Let me not deplete my strength attacking the thick vines behind which my head, bed-ridden with the sickness of words, hides from the living world. Instead of seeking peace by means of increasing violence, let me breathe deeply into the heart’s vaulted silence. Let the work be accomplished in this private canyon, which the clean red rivers in my veins continually carve. Let the refined Will find me upright and still: quiet enough to hear the cries of a crumbling spirit for guidance and clarity; honest enough to number myself among the hungry, the fearful, and the helpless; humble enough to fling myself at the feet of my Lord and beg, Please, let me sing.
You sow my stony ground with winnowed grain. You answer my wordless prayers without a word. When the riptides of loneliness drag me back into the storm, you guide my shrinking form from sea to shore. And still I wrap my ripped skin in thin strips of gauze. Grant me the courage to strip off my masks and inhabit your silence in nakedness and need, embracing completely whatever brings you near, whatever dissolves the walls of fear and waters the grass in the prison yard. Melt the iron rod, and spread my body on the bread of Life. Without you, I go hungry in America, land of plenty, land of empty promises of liberty. Liberate me from the way I cling to everything I’d kill to keep. Bring back my soul to your tree like a leaf in spring. Gather the seeds my grasping hands have scattered, and plant in the depths of my pain the pearl of your measureless grain.
As a bird, when tricked by a mirror image of itself in the sky, will fling its wings against the frame, hindering its inborn ability to fly, so too do the illusions in my vision injure my capacity to soar. My soul falls from its deathless star, and my body crumbles to the hard wet sand. I crawl underneath a parched plant to await the desert of absence, or recover the truth beyond the pall and pale, your miraculous resurrection. Find me here, my battered Lord, and beat your name in my chest like a drum. Find me here, and let me come to the blessed recognition of the Word beyond death, beyond fear.
Stillness, receive me
Here, and hold my fear, my care.
Hear my plea, my prayer.
I am up to my neck here. I am upstairs, and afraid to go back down. I have forgotten, or maybe never learned, how to descend gracefully. I am not Cinderella, lovely and pure, tip-toeing down the spiral stairs as if floating on the zephyr wind. I am one of her spiteful step-sisters, and I hate her beauty. I hate that she loves someone, and someone loves her back. Why does she get to be loved, while I rot here with my rotten twin and hideous mother? I was supposed to be the beautiful one. I was supposed to be the one touched by a magic hand, woken from my trance with a kiss, but I was living in the wrong fairy-tale.
I wanted to be white as snow. I wanted to go to ground and hibernate inside my soundproof den all through the long winter, watch the snow come down and wait to be transformed into the sleeping beauty who is kissed, and who lets herself be kissed, and so wakes up. But why would anyone enter this cave and wake me with a kiss? Who over there cares that I am not awake in here, but sleeping? Who would it concern if I slept my whole life through? If I cannot find the will to attend to my own unlived life, why should I expect some princess to abandon her kingdom, drop her own cares for a moment, and kiss my own away?
I am on my own today. It is not the way of the warrior but the way of the worrier, the way of the soul bound not for freedom and glory but inside the horror story of contraction and resistance.
As a boy I wept on my first day of first grade. In the home video my brother bounces down the stairs with a big grin on his open and curious face. He is a happy child, so young and so excited for his first day of kindergarten. He cannot wait to meet whatever Life has to store for him that day. It is impossible not to love him. He is Joy made flesh, Hope in the human form.
In the video I am curled on the couch, my face pressed into the pillow. My whole body is shaking, and I keep repeating, ‘I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go!’ I am a distraught child, so young and already so frightened of whatever Life has in store for me that day. I am Sorrow made flesh, Anguish in the human form.
And this day, as I sit here now, it is the same, for the fearful patterns of that six-year-old have stuck with me all these years, have kept me stuck all these years, although my body has grown much bigger now, and twenty one years have apparently passed.
I no longer need you, but
I do still need
to feel the hunger
I used to feel for you,
I no longer need to be alone, but
I do still need
to feel the hunger
I can’t help but feel
I no longer need to drink, but
I do still need
to feel the thirst I couldn’t help
but feel when I couldn’t drink.
I need to create
out of that endless hunger.
to love you.
I did anyways; I couldn’t help it.
I loved you then
the way you need him now;
the way you talk to him;
it’s the same way my poems never sounded
when you read them back to me.
Well, here goes:
I hungered for you to hunger for me;
when you hungered for me,
I was glutted with you
and hungered for her,
I’m afraid my hunger will devour me,
that it cannot be satisfied,
I’m afraid I hunger only
for what keeps me hungry.
If we are afraid together,
will we be half as afraid?
if we are alone together,
will we be twice as alone?
And, of course, this:
if we are hungry together,
will you take care of the bill?
When the storm rages
will you let me sit,
surrounded by it,
to meet with stillness?
why some days can I sit for hours,
patient like the mountain laurel,
while other days I am a child who waits
for a roller coaster, a child who hates
roller coasters, yet in strange ways
hungers for what he hates.
If I say
I cannot receive love
I cannot receive enough love
I hunger for what keeps me hungry,
will you understand?