afternoon tea with the goddess

I – Immerse ...

Picture a mountain
     above the sea …
      somewhere warm
            that speaks
   in purple syllables
     of the unparallelled
               of welcome,
     a place that hums
       about the cash-
      mere of return.

I often visit
  this imaginary realm,
   seeking the silken
solace of its blazing
         to bask
         in the kindness
    that saturates
  all who drop by.
   My mind awhirl,
I wait on an open-
    air platform
        for the goddess
  who has promised
  to meet me.
Seated there,
   in the middle of an elaborate and exotic
to my right, I can see the bluest of deep blue
                    ablaze with chaotic light,
                         and in every other         
           the most marvellous
          shimmer in the sun.
               I vary my
             every time I come for tea,
         with the panorama           
             from essentially Australian,
          to Elysian, to a collage
      of South America & somewhere
             in a Japanese myth,
          or it might become Africa
       as imagined by Cynthia Nolan
           and Rimbaud;
             or Scandinavia
          with an irreverent dash
        of the sub-Antarctic;
      or the outback
in the richest
of Rothko-reds.
  And every once in a while
        there are surreal encounters of time
                   and space as the thoughts
                      of countless strangers 
        are re-imagined
     from words and images
seen on pages
& computer
screens, etched into glass
  and layered onto canvases
  from yesterday, today
  & centuries before.
I allow them to inter-
  act & merge
 with the sheer
delight in which
I am immersed.

II – Elope with the Sun

             Each time I visit,
       the plants around me
        are different.
              Sometimes there are large, leafy trees,
  and paeonies, all blush and froth
       as they laze on their delicious
   At other times there is lavender
and an explosion
 of honeysuckle,
or there might be goddess lilies
and love-in-the-mist,
or cornflowers
   and a blitz of magnolias,
from the almost ready
   to the fully over-blown.
      Bluebells and freesias
sit beside sage and thyme.
   Silver wattles, leatherwood
  and snow gums nestle
 behind the reddest,
       blood-red tulips.
              Fields and fields of sunflowers
             tall and strong,
        and there are occasionally
orange trees and mangoes,
orchids in all their complex beauty,
or so many roses that the fragrance makes me weak
  at the unbridled
   apparently just for me. 
Poppies bob in the breeze,
         reminiscent of the crumpled tissue
      after gifts are opened
  at a child’s party.
      Bright red and black,
 their centres are thick
     with pollen.
Some are open, but others
       are only starting to unfurl
             when bees burrow in,
                  seeking nectar,
         rolling until coated in gold
           or black
             before stumbling,
   drunk and disorderly,
    on their erratic
      paths of flight,
     hungering for the next burst of red,
           or the rare and rich
               of indigo.
          Their buzz
   complements the general
     hum and fuss of a thousand
insects and so many birds
  making odd calls
     and complicated cries.
One sounds like a single bell ring
  from the bottom of a pond.

III – Waiting to be found

              When I imagine the chairs
        there are only ever two –
    one for the Goddess and one for me. 
Sometimes they are the deepest jade
        with finely engraved markings
that reveal the bronze beneath. 
The cushions have a thick nap
             of blue-black-purple
  and tassels of real gold. 
     Tiny petals of scarlet silk
   have been carefully sewn
  around the edges, and at the centre of each petal
is a single sequin of fragile
         The tablecloth is plush velvet
               in shades of green, variegated
               so that it might really be moss. 
                     The fringe is soft
                       as it brushes against my legs. 
                        The body of the cloth
                       is finely embroidered
                  and appliquéed with phrases
             and images that are so personal
     I can hardly believe the care
  that has been taken.
I see episodes from my life
   transformed into the art of the cloth –
       animals and fish and birds are there
             and all the things
             I love on the earth.
              The sky and angels
      and all of the heavens are there as well.
     Poetry has been finely
  woven into the fabric –
       transporting me
to dream-scapes from my past,
        and my future,
     and some so current,
  so utterly crammed
     with this very moment,
 I never want to leave their presence. 


