Kris Spencer

The Song of the Self

We feel the Self dampened and magnified
like sea waves, shelved and shored by wind ‒
but this shoaling is not the Self.

There are five veils that hide the Self,
like the starched petticoats of a dancer.
These veils are the body, breath, mind, knowledge and

The Self lies beneath these layers,
which we feel through the scratch and flare of the Self,
like crinolines moving to the rhythm of song.

The veil of the body is made of food and stars.
It is has architecture,
like a bucket or a cupboard.
It encloses our warmth and vigour ‒
but it is not the Self.

The veil made of breath governs inspiration,
growth and speech.
From it comes hunger and thirst.
Instantly tangible and vital,
we feel it in our mouth and ribs ‒
but it is not the Self

The veil made of mind gives us pride in possessions,
it holds our prejudices and preferences.
It is subject to shifts and changes
and uplift and denudations, like the Earth ‒
but it is transitory, so it cannot be the Self.

The veil of knowledge holds reason and consciousness
It directs us like a compass.
We use it to measure and sift
like the haul of a trawler’s net ‒
but this weighted catch is not the Self.

The veil of bliss holds our happiness and pleasure.
It also carries sadness and regret.
This light and dark holds something of what it is to be,
the to and the fro ‒
but this play of colours is not the Self.

When the five veils unpeel, or slip and shift away together,
the Self lies revealed through the reflection of all that
moves and changes.
From the gentle movement of a leaf
to the massive orbits of planets and the slow revolution of
the sun,
the Self reflects in all that is and will be ‒and shimmers.

Inspired by a translation from the Sanskrit

Kris Spencer is a teacher and writer. Brought up in Bolton, he now lives in London where he is a Head Teacher. A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a thread running through his written work is landscape. Inspired to write poetry when an ex-pupil came to talk to some of his pupils about her poetry during lockdown and via Zoom, this is his first published poem. He has written seven books, most published by OUP, and many magazine articles.