“Grant Me The Readiness”

What should I ask you to grant me?
When I ask for peace, and peace is granted,
I’m a foreigner in an unfamiliar country
who doesn’t know the language,

who goes to the shore, to speak with the sand,
and watches the storm gather momentum,
watches the wind whip the waves into a frenzy,
and escapes just as the hurricane strikes.

I am not ready for peace.

When I ask for power, and power is granted,
I swell up as if I myself am the hurricane,
to crash my wrath on any poor soul
unfortunate enough to stand in my path.

I am not ready for power.

When I ask for drive, and drive is granted,
gravity soon drives me like a dying bird into the ground
or a shard of rock off a canyon wall,
to lose the will I had so tirelessly strengthened.

I am not ready for drive.

When I ask for intimacy, and am shown the path
to my prayer, I suffer, and wish I had wished
for something else, for the path to intimacy
is strewn with the stones of sorrow.

I am not ready for intimacy.

When I ask for readiness, and readiness is granted,
my difficulties do not suddenly disappear. I still suffer.
Readiness does not mean immediate conversion.
But I am patient. I walk the path set out before me.

I am ready to begin.

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“Heart That Will Not Let Itself Belong”

Heart that will not let itself belong,
I speak from you, to you,
not to distract you away
from the ways you suffer,
but to redeem you in your suffering.

Be in it, since you must.
Let it be there, since it is.

I cannot help but be here, where you are,
but there are countless ways you can evade,
escape, exaggerate, distort, transport yourself
elsewhere. You’ve done it before,
you’ve done it today, this hour.

In this minute be with the pain
without naming it,

possess it by letting yourself belong
to it. Allow it, give it room to breathe,
as you sit in this room
and listen to the voice of your longing
grow louder.

Heart that will not let itself belong,
let your resistance persist,

allow yourself to feel
your struggle to allow yourself
to belong
here, or anywhere.
Anywhere else,

the heart sings in its refrain.
Anywhere but here.

Take me away,
give me the sharp fleeting pain
of parting,
take from me the dull continual suffering
of this settled state.

Restless heart, I speak to you,
and as always I speak from you.

Where can you go
where what you feel now
will not go with you?
Heart that will not let itself belong,
that longs without cease, listen

as the voice of your longing grows
deafening. It is a commanding voice.

Another voice speaks
in silence;
it does not command.
Listen: is this the voice
that will let you belong?

Drink in this silence as the earth
drinks in the summer rains.

“Evangelists Keep Knockin’ On My Door”

Evangelists keep knockin’ on my door
Askin’ me what I am living for
I say, ‘for the money and the fame
I’ve tried to live for love, but love’s a game’

There’s something here I still don’t understand
I’m not at sea, but there’s still no sight of land
Seems to me the moon knows when to weep
Where’s the savior here who’ll lead these sheep?

Melancholy crashes like a storm
I’m too alone to pretend to heed the norm
Sky’s about to crack open and explode
The tears and planes will fall, and every hand will fold

Heart’s so weary and the soul’s age-old
Ev’ry time I stay here it all gets cold
I hear how sorrow makes room to grow
But there’s no room for me here, so it’s time to go

She held me under water in a bay
Said she never knew no other way
I gasped for air, then asked her out again
She said one day she’ll change, I guess I’ll leave her then

Come and take these shadows off my wall
Come and catch me from my next great fall
World outside looks like it won’t improve
I’m lookin’ for an insecure beauty to ask me if I approve

Sky’s so dark, the mind is so damn full
This time in the city’s already taking its toll
Can I please have a second away from noise?
Can I for once forget to pretend that I have poise?

Why in hell do these words never stop?
Why don’t I just pick up broom and mop?
I know I’d dust off every window sill
The emptier I feel, the more these words don’t fill

Well, even the trees, you know they stand alone
And even the asphalt here, you can hear it groan
This place was never meant for the likes of me
The echo I must heed, it calls me back to sea

“The Newborn Other in the Manger”

There is someone in me who wants me dead,
some sadistic King Herod looking to behead
the newborn Other in the manger inside me.

