numinousmagazine

Janet A. Baker

In Issue 5 on February 21, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Six Times through the Labyrinth

1.

It’s so much faster
getting out of the labyrinth
than getting in

2.

Magpies!
their relentless nagging
won’t allow my silence

drowns out my slow footfalls
disrupts my meditation

I cannot know if they’re arguing among themselves
or if it’s my existence they protest

Maybe they’re trying to meditate too
That I can never know

as I make the rounds of my mind
trust the maker of labyrinths

3.

Noon and the Angelus bells
I can’t escape that old distraction–
Catholicism and its great toll on me

But the walk’s becoming natural now
only meandering thoughts
disturb the way

Rocks circle and coil, expected, unexpected,
me winding through, me the disturbance,
the magpie announcing
I exist I exist I resist I resist

I remember my last confession
as a teenage girl. I skipped down that flight
of stone church steps, never to return

It’s the altars I hurry from, out of the labyrinth,
back to my life. I rejoice at the portal once more

stand and breathe with ants
turn and behold the labyrinth

4.

Will centrifugal force fling me out of this labyrinth?
Will I lose my way in this stone woods and never find my center?

Late afternoon, the magpies still or flown
the labyrinth in shadow

I soften my gaze, stand tall,
meet the trees face to face

5.

In dim light of half moon
the labyrinth meditates

These rocks
a path of winding surprises

Just when I think I know the next turn
I stumble

It’s about surrender to a twisty road
the crickets my soft choir

I step out and do not look back

6.

Oh I expect too much of my poor feet
to carry me through the labyrinth
while I look at the trees

And don’t we all want to believe
our animal body will carry us instinctively
while our upper half transcends
and lives half-levitated?

The labyrinth is work for the whole being
The circling moves through me now
the complex twisting paths

I have repaired
some broken linkages along the chain,
kept going and did not turn back

I step out for the last time
look only at the pile of unsorted stones before me

****

Janet A. Baker grew up in the Iowa farm country and now lives in Encinitas, California. Her poems have recently appeared online in qarrtsiluni, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Lilliput Review. Janet is a professor at National University, San Diego. She wrote Six Times Through the Labyrinth while walking the labyrinth at the Mabel Dodge Luhan house in Taos, New Mexico.

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  1. I esp love the ending. We leave the altars of each stage of life and move on. Great that you can share it with the readers.

  2. This poem is a meditation within a meditation…I mean, it does a complete circling for me while I ride within the nuances of its song. Tusting in the author’s voice, like the author trusts in the maze’s maker, there’s a sharing of life here that cannot otherwise be given.

  3. This captures the labyrinth, it mystery and its challenge. Labyrinths have only one way in and one way out, but what goes on during the walk is more than a bit mysterious and staying with the meditation is a challenge. But I have found some good material for poems during those walks.

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