the online magazine about life as a creative process

 

Confessions, Sort of
(A work in Progress)

 

by Robert Levine

 

 

     
 

I came to Mao at eleven,
forbidden but safe
fit in your pocket
easy to quote
(the photo on the book jacket
like the black plaster
Buddha on our living room table).
North Vietnamese flag
raised in combat on Avenue X.
Cheering on the people’s army
from my junior high school window,
the only revolutionary
in the seventh grade.

Moved on to Che,
(tried reading National Review)
through Hoffman
(seemed like fun)
and Rubin
(pictures of naked women),
carrying paperback of the Bolivian diaries
in my pants pocket.
Measured conversations
about revolutionary glory
with a friend talking
from a phone booth
on Batchelder Street
(his father had disconnected their phone).

Pacifist
socialist
anarchist
by senior year of high school,
standing with one sock
and one bare foot
reading poetry
from third desk,
third row
in a social studies class.

Independent leftist
in college, finally
read Kropotkin
Trotsky
Lenin
Karl Marx.

How to be a social revolutionary
in Brooklyn in the late 1970s.
Insurrection to a disco beat? Told
that the SWP parties really swing.
Went to Christian Marxist
parties to read Merton
and end world hunger.
There was less dancing
but better food.

Class in Chinese Marxism,
gave Mao another chance.
Maoists and Leninists
couldn’t agree,
except on damming Virginia Woolf.
Pushed my copy
of To the Lighthouse
down in my bag
to protect it.

Turned to yoga,
meditation,
end nuclear power.
Balancing on one foot
in the forest
taking a pee
by the Shoreham nuclear
power plant.
Citizens Party,
Socialist Party
voted Democrat
until we won (never make
that mistake again,
until I had to).

Gary Snyder,
Adrienne Rich.
Poetic aspirations, accepted
for an MFA but
my job
got in the way,

the working
continued, the creating
seemed to fade.

Grad
school,
political science,
and its 1996
and I’m
walking down
Fifth Avenue at 5:30
on a Friday night
(what would we do without
the Con Ed Building clock)
turning west on 23rd
(the only place to sit
waiting for the bus
is covered with little metal spikes).
My right thumb freezing
while clutching two library books
I’ll never have time to read
(knapsack already full)

and buy a new copy of
Che’s diaries and a
Thomas Hardy novel
on the way to study
Tai Chi.

american politics
international politics
comparative politics
losing all the heart
losing all the passion

as I watch my mother die,
her heart slowing down. Just
like in the TV shows, the
doctor standing in the door.

Cut off from the
emotions, catch myself
tripping all over the
streets of Manhattan, gash out
a part of my leg. Should have gone
to the doctor, takes over two
months to heal.

Needing to release, needing
to relax, return to yoga
asana, meditation, pranayama
so many emotions in the body
released with each stretch,
with each movement. Learn
to teach, moving in community.
A born again yogi
in the making.

Teaching, moving,
chanting through the coup d’etat
of 2000. Can’t sleep for days
after watching the election
results.

Looking for meaning, looking
for connections. Watching my father
pass away, watching as we go
into shock one clear late
summer day. The connections, the
meaning. They’ve got to be there.
Making pilgrimages to an ashram
in Virginia, to the amazing
skies over Montreal.

It’s a spring April
Friday, 2004, and I’m
walking through Madison
Square park at 7:30pm, it’s dusk
the time for most car accidents
the time for my best dreaming
and thinking. The best time
for remembering, for
stories and myths.

I’m thinking about revolution,
poltics, but so much more. They
were right all along, the political
is personal and the personal is
political. Let’s go a step
further – the political is spiritual
and the spiritual is
political. Not in that Osama Falwell
sort of way, but in a creative
open, transformative
sense, where there is room
for Virginia Woolf, room for Thomas
Hardy, room for Che, room for
Buddha and for Trotsky. I’ve
always liked Rosa Luxemburg
best.

Again on 23rd Street, just
for a moment, the strap of my
briefcase across my chest
as the briefcase bounces off my left hip,
coming from a shiatsu
massage at a friend’s
apartment.

What can a
left wing writer/worker/yogi/poet
do
to change the world
in right-wing
post-millennial
America?

Keep on writing, keep
on dreaming, keep
on working, keep
on teaching, keep
on talking, keep
on moving.

om shanti

 
     
 

 

     
 

Robert Levine is a certified yoga instructor at Integral Yoga Institute, and has a Masters degree in Political Science. He has been exploring the link between politics and spirituality for over 20 years.