A Musical Time Machine


 

So many times, I’ve visited a designated historical site and failed to connect with the history of that place…

…failed to connect to our history, to my history—to the history of the human race.

But perhaps there are other ways to connect.  This short passage from I Love a Broad Margin to My Life, by Maxine Hong Kingston, shows us one way.

She’s visiting the land of her ancestors—rural China—and has landed amidst a group of artists, of painters.

The one she’s nicknamed “Soul Patch” brings forth an ancient clay instrument, a type of flute—the xun.  Consider:

“Mr. Soul Patch brings to his lips
  a xun, around which his hands fit perfectly,
  and blows a music, old from long, long
  ago.  Our first male ancestor,
  Bao Xin Gong, made the xun
  of earth, made it earth-shaped, and gave
  forth this sound that is the sound of time, from
  far off to now to far after, the sound
  of the animate winds, the yin wind and the yang
  wind, the sound of the first man and this man
  breathing song.  Hear it and it belongs
  to you, and you belong to all of it.”

I think there’s something here that belongs in our new mythology.  Perhaps there are many instruments that can do for us what the xun did for Hong Kingston…

The instrument may not even need to be a musical instrument.  It can be anything that helps us connect to our distant past—to something deep within ourselves…

We can use this time machine to return to what we never actually lost…

…and in returning—to borrow a line from T.S. Eliot—know that place for the first time.

© 2011, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry

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About Michael Patton

I am a poet, novelist, essayist, cartoonist, graphic artist, peace miller, new mythologist, and fledgling world citizen.... I grew up in Northwest Arkansas and have lived and worked all over the United States.... I'm self-taught, for the most part--which is like searching for the right door in the dark. It's an on-going process.... I don't want to write MY story, I want OUR story, so that's what I'm studying: the human story: past, present, future, in its many aspects--including the spiritual. I'm proceeding at a slow crawl.... I don't see the inner world and outer world as separate. By learning about myself, I learn about others, I learn about my world.... Conversely, as I struggle to understand what I see OUT THERE, I learn about myself.... But to be clear: I don't claim any special understanding. I'm still purblind, still only half-awake.... After frustrating experience with the publisher of my first novel, I've published on my own, beginning with e-books, with plans to move into print and audio. Even video.... Along with a second novel, I've now published eight books of poetry. Each poetry book focuses on a theme. For instance, the collection GLORIOUS TEDIOUS TRANSFORMATION is about the slow difficult wonderful process of change.... In that book, as with all my work, I try to be accessible to a general audience, while also striving to achieve a certain literary quality.
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