Please, let me sing

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.

Prayer: Lost in the silence

Lost in the silence, oppressed by want before the sun rises, I haunt the borders of my heart, sucking my hitchhiker’s thumb, greedy for milk from a substitute mother, hungry to be held. I struggle with ancient luggage, too heavy to carry alone. Strum on the strings of my heart, reassure me of your presence. Wait for my voice in the morning, and I’ll wait for yours at night. Let me speak as if you are with me, sitting poised across the table, able to respond in kind. In the heat of time I blind myself to your mercy. I fold with a full house, go all-in with a ten-four. I drift in a cloud that holds nothing else. Drop me into the ark again. Send me down to my place when somehow I end up at the helm, awakening to the shouts of deckhands, Captain, sir, it’s high time we get moving. You know I don’t know what the hell I am doing. I never learned to read the currents. I need so much help to reach the calm seas and clear skies. I entrust your law to guide this ship through flood and fog. I stand in position on the leeward deck. Now take complete control, and steer this hull to the distant shores of my soul.

Prayer: Let your wisdom swim through my skin

Let your wisdom swim through my skin like the breath in my lungs, like fish in the sea, like a school of dolphins taking turns at the lead. Lead me out of the shallows, into the deep. Play your hallowed verses through the wounds in my flesh, and let your music release the sobs in my chest. In the sealed room, in the healing darkness of morning, let me learn anew what it means to keep my heart center open.

Before the Flood

Darkness and stillness
stake humble claims
in the ark of my heart.
We float together, three-in-one,
in a sea of trinitarian silence,
aware of the various elements,
at ease in the calm waters.

My soul receives the bread of dawn
and comes down to its own wisdom
of when to rise from the depths again
the next time my boat,
overwhelmed all of a sudden
by violent winds and vicious waves,
flips, spins, or floods.

October Reflection

October is half over as I write this, and I am indoors. The change of seasons was abrupt. Last week it was upwards of 90 degrees; today it’s in the thirties. Writing inside, I feel more isolated, less connected with the world outside my skull and skin. I don’t feel the wind through my hair, and I can’t hear if any birds are braving this cold morning, sounding their songs as if in cheerful rebellion to the coming winter. I want to learn how to rebel so cheerfully to my heart’s winter.

 

But it is not so easy, and perhaps not so valuable, to rebel that way against the heart, for any cheerfulness that is in me comes from my heart, and to rebel against my heart’s tundra is also to rebel against its open sunny plain.

 

When my heart is snowed-in, I feel like the snow will come down forever, the roads will never be cleared, and all I will ever feel is what the trees in winter might feel. Who am I to say that these oak trees have no emotional presence and feel nothing? Might they like me feel empty, naked, bare? Through the naked branches of the wintered trees, the light shines clearly, unobstructed by lush foliage. Clear and pure and direct. Are these the qualities of the heart in winter, when it knows through experience that sooner or later spring will return?

 

I can still hear the wind through the closed glass doors. It is strong today, as it has been for the last three days. I want to live like the wind, propelled into motion by invisible forces. I want to move and not to stagnate, not to remain forever in this same languishing place, moving only to run in loops or out and backs, or to walk with apparent purpose from the kitchen into the dining room to bring my customers their medium rare burgers with extra crispy bacon and cheddar cheese and a side of onion rings, their over-easy eggs and over-syruped pancakes, their buffalo wings with blue cheese on the side and their (almost as good as mom’s!) chicken pot pies.