It is unbearable to this King Self to be subordinate
to anyone, even someone within, and yet the King
Self cannot help but see all others as superior.

Everyone has something to kill for.
That one is more attractive, that one more spontaneous;
That one is kinder, that one gentler.

All are greater. The King is the least
of God’s doomed children, a lone creature,
a pitiful beast, destined to wander

like some grotesque Frankenstein
over the dividing mountains
with his unearthly self.

Walking with intent purpose to destroy
himself, King Herod, yet unable to bring forth
the Other while on this path of destruction.

Only by allowing Herod to be, it seems,
can the unseen one
find space to grow within.

There is now a vast chasm between Herod
and the newborn Herod wants dead,
but as the infant looks curiously into this void,

the space itself, and the violence
the space has created, borne of separation,
lessens. There remains always

a space, a space forever
large or small enough to ensure
the newborn in the manger keeps being born.

“More Than This I Cannot Say”

I am not as I appear to be.
That something else I sense in you,
go towards that thing in me.

And if ever you wither in your solitude,
sense me there, withered with you.
I am never away, no matter your mood,
whether your heart sinks or your soul leaps.
Find strength in this.

And don’t worry, I will never reassure you
with: ‘you are not alone.’
I assure you I too am alone,
more alone than I can say.
I, with you,
am alone, except
when I am
with you.

And more than this I cannot say.

“What Am I But What Longs To Be”

Is it you, the one
whose name rises softly to my lips,
who I am longing for?
You who are absent, while I am here.
If you were here with me, would I find
someone else to long for?

Today rain falls on the ground,
and from within my heart this longing rises,
like a river surging over its banks,
like an eagle soaring above its nest,
like a stone rolling from infinity to infinity.

Rain falls, stones roll, time moves on,
and all but this longing in me is still.
Yet: what am I
but what longs
to be?

Your name is like the gentle rhythm of rain,
falling, and my voice keeps speaking it,
though to speak it brings me pain.
Who are you, you who are
absent, whose name rises softly to my lips?
Are you the one I am longing for?

The rain comes down harder now,
not so gentle as before.
It is a day to love or to love
from a distance, which is to long.
No distance is far enough, no closeness is close
enough. There is no safety or rest or comfort

in distance, there is only this longing, this aching
unrest of being apart from, separated by
the river you once crossed to meet her.

“Where Are You From?”

I can’t say.
Here, where I am now,
you see me, and I see you,
but no one sees
where I am from. I cannot see
myself here. I am not myself
here.

Who then, how then,
why, then, am I here?

Do you see the homeless man,
his hands shaking,
panhandling for change?
See him.
See that he and I
come from the same place.

Do you see the nameless wild-eyed cat
perched or trapped on the window sill,
certainly not in, and not quite out?
See her.
See that she and I
come from the same place.

I am not from here,
but I am here
to see
the man without a home,
to be
the cat without a name.

I come from the unknown
or from nowhere, or from somewhere
I’ll never know,
and I leave here as a great fool leaves,
I leave here like leaves of sage,
lit on fire to leave a circle
open, broken, only able to ache
its way whole.

I come from where I pass through
tomorrow,
where my lips pass from speech
to rapture.
Yesterday I walked like a camel.
Today my feet will not listen.
I have tried to walk in a straight line with them;
they can do nothing but whirl in circles.

I come from what I dance around,
what the wind and I create in our movement:
that’s what I’ve come to move into.
See how this creation creates the creator.

See, this body, it lives to leave,
so I’ve come here to move through here,
back to where I am from.
See me as I walk away,
moving forward, walking back.

See me as I pass the ones, so many,
who’ve forgotten where they come from,
that it is not here.
See each one.
See all these, and see me—
we come from the same place.

“After Death, The Great Silence”

“To use words but rarely
Is to be natural.”
Tao Te Ching, Book 1: XXIII

Some say: ‘Silence is death.’
Let these talkers live a day as I do,
My soul dying from lack of their death,
And they will refute themselves.

