Grant me the faith to believe that Life is stronger than death, and Love deeper than hate. Let me never abdicate my house to the hungry thieves that would rob each room of its particular treasure, and curse the one who lives inside as worthless, no more than an empty purse, a justly abandoned figure on a severed fragment of scorched earth. Let the figure refuse the facile fabrication of an identity based on feelings of uselessness and ugliness, but rather let these feelings pass. Let them move through the physical body like a river, however muddied, moves through a canyon, rather than harden into a dam of mind-made steel. O God, Creator of all that is good and real, without whom there can be no unity, let the faint beginnings of light seep through the cracks of my divided self and thaw the ice congealing in my heart. Bring me back continually to the depths of your peace in the present moment, and do not let your sun come up over the hill to shine through my window while I am lost in a state of war, with myself or with the world. Let me face each state, whether familiar and painful or strange and painless, with courage and compassion. Do not let me act from an unconsidered sense of lack, but let me look directly through that hole, like one whose right eye through the tiny lens of a telescope sees with a jolt the vast sky lit up at night, limitless and unimaginable.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
The body pushed to its limit, and then some. The heart ambushed by loss. The mind confined to its narrow repetitive lines. Lord, you know how lost and impoverished I have become. How little is left here but a pitiful flood of unwept tears. What she said, and later regretted saying, is no less true. I have no direction. I don’t have it now, and I never did. So direct me, omnipotent Director. Let me loose to love and serve and give you glory. To live as a free man might choose to live. Let me not tarry here for longer than necessary. I have already done that, and then some. It’s getting late. November again, and thirty Novembers come and gone. And the late autumn wind, I don’t have a clue what it’s saying. I can’t decipher a tale of daring in its chill refrain. I can only read the numbers on the fraying calendar. And the numbers don’t lie. The numbers say it’s almost December. And I can’t remember why I’m here.
Without your sun, I become a hard knot of tension
Without your sun, I become a hard knot of tension in a dark room with the windows shut and the shades drawn. Without your touch, I suffocate as I try to incorporate the abundant silence of dawn. Without your bread, I stuff my buffering brain with empty calories of heady knowledge. Without your breath, I gulp the humid air, straining to fill the floors in my body’s home, as if intending to hoard a diminishing commodity. Without your ear, I swoon on the seesaw of a thousand dualities. Dizzy as an erratic acrobat, I long to climb down off my childish contraption, surrender to the soft grass, and gaze up in wonder at the black sky, re-establishing contact with night. Only there, aware of my smallness and your grandeur, can I ask from the last dregs of my solitude: ‘O Most High, tender attendant of stardust, won’t you seal my heart’s cup? Let me end these litanies of lament, and glorify your fine handiwork.’ But how do I praise the sweet juice oozing from a plate of Mazafati dates, while I waste away in a fruitless desert? So many worlds of difference exist between taking the cup with a willing heart and sucking it down with a heartless will. Lord, let the seeds of willingness spill through the holes of this powerless body and grow fertile in the holy ground of my soul. As my physical form slowly declines, may my essential nature gradually arise, and may I ride that transmutation train through the dense towns of my pain, down into the sacred center of now.
Prayer: I shrink back from my lack of direction
I shrink back from my lack of direction. I blink once and come to months later, in the same exact location. Either I admit my honest terror in the face of barren obscurity, or I lock my soul in a windowless cell, and call it job security. Help me keep the faith I’ve never had. Help me feed the hope I’ve tried to kill. Hold me when I sweat through every pore, releasing the toxins that block me from breathing in your perfect air. Without you I become my song of lonely longing in the Texas night. If I must gnaw this bone without you, then send me deeper into the valley of separateness. Help me remember my thirst, whenever I pull from the well. Remember my hunger, whenever you ring the bell. Remember my poverty, whenever I cling to time. Remember my nakedness, whenever you house my mind. Remember my homelessness, whenever I find my home.
Let the darkness of a solitary night unbind the chains and find the hidden pain in my deepest heart, the weeping son given all but that sole food his soul is starving for.
