That Other World

Darkness never bothered me, even as a kid.
It’s what might be hiding there that’s worrying.

My mother always told me not to paint the devil
on the wall, a Norwegianism she picked up
from my grandfather, he who painted the devil
on the wall interminably, as if every moment
of his waking life were spent in dread of what
he imagined might jump up and drag him under.

I was about to go to China with my qi gong master,
and I told one of his apprentices that I was excited
but also worried since this was the first time I’d flown
anywhere outside the US. He gave me an intense
stare and said, “Lanning, don’t worry about a thing.
You’re going with Master. You have nothing to fear
from anything or anybody in this world or the other.”

That admonition stuck with me. Every time
I travel, I think about the things in this other world,
cloaked in darkness, that I have to worry about
because my master isn’t with me on these trips
to something unknown waiting to pounce upon me.

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