Max Reif's Journey from here to HERE

by Eric Solibakke

(written for publication in LOVE STREET BREEZES)

 As usual Max's voice touches my heart with its humanity and gentleness born of gratitude to the Beloved for having navigated him over here's rough and uneven territory on his journey in search of HERE. The Beloved's constant call of love functions as a reliable compass in these poems. I especially appreciate his humor and playfulness that does not belie the seriousness of his experiences. These poems are not just confessions. Max manages to laugh at himself and weep at the same time.

 

Journey from here to HERE is after all a bouquet of love messages to the Beloved. Max puts his musical skills to work – or to play – in language crafted to amuse and entertain the Beloved in verse. It's up and down, of course, praise and complaint, but most of all it's the genuine outcry of a seriously playful heart.

 

How beautifully has Meher Baba reoriented poetry in our time by offering himself as the subject and focus of inspired utterance. This is a volume of such utterance. It's a journey in which sometimes Max can see the very destination – the City of Love as he calls it – and sometimes he cannot. When there, it is so sufficient:

 

            You showed me to your Feast,

            why, the world was pink and laughing

            and You were Honeycomb,

            as much as needed

            to fill my appetite  (p. 6)

 

And later in the takhallus of a ghazal:

 

            Max, you once felt someone in a room praying for you.

            Touched by an angel feather, your burden got wings and flew.  (p. 60)

 

And when the City of Love isn't there:

 

            Longing grows

            and the pull of the world,

            it gets tiresome. You know

            how tiresome it gets.  (p. )

 

And seen with other eyes:

            I flapped my wings.

            I could not fly.

            I knew within

            the reason why.

 

            Resentment's lead

            encased my heart.

            My spirit's journey

            could not start.  (p. 23)

 

It takes considerable courage to expose the intimate details of one's journey to the scrutiny of others. There are wounds and scars among the flashes of humility and wisdom. Amid the playfulness despite the wounded heart, there is a deeper theme of how previous loss enriches current gain:

 

            The price of inspired words is generally a broken heart.

            Within this enigma lies the mystery of Art.   (p. 63)

 

And about the role of the poet:

 

            The poet plunges the blade of his pen into his own flesh,

            Probing beneath a pattern to discover something fresh.  (p. 63)

 

And what does the Poet find there beneath the patterns:

 

            But once you know, how do you tell people they're holy?

 

            Now in some realm of eternal return, the boy

            stands once more before the Holy word as it speaks

            from the soapbox in the park. He walks up to the

            word in its faded, dusty suit, taking its hand: "You

            can't," he says. "You can't tell them. You have to

            be it."  (p. 77)

 

I get a good giggle from Max's dream about the Beloved called THE FACTORY on page 66. To continue that charming light touch I also recommend the cosmological prose poem called SUN, WORLD, FLOWER starting on page 78.

 

In among the many vehicles of his journey – skates, ferris wheel, merry-go-round, car, bus, plane, donkey, horse, caravan, dream, phoenix – and the always-present fuel:

 

            O, nostalgia for the divine

            Break through all shell of pretense

            to what is always here  (p. 51)

 

Max realizes his journey-vehicle-destination most powerfully, it seems to me, in his poem of surrender to the ultimate vehicle, the Beloved's FEET  (p. 25).

 

            Setting out on life's journey,

            I knew nothing of YOUR FEET.

 

            Loveliness became quicksand, then

            You let me grab YOUR FEET.

 

            Touchstone of Existence,

            All life springs from YOUR FEET.

 

            World is all just flux of water.

            Solid ground? YOUR FEET.

 

            In joy, in grief, the same prescription –

            Hold on to YOUR FEET.

 

            All is but a passing dream,

            All except YOUR FEET.

 

            Child's body became old man's.

            All that stays the same? YOUR FEET.

 

            Maya's drug, so powerful!

            Dive back to YOUR FEET!

 

            Prostrate in surrender, ah,

            New life from YOUR FEET.

 

            My feet must walk this journey,

            More important, though? YOUR FEET.

 

***

Eric Solibakke is the webmaster at the Avatarmeherbaba.org website, and a proprietor of the "Baba-Talk" listserv. He and his wife Sigrid live at Meherabad, India. Follow this link to read Eric's extended poem, "Eternal Perfect  Beloved"