an excerpt From The Case Of The Black Pearl Necklace
Picking tea, just the tips release this fragrance. Some too ripe, some too green, my fingers fly over these crowns–bowing before them in the sweet morning sun–like bees. Busy, I am, and insistent, serving a queen. Heat is rising, sticking to me and the sarong. Fresh white I wear each day, clinging under my arms, this hinders work, dropping tea into a burlap sack. My Monk’s bag, I call it, though I can never be that, working off my sentence, serving my time. But that was the way I saw things the first two months, or so, I was treading well-worn rows on a steep hillside. Now in majestic August, I’m simply here. Awake. Awakening, I pick tea.
There’s no getting off an island—Sri Lanka—without a boat or a plane. I have neither and no money. No future or past, I cashed it all in. Today she’s getting married. Not about love or passion, this has been arranged. But love and passion must also serve God. Used sparingly. A spice, hot curry, not the everyday flavor, lest one forget . . . Passion is a path to God, the same and completely different from any other.
How can I judge her or a culture that declines passion in favor of practical. Less wars are fought this way. But there’s still suffering.
She is pleased to support her family’s and his family’s honor and fortune, and for her marriage to add to both. Against this backdrop, passion isn’t forbidden, but one shouldn’t handle the cobra unless one is willing to die from its bite. Passion is an elixir of God few can assimilate, allowing transcendent emotion to pour through the body conduit, replenishing and commanding every sense, nerve, cell towards God. Instead, the passionate one projects this ecstasy onto the other, holds them responsible, retreating together to their island of paradisaical love. Or, seeing this folly, the passionate one uses the power to glorify and exalt their vanity and pride, justifying every act of killing, taking, destroying.
I forget, mostly, what I was passionate about, and pursued in her name, destroying you or me. My last passionate act was finding and delivering the necklace here where she belongs. And so, there’s a wedding tomorrow at sunrise. The date is also my birthday, August 18th. I will stand behind and between them holding the necklace in a piece of white silk. He will take it from me, put it around her throat in re-enactment of Lord Shiva marrying Parvati….the wedding always divined for this date. It wasn’t changed to honor the one who returned the necklace, holding the Vedic science code for peace—transcending suffering. I was merely doing my duty, from start to finish. And the hardest part was to abandon all fear and desire for the result. The fruit is this….I am here. This is my reward. Or, I can reverse it and call this my punishment. I can stay here for as long or as little as I like.
I cook. I pick tea. I write in notebooks. They brought me a saxophone in Hong Kong, and I play it to the amusement of all. Master has barely begun to show me ways to transcend in posture and breath. I learn to skip over myself, too young and too old to be picked. Both and neither…black nor white, rich nor poor, day or night, past or future.
There is a sound she makes when the sun strikes her on the throat of silent generations, doing their part, passing along their piece and her peace to the next one. A million flutes playing the same note in a million octaves, I was crying before I realized her tears were dripping into my mouth.
It is that
Falling from a million
worlds above and beyond
that all sweet tastes come from
annihilating every thought
each cell succored
Was this payment enough. No. Overpaid. My debt runs into millions.
But I have quick, adept fingers, from playing my flute.
And many mornings remain to fill the bottomless sack.