IV – Sometimes poetry is the only sustenance
          At the centre of the table
              are scones, golden
         & steaming with heat
           as they nestle
         in a cotton cloth.
          The cream
         is  thick and fresh
      & the colour of honey. 
       And dark as the deepest
                of seas,
          blueberry jam
          has been heaped
   into a silver bowl,
and another overflows
with ruby-quince

       There are two cups,
        each casting a kaleidoscope
 of light and shadow. 
      Their pomegranate surface
            is overlaid with mother of pearl
              and the saucers are purple-black
          & made from a sea-shell
                         I have not before seen. 
     The tea is a tiny planet
           of possibility
              inside its pot
              of glass.
                As I watch,
                      the water
                  makes a fizz and a hush
           while the tightly bound ball
       slowly unfurls ...
           Before long I am immersed
     in a cloud of cinnamon and fine tobacco
                and something else – jasmine
                   tinged with sandalwood,
                      or is it a type of musk? 

               From the centre of the tea,
                      without any fanfare,
                        emerge two snow-
                         faeries, shy
                        and delicate.
                       of completely
                     they curtsey
                 before dancing,
                    just for me.

V – How gentle is eternity?

  My heart beats.
       Someone is walking
        through the garden,
          singing of peace,
              dropping slow,
                 singing of a bee-
                        loud glade,
                         where midnight
                           with the hope
                       of a purple glow
                   at noon.
              There, grace
         is remembered
       as the softest
   iron-grey surf
 which melts with a hush
 upon the certain shore.
                 The Goddess sits beside me
             in a gown of feathers
           and golden thread,
      decorated with carmine-coloured
 camels, crafted from twisted fabric.
   Seeking an oasis,
 the camels wander across the desert,
past endless, shifting dunes
    which lie in the wake
        of so much
            shimmering silk.

          Brimming with compassion,
     the eyes of the Goddess
   are deep pools
          as I tell the stories
        we both know
             in all their complex

Still, she loves to hear them.
      To her they are precious gem stones,
   having been wrought
   from both
  the accident
and design
of being alive.
 The stories pave
   eternal pathways
     which take us on
       spectacular journeys
         of the mind and soul.

   The goddess takes my hand
      and as my name tumbles from her lips,
             fall ...
    She is the friend,
         neither ardent nor weak.
          The friend.
             She is the beloved,
                 neither tormenting
                 nor tormented.
              The beloved.

VI – See the infinite saffron strands of peace

“Come,” says the Goddess
  with a wild look.
“It’s time to drink
         to your healing,
           to usher in
        the sumptuous feast
     of wisdom
      to which you now have
      unlimited access.”

With the breath of the ocean
  far below and as the insects
    and birds continue their tumult,
     we inhale the steam,
                 and sip the tea.
 “Never underestimate,” she says,
  “What experience can teach,
      even experience which has been vile
          (or violent)
                beyond words,
                     beyond imagining.

After great suffering,
  truly know
    the power of your mind, your self, your soul
        to reinvent –
           to make brilliant –
             to embroider life
             with newness,
               to fill it
      with the liquid moss-
agate of hope
 that moves
   as an advancing sea,
      each wave, full of mercy,
able to revitalise
   every fibre
     of your being.”

  I nod,
  filled to overflowing
   with the sheer relief
     of knowing
   that being alive
    has the potential
    to be different,
 to be new,
full of promise.

 “And finally,” she says with a smile,
“Know that Wisdom always invites you
  to enjoy
the vast
   and resplendent
          that is always
            her companion.”

          And as we sit amidst the splendour
             there settles upon us
           a profound,
   almost blushing,
one that embraces the mind
  and fully
   the common
of sense.



 (this one is almost finished. I began it in the mid-1990s and then published a version here in 1998. At CHADO - the Way of Tea ... the poem has prospered :)

Diane Caney, January 2012