and brings fulfillment. Mên is the door that is both exit and entrance, a reminder that closed doors are not about missed opportunities, but are also openings on fresh possibilities. The tao is the way that cannot be named, becoming some other way the moment we begin to understand it in human terms.
In The Broken Cup these puzzles are recapitulated in imagery found in art, design, technology, astronomy, mathematics, poetry, folk song, pottery, Zen stories, and archeology. The book employs a cascade of cultural references including the mountain pottery of the Meaders’ family, the jerry-rigging of the Hubble Telescope, the folk story of Thomas the Rhymer, the ancient and heartfelt poetry of Du Fu, the mysterious origins of Stonehenge, the discovery and debunking of canals on Mars, and the controversial but striking graphic waterfall art of Julius Popp.
In The Broken Cup the stories are shattered in order to form a new whole that slowly emerges for the reader, a single story of receptivity and acceptance, and behind it all is a personal love story revealed in a variety of intimate conversations in which words suggest an affection that they cannot directly express. In the end, nothing is left unscarred, nothing is understood, no spiritual problems are solved, and the cup remains broken, but as one way yields to another way in a shattered and evanescent universe, the cup, beautiful in the broken places, suggests all is well.
Here Is the Opening of "Another Way"
Nothing in the world
finds another way
At Oak Bluff’s on Martha’s Vineyard we went skinny dipping at night with our friends, our bodies made white and strange by moonlight. We tossed shoes and blouses and jeans in the sand and laughed at our nakedness. In the dark waters, anonymous bodies touched lightly—it was like walking into a school of fish—as we floated just within each others’ reach. One boy dove under the sea for a long time and emerged with an explosion of breath, rising about waist high out of the water and flipping his long hair among a bright band of stars like some sea deity at play, and a couple somewhere in the dark behind me had quick sex: I could hear the panting followed by a groan.
For a while, I could not touch bottom and felt myself drifting on waves, letting the water take me where it willed as we fanned out, our shapes illuminated by the glittering all about us.
You were not pregnant yet, you remind me as we sit now having coffee in our living room four decades later, our conversation pausing as we each hold the memory of youthful silliness in our minds, but you soon would be. The days of skinny dipping at the beach were coming to an end, but today we hold it between us in thought like a bauble, and laugh and shake our heads. You pull the lapels of your robe together and shiver.
When our swimming was over, I recall, we ran back up the sand to our towels, youthful breasts and thighs still glowing, and held our clothes up
to our dripping bodies modestly. Who can sit still until a muddy pool clears? That is what The Tao asks and I think about the line as I head down to Butternut Creek behind our house. It roars as I get closer—we had a hard rain this weekend—and I have to call back the dogs so they won’t jump in. I could wait an eternity before this water clears, I think, looking down at the churning white.
that is what Lao Tzu meant...