Loose Ode: Colorado


I’ve been here before. Last week, at poolside in Boulder, a man lay on his back
reading about spiritual themes in the poems of Wang Wei. But that’s what’s done
in Boulder. A young woman dove into the pool, breaking its placid surface only
to rise from that surface again exclaiming:“I’m angry; I’m enlightened; I’m….”
(she dived under again). Boulder. Where Air Force jets wing south to the
Academy and the tile edge of the pool is bright red, the lip of Maya’s basket in
which world, sky, trees, woman, contrails ripple invitingly. That was Boulder.



And we visited the Great Stupa in the foothills where a gilded Buddha sat.
Thoughts of Du Fu walking amid temples and pavilions, remembering he “used
to write of such things, wielding my writing brush.” And that evening before the
morning when the towers in Manhattan fell, from our motel window in the
Springs, the lights of NORAD on Cheyenne Mountain flickered. What was
antenna? What was starry night? The missiles ticked in the mountain’s depths.
The monitors’ green tracks descried the movements of small nocturnal animals.



Who speaks in Horace: “good to lie under some ancient oak, or deep in the tall
grass”? Or “Rome wrecked by her own strength”? Who writes, “and now, I’m
alone in the Sangrés. Blue and distant are the surrounding peaks”? Here the jets
wing north to the Academy or NORAD or Fort Carson. I’m dreaming away the
afternoon reading about the kudung, the relic body of the cremated
teacher—bone and ash, being and non-being intermixed, the words leaving this
world untouched but for a faint shimmer. Hot today, and I’m nodding over my
book. If I were to doze off I might dream myself a bird or the eye of a pilot
banking over Boulder.

Michael Heller (© 2009)