Exhibits in the ‘The Cave of the Nereids’ Gallery

I was there, or had been. Always. That is, I was and am; there with the stony jars, the strangely vertiginous bees, the door where the mortal souls go up and go down, the more strenuous portal where the gods… And those girl-like, goddess-like, creatures, infinitely welcoming, infinitely elusive, flickering where the wave breaks in sunlight, where the mist moves just before it is to clear, so that they seem beings of light, even though one cannot quite see them, palpable, so sweet to the touch, though they never draw perfectly near; and those from another deeply related venue, whose life-forms twin, each one, the life of one tree-immortal only as a tree is-where deathless being shades off from longevity merely. I was there. Almost. That is …

The Nereids-(that is)-the daughters of Nereus, one of three immortals Homer calls “The Old Man of the Sea,” and probably sharing the ability most famously attributed to Proteus, of being a shape shifter; a hermetic or mercurial being of the waters, such that though he seem to have a “true” form in the characteristics of a wise if crotchety elder, his only true invariant quality is that he belongs to the intermediate state through which he passes as he changes from lion to meteorological vortex to insubstantial flame-an intermediate condition of being that cannot show a form without belying its own essence. And yet this “matter” is not so quietly disposed as formless, essenceless (merely), any more than its enigmatic cousin the philosopher’s stone and its matter, philosopher’s mercury-can-having the power to generate and ruin all form, all essence whatever-the Nereids proliferate from one of the volatile marriages of this Old Man-and though said to “live” in a cave-and this cave is said to have a fixed locus in a harbor beneath Mt. Neriton on Ithaka-what possible sense can be given to such fixity?

Nor need we be satisfied with the later-day, Alexandrian readings of the anomalous Homeric passage in The Odyssey, describing this cave, in which Odysseus stashes his treasure before descending upon the people of Ithaka, themselves in a state of disarray on account of his absence-readings that find the Cave of the Nymphs placed in the zodiac rather than fixed on Ithaka, and understanding the souls’ ascent and descent, at once the declension of matter from form and the itinerary of the soul at the gates of Cancer and Capricorn, from ethereal regions into corporeal states and the reverse of this. We think we are no longer equipped with a sufficiently fixed metaphysic to do so. Yet the nymphs remain.
Charles Stein, Barrytown. NY, 29-07-08

The Cave of the Nereids, II

I wasn’t there. How could I be? I was a virgin in wolf’s clothing, a bird above the sensual fray, with a thorn twig in my saw-beak and a song in my heart, but in my throat, only an ominous catarrh and a wicked clotch of animadversions. No Nymph would console or tease me. Until one night.

On the other hand, I see no nymphs here. The cave is empty. These translucent spheres and twirling, intersecting lights are the traceries of absences, one half, anyway, of the nymphs’ true spiritual character-even in being around, they were half away-(but oh, that pale flame of a being you were, and even now, are, my Kore, my fleeting possibility, my lure to so many elsewheres-

A nymph is a fragile lure, one to each elsewhere, surely. And the only elsewhere worth calling to is the one that is the shock of what is, in spite of it all, right here right now ever and for always at hand. Or not at hand, but beneath the veil of the transitory, if only what is at hand be grasped in its intricately passing translucency, its twirling lights and the rigor of its evanescences; for only what evanesces (and vibrantly so) conceals/reveals Possibility Herself-that which no anidmadversion can ward off or hide away.

Until that night. We had retired to a vacuole in the social cytoplasm, a report of a haunt where rain was filaments of light, where I myself were evanescent, “and all thought of existence itself / drift toward the luminous.”
Charles Stein, Barrytown, NY, 25.08.08

Lebadaian Mysteries

how far down under
the temple floor into
the cave

the earth itself
dug out or opened up with hollows

and the walls
and rocky up-juttings
and down-pointings
orange hued or composed
of white slabs
of gold

I’ve been down there twice
(at least twice)
in recent
dream life

cruising down the river
on a Saturday afternoon’s
incubation in the dark

(My “teacher”
is taught
by a flock of birds
beating their wings
to sustain their “posts”
as a flock of birds about
my master’s head he had
to find the one bird that was
the oracular informant from among this
hovering set
of beating birds)

and avoided the snakes
of Asklepios and Trophonios until now
I read of their appearances
in the cave of Lebadaia
where one goes
supplied with honey cakes
to stuff their angry mouths and pour out libations
of honey from the hive bees
to appease these snakes

But there is business
cut away
in the earth to such
localitites Chthonian
and the gods
that subsist in the hollows of rocks
even now unexposed to
Olympian inquiries …

It is not
that something more pressing
takes precedence over
the noises I had not attended
with sufficient credence when they
proffered themselves easily to me
in the turbulence of youth now all
that’s washed away/ and will come again
only in the noise of pain and
decrepitude presences and
informations from the other side
of the curtain that protects and
the curtain that divides
the regions of calculation from the

stronger waters angry waters
waters with typhoon walls
sucking them up into the typhoon
walls of a consciousness
with no compromise every hair from its
folicle exuded by the Three Brains of God
Charles Stein, Barrytown, NY, 14.08.08

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