Up and Down As On a Ladder

Genesis 28.12
© Hilary F. Marckx, all rights reserved

I have a ladder within me,
and on it I ascend and descend —
highs and lows,
pinnacles and pits,
glory and despair.

Some might argue that my birth,
and my coming into this world of the profane,
could be considered a descent
from a sublime heavenly realm.

Others might argue that by coming
into this world ex nihilo
I entered a new and sublime threshold of existence.

I argue that regardless of any glimpses
others may have had
of any other dimension of time,
this dimension is all I have,
and can have.
I believe that God is God,
I hope for a life after this one I have,
but for now all I have is now.
And, in what I understand as the now, is what I term life.
I climb my ladder in this particular here and now,
not in a past time that has expired—defiled or blessed,
not in a future time to come—hallowed or mundane.
And yet,
nestled securely in the now,
all these past and future times and conditions
exist on the rungs of my ladder.

As a child,
explosive with energy,
I was confined to a sick-bed for three years—
climbing and descending
on the rungs of my ladder,
while immobile
and tethered by bleach-whitened sheets.
I lived as I waited to die.
And then I did not die,
but was left with only memories of dying,
and a profound understanding
of the sacredness of my clambering
upon this ladder.

When I was fourteen and healthy,
a girl whom I would never love,
yet never forget,
kissed me with her tongue —
prolonged and wet,
and I floated on a universe of new feelings.
She took my hand and
pressed it hard to her small breast,
and I felt her nipple swell
strong against my palm…and after awhile,
confused and disillusioned,
we stopped at that.
Later that night,
and in my sleep,
I climbed my ladder to its height,
and then descended it to
the adolescent humiliation
of a wet, sticky, bed.

Success and failure,
bitterness and sweetness,
joy and sorrow:
these are the extremes of this ladder.
My interior life moves across time, rung by rung.
More than once my career has climbed on these rungs
to the glory of national recognition
and to the agony of abject failure and defeat.

I have come to love every moment
spent on the rungs I have climbed.

Beyond the passion
of a fourteen-year-old boy’s
first experience of a young girl,
I have known mature and lasting passion.
I have loved the same woman for forty-six years,
and it is the juices of our passion—
the convex rises and the deep crevasses
of her body—
that hold my memory
in times when I am alone.
These memories convince me beyond doubt
that this ladder is more than a totem,
but that it is the very nature of my life and my heart and my joy.

Friends exist on the emotional rungs of this ladder.
Recalling the good times with an old friend—
the old jokes, and the memories of sweet triumphs,
as he lays dying,
then praying over the dirt of his grave.

Lovers exist on these rungs, too—
lost chances competing with ecstasy.
Recognizing forbidden fruit for what it is,
but rejoicing in the offer and the possibility.

It seems that as I ascend
I pass myself as I descend,
and though this seems an impossible incongruity in real time,
it is an acute reality on the plane of my emotions
where I exist.
The more fully I live,
the nearer I am to dying.
And I anticipate that in the end,
both the fullness of my living,
and the completeness of my dying
will ascend the ladder,
rung by rung,
and they will meet
where endings and beginnings
melt into themselves
and take the final step
into transformation.

At the lowest ebb of one of my many failures,
when this time,
defeat turned me unrepentantly bitter,
and relentlessly lost,
uncharacteristically for that time,
I saved a lost kitten from death and
kept her and
learned her measure of trust and
in a span of time
learned to trust myself once more.
Years later,
with the cruelness loved out of me,
I took her trust and ended her life
as a gift born of mercy.
What once would have been a vicious disregard for life
became one of reverence for life’s quality.

And so the ladder
rung by rung.
Always climbing,
Always descending,
but always ascending.

And if God be God,
and interested in ladders,
or the climbing,
what would the nature of this God be?

I think this God would be of ground and of air—and of ladders.
God being the ground from whence my ladder rises,
and the earth in which my ladder is founded.
God being the airy reaches to which I climb,
and the Grace within which I have been held.
and the Other to which my ladder reaches.

Occluded and substantiated;
Transparent and insubstantial,
and the four being one.
I climb my ladder from God,
with God,
through God,
into God,
and I do this whether I ascend or I descend.

From the hot, wet rapture of a first kiss
to the rattle of a bone fragment
in the crematorium’s ash,
I climb,
and I descend,
my ladder.



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