“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

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.

“Not Knowing Myself, A Poem Is Written”

No other on earth knows me as I am.
Those who think they know me best
Know me least. Those who know
They don’t know me, at least know that.
No other will ever know me, as a whole, in this world.

This is written not with excess sorrow or pity or pride.
No other needs to know me, and I do not need
To be known by any other. I alone need to know
Myself, that other I am. I do not know
Why I do not know, but I do know it.

The knowledge that I know
Nothing is painful, difficult to bear. But before
Being can be known, Nothingness must be borne.
Only when I know myself do I exist, as myself.
If I have no knowledge, then I have

No being. I am not, for I know not
What I do or why I do it. I know
Nothing. I do not even know
Why I write these words, or
Why I wake up and find life

Only in these hours when the rest of
The world as we know it is lost in dreams,
Or dreamless sleep. I must wake up
At this time, or in time this distance
Between what I once knew and who I could be

Will grow too great for me to bridge.
I am not still, for I still do not know
What I do or why I do it.
Do you know what you do?
Why do you read these words?

What do you need to know?
Are we born not knowing, so we are
Forced to yearn till death make us whole?
Can we ever know? Can we even live
In this world of dreams if we unearth

The shattering reality of who we actually are?
The knowledge that I know
Nothing is painful, difficult to bear;
But if I knew myself, would that knowledge
Bring even more pain? Could I live with it?

I must wake up now, at this time, or in time
This distance will keep me tied down
To dreams, seeing only what seems
To be, forgetting what I need to do,
To remember who I am.

“Often it’s best to be silent”

Often it’s best to be silent
When all around you are speaking,
To be like a captain out at sea
In the midst of storm:
Calm but deeply focused.

People may say:
Don’t be passive,
Speak your mind,
Come out from your shell.

These people misunderstand
Your stillness for passivity,
Your silence for fear,
Your depth for a protective shell.

They may ask:
What are you thinking?
What are you feeling?
Why don’t you share?
Why don’t you join in?
Are you shy?
Are you upset?

Let these questions come and go,
These people do not understand you.

They want to draw you out onto the surface
You need to be drawn back down into the depths.
They want you to be light and cheerful,
You need to be true to how you are truly feeling.
They want you to be who they want you to be,
You need to be who you are.

They do not understand
That underneath your calm surface intense storms rage,
That saying nothing does not mean you have nothing to say,
That spoken words and surface forms mean little or nothing to you,
That you would prefer to spend your days with the silent desert,
Your nights with the wordlessly powerful sea,
Hours of darkness passing in you like winds through a tree.

You are the captain of your own ship.
Why should you let anyone else captain your ship?

In the midst of storm,
You remain calm but deeply focused.

In the midst of fire,
You remain cool but not cold.
You let your emotions run their course
In the complex inner rivers of your heart and mind.

In the midst of the earthquake,
You remain steadfast and unshaken.

In the midst of the hurricane,
You remain the eye that observes
Without being disconnected from what you observe.
You remain the eye to be connected with the more-than-I.

So when the next person asks:
Why don’t you talk more?
When the next person says:
Don’t be so passive,
Speak your mind;
When the next person tries to draw you out onto the surface,
Tries to pull you up like a prize fish from the deep, still water…

Read them this poem.