Underneath

“The human psyche is a dirt floor covered with carpet remnants we call civilization, but beneath it are the ur-emotions and proto-instincts of a billion years of outdoor education gone a little fusty in the head from too much recirculated air. We have canid teeth and old circadian rhythms, deep and super-sensual intelligences, and a brain that, having spent 99% of its developmental time in the wild kingdom, doesn’t quite know what hit it.

But we also haven’t forgotten these bonds, and are drawn to reconnect with wildness, with our instinctive self and its intimacy with natural rhythms, native intelligences and untamed vitality.”

— Gregg Levoy, Vital Signs

The Return

by Geneen Marie Haugen

Some day, if you are lucky,
you’ll return from a thunderous journey
trailing snake scales, wing fragments
and the musk of Earth and moon.

Eyes will examine you for signs
of damage, or change
and you, too, will wonder
if your skin shows traces

of fur, or leaves,
if thrushes have built a nest
of your hair, if Andromeda
burns from your eyes.

Do not be surprised by prickly questions
from those who barely inhabit
their own fleeting lives, who barely taste
their own possibility, who barely dream.

If your hands are empty, treasureless,
if your toes have not grown claws,
if your obedient voice has not
become a wild cry, a howl,

you will reassure them. We warned you,
they might declare, there is nothing else,
no point, no meaning, no mystery at all,
just this frantic waiting to die.

And yet, they tremble, mute,
afraid you’ve returned without sweet
elixir for unspeakable thirst, without
a fluent dance or holy language

to teach them, without a compass
bearing to a forgotten border where
no one crosses without weeping
for the terrible beauty of galaxies

and granite and bone. They tremble,
hoping your lips hold a secret,
that the song your body now sings
will redeem them, yet they fear

your secret is dangerous, shattering,
and once it flies from your astonished
mouth, they–like you–must disintegrate
before unfolding tremulous wings.