When torrents of spring subside,
dust twists in dry fields
river water hushes, rests.
White cups, their petals arching
against green lily pads
rising from river bottom
embracing sullen air of summer,
passive, eternally calm,
sister to lotus flower.
Buddha sits cross-legged in meditation
Lotus in one hand, the other palm outward,
three fingers pointing heavenward.
His body unmoving-all but sensuous
rising and falling of his chest
rapturous breathing, adoring
white lotus cupped in his hand.
If water lilies were women
they would wear white satin
which hugs and ripples, sinuous against
thighs, buttocks, and breasts.
their coral skin glimmers
in morning sun, touched by dew.
And these white nymphs’ voices
rise in bubbling chorus
of shallow water over pebbles
calling us to dip our torrid
mortal flesh into deep water
to float naked as flowers
anchoring ourselves to river bed
where ebb and flow of water
dictates our breathing
facing skyward until we forget ourselves-
immersed in water, light and air-
our bodies white petals
without ego, without suffering, without boundaries
sublime continuance, perfect symmetry.
The Poet Writes About Her Poem
In my mind, life is about continuance and completion, and this poem, “Nymphaea Adorata” is about continuance and completion. If we look at nature, everything in it happens so something else can and does happen, and if all things are left in their natural state, they work in perfect harmony of oppositions, where one thing seeks the other for completion. Deconstructionism, a method of literary critique, deals with understanding language through evaluating the oppositions in language and, perhaps too simply put: a word always implies its opposite. This seems a very organic way of looking at meaning–meaning in harmony with the oppositions in nature that nurture and sustain life. In that way, life implies death; love implies hate. In nature, one opposition does not only imply the other, but also necessitates the other. In nature, in order for one thing to live, another must die. We eat to sustain life; therefore, something organic, whether it be plant or animal, each with a life and possibly soul of its own-if Hinduism is to be understood, all of creation shares in the soul of the God-head, so even a blade of grass has a soul-must die for something else to live.
The Chinese speak of the yin and yang of the universe; the symbol for that is a circle, which denotes continuation, unity, or eternity. Within the circle are two equal forces, depicted like conjoined commas-one black, and one white. Within each of those halves, is another smaller circle, the white part contains a black circle, and the black part contains a white circle, In other words, these seeming oppositions contain within each other part of the other needed for completion. They imply each other and they need each other in the natural order of things.
This poem imbeds oppositions in its imagery. The river is in opposition to the dust because in nature and in language, flood implies and even necessitates drought for balance and to sustain life, especially if we can see flood as life-giving and drought as death. Buddha also makes the circle of completion in the poem. He sits in the yogi way of meditation, with his legs forming a circle, when he sits cross-legged, the circle of completion, if the reader of the poem can imagine seeing him from above. His hand with three fingers raised also has the thumb and index finger conjoined in his meditative state, creating yet another circle of completion. The lotus is the sensual, and the three fingers pointing upward represent the spiritual, the yin and the yang, if you will, with the sensual (the body) a complement or in opposition to the spiritual or the soul.
Buddha is an ascetic, someone who tries to live a life more attuned to the spirit than the body, but in opposition to that, we have the sensual, and there comes the image of the nymphs, the ultimate image of the senses in this poem, the yin to Buddha’s yang. These nymphs are the lotus, or in this case, the water lily. The water lily is a flower whose roots are in the water, and the flowering part of it is in the air. Contained in the water is oxygen, and air contains molecules of water. These essential elements complement and contain each other. Once again, the yin and yang are conjoined. When the nymphs transform into the image of the flower, they also embrace the elements which complement each other, and like the three fingers of Buddha, pointing heavenward, which are mind (air), body (water), and soul (light), these nymphs are able to complete the circle of continuation and completion, by being immersed in water, light and air, and become “perfect symmetry,” like the circle of yin and yang, and the circle of completion the meditative Buddha depicts.