 

I want to move internally from where I am—feeling wedged into a corner, trapped on the wheel of my internal misery-go-round, lamenting this seemingly intractable position—to where I could be, unrolling the filaments of my fluid being, redoubling my commitment to praise the beauty of these trees that today still shine in the many shades of fire and gold. But even the glory of their vibrancy reminds me of its imminent loss, how the colors will change from the reds and golds of a vital resplendence to the browns and greys of a monotone existence. A monotone existence, a monotone existence…

 

The days go by and before long I start questioning where my life has gone. Wasn’t I just eight years old, double-bouncing my brother on the trampoline; ten years old, sprinting on the hot sand into the Atlantic Sea; twelve years old, obsessively practicing free throws in the hoop attached to the brick on top of the garage? Am I really twenty-eight years old? Yes, in linear time at least, in that terrifyingly one-pointed line from birth to death. I am 28 years from birth, and an unknown number of years from death. Is that it? Birth and life and death as the final end? What is the end of life? What is the chief end of man? And all the bored children in chilling, joyless voices intone: to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

 

Except one child, in a voice brimming with vitality, shouts out much louder than the rest, and continues long after their short refrain, exclaiming: To love the fields I run and play in and my friend I love and play with, and to love the one who created the fields and my brother and my friend and myself, and to love too the bluebird I listen to, as we both praise the rising sun: he with his song, and I with mine.

 

And this patently unacceptable and unorthodox ode to creation immediately provokes the accepted and orthodox wrath of the stern teacher in his charge—she who educates and lives by words alone because the Word itself has died within her, and since she refuses to heed her grief, or admit her need for the Spirit she professes to believe in, she passes on her corroded mode of being to those who still have Being in them, and they too learn how to let the Word die in their hearts and not grieve over its death—and the one mistakenly seen as mature punishes the one mistakenly seen as juvenile, and what is at stake is no less than the tyrannical oppression of an impressionable young soul.

 

And so this one child who had shouted from the rooftops what he believed, perceiving no difference between the original faith behind the words he spoke with all the life in his soul and the original faith behind what the others spoke with all the life drained out of them, begins after repeatedly being scolded and punished for his distinctive and animate words, to feel that he is different from the others, and as he starts to feel different, he starts to lose contact with the rapture he had felt in the fields, the harmony he had felt with the bluebird, the intimacy he had felt with his friend, and the unself-conscious union he had experienced with the Creator of the fields, the bluebird, and the friend, and he begins to create an identity out of the feeling of anguish that comes from these unbearable losses.

 

And when he first falls to the ground, and lets himself weep, he finds a kind of substitute for what he longs for in the terrible pain of longing for it. The longing feels more real than everything but the actual Reality he longs for. He begins to feel the reality of his own person most acutely when he is in acute distress, for he feels that the deeper he experiences his distress, the deeper he moves toward the initial Source of his unrest—his own estrangement from the Source—and thus the closer he grows toward the Source itself, toward regaining contact, repairing the life-giving thread that had torn between him and his capacity to feel held and loved by his invisible Twin entwined in that creative thread.

“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.

“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.

“Nothin’ To Say”

The day has ended, but the cars do not cease
I sit at this desk, wondrin’ if anyone is at peace
I feel so far away from the only one I ever knew
I sense tragedy ahead, but what else can I do?
I need to move on, I got nothin’ to say
To stay’s to wither, and let the soul decay

The heart’s a labyrinth, the mind’s a black hole
You can get trapped in either, lose sight of the whole
To capture the foal soon to grow into a magnificent steed
You’ve got to go after what you want, and know what you need
I need to move on, I got nothin’ to say
To stay’s to wither, and let the soul decay

There’s never enough time, and something is always lacking
You’re not hungry, you’re not cold, but loneliness is attacking
In the heat of the summer, everyone’s ravaged by lust
Like a self-propelled incinerator, about to combust
I’ve got to get outta here, I got nothin’ to say
To stay’s to wither, and let the soul decay

Must my skin be touched for my passion to manifest?
Can I not touch it within, where the heart finds its zest?
What can I do when this restlessness never leaves me?
What song can I sing when even singing grieves me?
All I can do is move on, I got nothin’ to say
To stay’s to wither, and let the soul decay

Let me find a quiet place where I can think and chop wood,
Where I can feel the peace of morning, and say that it is good,
Where the fires that now consume me, can lead me to the light,
Where the one thing I’ll never touch, calls to me through the night
I hear the call to move on, I know there’s nothin’ to say
To stay here’s to wither, and let the soul decay