Haibun Ramble on Wordsworth

…………………………..for Jim Read

I wandered high above the clouds, depressed on a trans-Atlantic flight to England. I saw the frozen January of Greenland – not the white light, white cold messin’ up my brain, but a recent psychopharmacological misadventure, snapped my synapses into major depressive disorder, the darkest depths of Mordor. Tickets bought six months before, too late to change plans, too ambulatory to cloister abed.

Travel does not cure depression. Depression strips the world of interest as easily as it does home. Take what you treasure most, hold it before your inward eye, and feel nothing but a little sick. That’s it. Somatic symptoms may accompany: headache, insomnia, narcolepsy, paralysis – nothing to the dead heart.

……….pontificate: “to assume pompous and dignified airs, issue dogmatic
……….decrees like the Pontiff” is from 1825.
……….Weekley’s Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (1921), points out:
……….“bridge-building has always been regarded as a pious work of divine
……….pont-, stem of pons “bridge” + –fex “maker”

Heathrow to Yorkshire to Grasmere. O welcome messenger! Dove cottage, home of William & Dorothy, a captive greets thee. Storybook houses – stone wall in front, back nestled to hill, slate roof, slate floors, slate chimney, nearly swallowed by purple foxgloves, snowdrops, celandine – can be bondage, waxed clean, poems under glass, heads framed in gilt, death masks in cases. The siblings walked, with Coleridge and Southey, some days a dozen miles, even more; the walking tours, not odyssey nor monomyth, were just walking and talking and seeing. What did The Peripatetic, John Thelwall, write?

………………..I may boast a resemblance
……….to the simplicity of the ancient sages:
………………..I pursue my meditations on foot.

And why meditate? Kodo Sawaki Roshi said, “Just sit zazen, and that’s the end of it.” I leave the cottage and walk the garden Dorothy called the “very Mountains’ child.” I recall an outbuilding, a shed at most – was there a plaque? – somehow I learned Wordsworth wrote there, in solitude from domestic flurry yards below. Now, two decades later, I try to remember the details, so much lost, I’m tempted to google it, but better to take a crack at the calcified hippocampus, emotion recollected in senility, a play on Wordsworth. Same thick white outer walls, floor dirt though, inner walls grubby, soot-blacked, tiny child size roughwood desk built into window sill, tiny child size stool – god’s empty chair – where he sat and wrote “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.”

………………..I gazed, eyes glazed as
……….in a trance I lay, in the dark
………………..room, crude, black gold…

I cried for a moment – a flash of wonder in proximity to the sublime – and that’s the end of it. No cure, no remission, no end of the road, no hero’s return; after each hill comes another vale of Soul-making. The clammy cells of Keats’ tubercular lungs graced him with no greater meaning. And that’s how to survive the dead inside: accept it, wallow in it; if you fight it, fighting wakes it, makes it bite. If you hope it to conclude, you must stop hoping it will conclude, if you ever hope it to conclude. O fearful messenger! solving koans while hanging off a cliff. The talking cure does not cure but carries the body forward, like walking, and sometimes, walking and talking in the dark, you bump into something new – smacks your forehead bloody, but still bleedin’, still breathin’.

“I gotta ramble on, sing my song” – I always liked that old Led Zeppelin lyric; to ramble, both walking and talking, becomes the real road when the quest falls away.

………………..I have but little thought
……….cleared and ready for takeoff
………………..into the wild black yonder


posted for haibun Monday at dVerse poets pub


7 thoughts on “Haibun Ramble on Wordsworth

  1. this line jumps out at me: “The talking cure does not cure but carries the body forward, like walking, and sometimes, walking and talking in the dark, you bump into something new – smacks your forehead bloody, but still bleedin’, still breathin’.” Your composition is beautiful and sombre to me. It’s good, I guess, you’re reconciled to it, if you “wake it, it bites”.

  2. I agree travel does not cure depression. But seeing old or new places can bring a fresh perspective and a resolution that perhaps, some things never change or everything is changing but you. Hope the travels bring you back home safely. Happy new year!!!

  3. You are so right, travel does not cure depression. But Yorkshire is one of the best places to visit when you’re depressed – it’s down to earth and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. It’s a place that tells you to pull up your socks and get on with it, while also being full of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the UK. I love the phrase: ‘after each hill comes another vale of Soul-making’. Thanks for the Led Zeppelin reference!

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