Dead, bloodless words
Aim in vain to compel me
To go against my nature and spirit
In untold ways throughout the day.

My nature is a fire set ablaze by silence,
A storm bombarding a calm house,
A discordant note, restless as wind,
Wrestling harmony. Words fail.

To hear the storm, to feel the fire,
To endure the discordant note,
I must stay silent and listen.
If silence is death,

Let that death revive my soul,
So when Death itself comes to claim me,
I will know already how to love
The great silence that comes after.

“Like A Widowed Man Am I”

Like a recently widowed man
Remembering nights of unbearable passion,
Fighting the impulse to end it, unable to mend
The widening hole in his soul, so he goes out,
And the sight of couples in hand is a knife wound
The doctors can neither see nor heal,
For the doctors can heal only visible and outward wounds,
And thus the widowed man’s inward grief continues
On its gruesome path of self-destruction,
And as the fear takes told of him he takes a lover,
And as this new and unfaithful lover takes hold of her lover,
Her other lover, he shows up at her house,
Walks into her room, and sees her making love
With another man, and the pain of it commands him,
“Do something!” but he stands frozen
In the clutches of her infidelity, clutching
The carpeting floor and then gripping his own hair,
Ripping it out of his scalp, his suffering resistless,
His lover’s body and his dead wife’s body together consuming
His mind, in a fire to match his heart’s desperate fire
That will not die, and in agony he cries,
“Strike me down! Destroy me!” If only to go down
And out in tragic if futile glory, caught in the grip
Of forceful sorrow, imposing itself upon him
And tearing his fragile heart open
Like a lion tears open a gazelle—
Like a recently widowed man am I,
Though I am young and never married, and
There is no outward reason for me to feel such grief.
Like a widowed man am I.

“The Dark Eyes of a Diarist”

I look intently at the black-and-white photograph
Taken almost one hundred years ago,
And her dark eyes, deep-set and alive with mystery,
Look back at me,
And I fall back in time and in love.

Even without opening the book, I know
She is a poet. I am drawn and entranced
By the delicacy of her countenance.

A flowered hat covers her forehead,
And so her eyes, dark like the ocean at night,
Lie under shadow. Her nose is small
Like the nose of a sylphlike creature, and it magnifies
The purity of her youthfulness. Her lips are closed,
But only just; they are not pursed tightly shut.
They are almost open, as if she was on the verge
Of opening them to speak, but decided instead
To remain silent.

There is an air of silence emanating from the writer
In the photograph. As her eyes look out at the photographer,
Her other self gazes inward, towards her own heart.
Looking out, she looks within, and the silver necklace hanging
Around her soft pale neck cannot be as precious
As the buried riches that wait to be discovered
Below.

I look up and listen.

The fan is still spinning,
The cars are still zooming up and down the street
On this warm Friday night in early July
In this coastal town in the Northeast,
Where I exist now whether by chance or by destiny.
I exist now, and here, but as I look down at the photograph,
As I am drawn down once again into her dark eyes,
I imagine myself one hundred years in the past,
Knowing this woman, and loving her,
Looking into each other’s eyes for hours in silence.
Being seen.

Seeing her for the unique individual who she was, and is,
Seeing even the parts of herself she hated,
But with the painful aid of self-awareness,
That ruthlessly incisive knife, could not help but see.
I love what you hate in yourself, I would have said,
I love the parts of you that you think you cannot love,
I love you in the depths of your unknowable silence,
And I love the sound of your voice
When it is strong with the energy of intense passion,
When it is heavy under the weight of melancholy and sorrow,
When it is anguished with the endless turmoil of your sensitive heart,
And when it is light and vibrant with a joy as expansive as your deep-set eyes.

I love you, diarist I will know only through your words
And this century-old photograph, and I would love you
Even if I never opened this book.
Through your words I will know and understand your heart and your mind,
But through your ancient eyes, I begin to understand your eternal soul,
I seek to understand it like I seek to understand my own,
Which I do not own and will never fully understand.
I see you, I hold you in mind, and I love you,
Dark-eyed woman I will never know.