My heart’s happiness is trapped in my chest
My heart’s happiness is trapped in my chest like a red-breasted bird whose vocal cords are shot. His dumb fate blocks him from singing out the songs of lament locked inside his throat, while numbing memories of the unrepeatable songs of praise he once sang as a chirping little one mock him mercilessly. The bird’s fixed idea of how impossibly filled with grace he used to be imprisons him in the silver cages of yearning. His magnetized mind takes flight from the muted now to the musical back then, and he feels no desire to come down. He feels the fire and the magic have forsaken him, and he aches to hear aloud the latent notes Time has pushed down to some hidden crevice of his being. He has gone deaf to the ever-present, everlasting Silence, which asks without force to inhabit him from the inside. Lord of bird and beast, let there be purpose and will to this creature’s suffering. Let him still rise and glide through the skies; let him still dive-bomb the earth; let him still play the role of high-flying bird, tied down though he is to the flights of his powerful reveries, left pining and unheard in his severed world of silence.
Inside the pages of night’s book
I wake in the evenings in this season of my life, an hour or two after the sun has gone down. I sit at the desk at night, and I lie back down as the sun climbs up the sky. I wake in the supple arms of a darkness distinct from every other darkness that has come before it, so why should I, and how could I, stay the same, as if I am not subject to the same law that keeps the seasons changing? The law of invisible evidence tells me I too am distinct, but not separate. No space exists between my essence and the presence of night, for I rest inside the pages of night’s book. It is a good night to stay within these lines.
Lend me courage
Lend me courage, Lord and Master, to enter the stillness with a willing acceptance of my lack, and yet with fullness of hope that I might someday inhabit the castle at the center of my soul. Light your lantern in this dim forest, this thick Amazon, or give me the will to wait here until you do, until you take my hand in the dark night and lead me through. Until my trust in you is complete, I will pray in my thirst to embrace whatever roadblocks you place in my path. I will not pray for easy fulfillment of my every dispersed desire. I will not pray to complacently retire from the world of strife, the world of violence rife with polluted minds and tortured hearts. I will not pray for immediate and everlasting freedom from the enemy battalions whose only mission is to topple the towers of virtue in my own heart. I know the battle will go on for a long time. And as long as it does, I will pray only this: to always hold in my soul’s steady hands the double-edged sword of passionate discernment, in order to understand which cords of my bound original nature it is my task to cut through, and which of these cords I must leave for you.
I want you to give me the key
I want you to give me the key that opens the door to the room where there is no ‘I’ and there is no ‘You.’ You want me to hold the final hour of my life in the wholeness hidden in the center of my chest, whether it is midnight or midday. You want me to tend the dove you send, and take the olive branch, when it lands at my feet, not as symbol but as fact. I want to rest my left cheek on your lap. I want to see each one of your creatures in the same warm light out of which she appears, your daughter, my close companion in the night. You want me to stand alone by the strength of your name. You want me to breathe on the ember and restore the flame. I want you to break my fixed belief in the immortality of my brokenness. I want you to give me back my unspeakable name. You want me to leave the judgment up to you. You want me to fall on my knees, struck dumb by the truth, undone by remorse for the thousands of hard dark-blue nights in which I failed to call on your mercy. I want you to warn me when I’ve nearly reached the gates of hell. I want you to teach me how to earn your help. You want me to realize I can never deserve what Forever freely gives. You want me to live in the room where only the dying and the risen live. I want you to give me the key that opens the door.
Prayer: Do not let me fall prey
Do not let me fall prey to the mechanical animal in my brain that calls me away from you. It looks and acts the same in me as it does in any caged creature. This beast is always ready to sever links with its human family, being altogether in pieces already, at the mercy of the crashing seas of circumstance. It cannot remain at home on its own shores, nor can it bask for long beneath the strong rays of another’s sun, for it lacks both an anchor to hold it steady, and an ark to take it safely across the river. Hone this loss-addicted, lusterless machine. Release the cold hand from panicked demands for another’s warmth, so the man can remember whose hand holds the key. Though I am eons from any final clarity, let disparity itself become fuel. Do not let the mud of confusion bury the blessing, but let the perishing puddles evaporate into the western wind; and, as the sun begins to set, let the spirit of beauty spearhead my inward evolution.