Dale Favier’s Opening the World

  
 
Five years ago Dale Favier quit his job as a programmer at IBM to become a massage therapist; at the same time he began writing the poetry that appears here.
 
He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife of thirty years. They are longtime Buddhists, practicing in the Tibetan tradition, and they have two grown children.
 
He has an M.Phil. in Medieval English Literature from Yale University. He writes essays and poetry at Mole. His poems have appeared in Qarrtsiluni, Ouroboros Review and the anthology Brilliant Coroners.
 
 
 
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“In Opening the World, the anticipated first collection of Dale Favier, rain mixes with snow and apple blossoms, sidewalks are streaked with tears; crows and pigeons, urban detritus blown about by the wind – all these become unlikely signposts and sometimes shrines on the difficult path to awareness. Dale Favier makes no false promises about what we’ll find, or that we’ll even get there, wherever “there” ultimately is.  Instead, like a good massage therapist (which I have on excellent authority that he is),  he proposes that his readers open to the touch of these poems, make themselves vulnerable, even ” … welcome every wave of misery/ as it arrives: make sure it’s comfortable/ and feels free to stay”.
 
Some poems are not easy to read; but that’s okay because, as he wisely perceives, “nothing is free”. A story lies in the depths of many poems, like a cobra in hiding: if you let it stay with you it will ease its fangs into your heart. Some poems are like a pebble you can skip across the water, or cleave to cut “the universe in half/ and [make] two new ones”. But above all, these poems are unabashed love letters always addressed to a “you” – they are poems looking for readers who “don’t want a value” but who “want to understand a relationship/ … a way of saying what cannot be said”.
 
Reading these poems, I’m strangely reassured that all of me, including what’s “unsanctified, unseemly, tatterdemalion,/ awkward and unkempt but full/ of the kind of undulant, unsteady courage/ the sun will never see, and never reckons on” – gets taken in, will never get turned away at the inn. Dale Favier reminds me we’re all traveling down the same road. How wonderful to have him along, for “when gods and men go down …/ [his] heart is singing, singing”.
 
– Luisa A. Igloria
 
 
 
“Dale Favier is a new kind of American Buddhist poet, one less concerned with wisdom than compassion and desire, and as comfortable with the fables and paradoxes of the West as those of the East. His poems sing, chant, weep, declaim and delight. Earnest to a fault, yet always ready to indulge in foolishness and absurdity, Favier wears his erudition lightly and takes risks that few professional poets would take: “They have not written this in books;/ they would not dare; they have their suppers to earn”. Johan Huizinga wrote in Homo Ludens that poetry “proceeds within the playground of the mind”, and “the true appellation of the archaic poet is vates, the possessed, the God-smitten, the raving one”. Favier is one of the few modern poets I know who seems to fit this ancient mold. Opening the World documents no mere dalliance with ideas, but a life-long, passionate struggle with gods and mortals, love and death.”
 
– Dave Bonta
 
 
 
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Calculus
 
 
The chalk flickered and clicked across the board;
a long, untidy scrawl of figures,
written faster than we could read it.
 
“So x would be …” said a dubious voice.
 
“No! No! We don’t want to know what x is yet!”
 
So clear to him, so obscure to us. We eyed him
rebelliously.
Don’t you always want to know what x is?
 
“We don’t want a value,” he said, sweeping his white hair
out of his eyes. “We want to understand a relationship.
If x had a value now, we couldn’t solve the problem.”
 
He looked out at a sea of blank faces, and soldiered on.
X isn’t a number, right now. It’s all numbers.
It’s any number.”
 
And suddenly I saw it. I saw all the numbers that ever were,
that ever could be, snaking through that x.
Just as Leibniz
and Newton first saw them, that staggering vision,
 
that realization, that what prevented us from understanding
was trying to understand too soon.
You must hold x loose in the mind,
let the numbers flow through it like water.
 
This was not the ordinary x, just a number wearing a mask.
This x was a window
into a universe of numbers; this x was a glimpse of God,
a way of saying what cannot be said.
 
We don’t want to know what x is yet.
 
 
 
 
Border Country
 
 
We came to the border country in the autumn
and waited for you. We questioned the slow,
incurious marksteppers. Sometimes you came,
they said, and sometimes you didn’t. Well.
Any child could have told us that.
 
A double rainbow made our Nepalis nervous
since that happens when great beings cross realms.
Some said it meant you weren’t coming,
but others said it meant you were:
and it grew colder, winter drawing in.
 
The snow made us see differently.
We could see through skin into bones,
the black cutouts of rib, pelvis, spine,
the laddered vertebrae of the waiting ships,
the threaded skeletons of clouds.
 
Closing our eyes made no difference.
The marksteppers said
it was always that way, in the snow;
that it had to do with red light,
that’s what they’d heard. They didn’t know.
 
The Nepalis had a horn made of thighbone
which they blew during their
elaborate prayers. I wondered if the man
missed his leg. I wondered where you were,
what you were thinking. If you heard the horn.
 
The ice grew out across the bay
like a great, sleek back rising to the air.
The birds grew shriller. I stopped asking
questions, the answers came so heavy,
and the head-shaking so quick.
 
Maybe you came in the form of a local girl
lithe and quick, bringing eggs for sale,
but that was no good. She was interested
in the salt taste of shuddering flesh,
and nothing else. Not even
 
the long slow dragging questions, where from,
wherefore, whereby,
which occurred to the steppers at length.
It passed the nights, but made the dawn
that much lonelier.
 
Now the sky is opal, milk, pearl;
the white of the sky reaches to the white
of the snowfields. We wait for Spring.
They say that sometimes you come
in the Spring. And sometimes you don’t.
 
 
 
 
from Opening the World (Pindrop Press, 2011).
 
Order Opening the World.
 
Visit Dale’s blog.
 
 
 
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One thought on “Dale Favier’s Opening the World

  1. Jo Hemmant

    Thanks so much, Michelle! I can highly recommend this collection. The writing is so assured, it’s hard to believe it’s a first book. The poems are fiercely intelligent, moving and so very beautiful.

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