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.
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.
Inside the clarifying whisper of a bare room, I carry the gift of total engagement with a loose grip. I ask the god of clarity to open the ears of my heart, awaken the eyes of my mind. I surrender my conditioned hatred of trivial irritations, and I rivet my attention on a particle of dust a ray of light enlightens. I watch my soul return to the lake it swims in at dawn, and I watch dawn rise to the challenge of my chosen task. And I ask my master: may Time in its violent density lie down naked with Eternity in its eloquent silence. And out of their intangible union, from the annihilating depths of love, may the man’s true nature arise.
Stranded buccaneer, buck your fear-driven plan to seize the ship that flies no flag. Stand aside and hand the wheel to the attending captain, who senses the tides and sets his course by instinct and not by compass, who points the ship north and leans into the storm, for he means to go through it to the other side, where on the far undivided shore his true love abides. He takes each wave as his own, the shock he needs at this moment to speak his vow: that in this clashing marriage of sea and now and forever again, he will bow, he will bow to the very end, and seek to know a single word, borne of a crashing silence.
Now stand aside. Put aside the separate arm that commands its unpaid deck-hands to fire cannonballs at the flagless ship until nothing alive remains, the phantom limb that climbs aboard the deck now strewn with dead bodies to take back the wheel, stealing the map it has not learned to read, the one that leads to the treasure that mind-defended appendage buried in the homeland the very moment time began—and I, and I alone, began to forget the blessings of that essential land no pirated vessel will ever discover anew. Only the body brave enough to bend down and pick up the spade blazing with the heat of sincerity, to take the tool to the frozen earth until the ground that was hard and unyielding finally yields, and the whole body feels its resistance give way as the sharpened blade sinks into deep contact with soft soil—only that body, willing to lose its standing ground to be found anew in dark communion, can find the way back. Let that body, with steady hands, take the wheel.
This silence I have not treasured is my mother, and this storm I have not weathered is my father. As a captive son of storm and silence, let me lie down at the eastern edge of this chain-link fence and surrender to my parents in this extended hour just before dawn. Let me trust that neither father nor mother will let me bleed forever in the unreachable country, but that both together will teach me how to be reached, and how to be re-created in reconciliation with my co-creators.
It was a marriage made in water, and land and sea consummated their union all through the night, and all through the next day, and all through all days and nights to kingdom come. Why should I not sing of how the sea met the earth, how they came together with delight when the dawn’s bright reveal shed new light on the old truth that they had never been apart?
Why should I ask for another miracle? Why should I wait for another sign?
Lord, help me encounter fully this clear sky, the warmth of this spring day, the silence. I am most myself when I praise the beauty outside myself, and in that song of praise, enter more deeply the beauty within myself. I am within the world, not like a prisoner in a bolted cell, but like a swift gazelle in an open field. Let each leap and bound be a prayer unbounded by words or rituals. Let each breath be deep and visceral, not pressed in like a vise grip and squeezed out like a gasp. Let the vase on the windowsill be hollow and translucent, so the light of the sun can shine through it. I want to taste the juice going down my throat. I want it on my tongue. I want the truth sung with the deceptive power of the receptive spirit. I want to hear it every moment, so I can bear witness to the flame that grows when I hold my shame with kindness, when I notice my blindness and shed another scale from my eyes.
The time is now. It’s enough to make a man weep. It’s enough to sweep away the cobwebs when you can, so the window is fit to see through. The rope of faith may be a narrow tightrope stretched across a canyon, but there is no soul too confined it cannot someday shine with the glory that is not mine, not yours. It’s not time that brings me into this moment. There is no time now, but too soon I know there will be again, and I will feel like I am breaking, stretched on a cross between past and future, walking that tightrope, unable to get to the center and enter my own soul, and live from there in peace. If I live in fear, there is no place, no person, and no thing that will ever satisfy me. I know this, but I do not know this in a deep and enduring way. So I’ve got to go again, so I can miss you again. I’ve got to kiss you for the first time, again and again. I want everything to feel like it has never happened before. And none of it has, or all of it has. All I will ever have is less than you could ever deserve, but make me yours anyways. My need to feel shored by you and sure of your affections, to feel reassured by your constant presence, is not the true need, but it sure is a compelling substitute.
Beloved, pierce this fiercely resistant bubble with your subtle touch. Even that is much more than I can bear. Help me bear it. Help me see you, rather than stare through you. I care more than I am capable of understanding, from the vantage point of this cold dark cave. I must cave in without excessive deflation. I must stand up without excessive inflation. This station is a point on the way.
Blessed be the day when my heart is not tied up in knots; when my mind, like this sky, is wide open with imageless vividness; and when my body feels fresh, as if I could run forever and not grow weary. Blessed be this day.
It is not yet time for another.
It is time to be alone,
time to wait for grace
to pull me up muddied and waterlogged
from the turbid lake I chose to dive into.
Time to sit here, watch the world go by,
let my youth be taken from me,
take notes now and then as I am given
these resplendent moments, when I realize
that nothing needs to be changed.
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
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.
I dance to move into the stillness,
To lose the thing that must be lost,
To choose to live, to thrust my self
To where trust counts for more than cost.
I caught something, I catch it each time
I dance in time to music that never ends.
Yet why when silence returns, do I fall apart?
Why when the body stops moving, does the heart
Fill with sorrow and grief, with the tragic jewels
That adorn the dances of sages and magic fools?
The heart fills with what always returns,
And until I am empty, will I always yearn?
In the silence of this movement, lend me a moment,
Turn to me, Lady of rhythmic serenity,
Lend me the key to see into your heart,
The gift that shatters what it later mends,
The soul still dancing when the music ends.
I dance to admit the gift, and to give it,
To give the thing that gripped is lost,
To live at last, be stripped of self,
Throw off that whip at any cost.
I held something, I hold it each time
I loosen my hold on what holds me under,
On thunder road I forget myself and stagger,
I trip over my feet, and a man with a dagger
Wakes me at sunrise on solsbury hill;
I look into his eyes as he goes in for the kill.
I have no things, and I have no home,
And until I find her, I will always roam
In this movement of silence, through the noise with the word:
I will write, and I will dance; my voice will be heard.
I will search for the key to see into her heart,
The gift that shatters what it later mends,
The soul still dancing when the music ends.
I dance to turn my sorrows inside out,
To earn the thing that has always been lost,
To learn how to move within my doubt,
Spin closer to the thing that has no cost.
I felt something, I feel it each time
The music takes my feet away from me.
I cannot say what it is that keeps touching me,
Or why I move like some demon is clutching me,
Or why when I return to the silence of my room,
I hurt like a man dragged by his hair into her tomb.
I will die someday, and who knows if these words will endure?
They may stay unread, unsung and obscure,
But the unsung can still sing, can still dance in their way,
So when the last hour strikes, on the day before decay,
I pray I have found the key to see into her heart,
I pray the gift that had shattered has healed, and transcends
And that the soul still dances the day the music ends.
There are nights when you can’t sleep until you’ve made efforts to awaken,
nights you feel fully the futility of all your efforts,
your eternal failure to wake up in time.
These are the nights when the knowledge that you are spirit is simply that,
for these nights you feel spiritless,
and the feeling in you masters the knowledge.
These are the nights you pick up book after book, putting each one down
after a few sentences. You turn off the light to go stand on the porch,
and you hunger for the moon to give you one true word.
These are the nights when you know the dawn
will not revitalize or exorcise, will only terrorize you as only it can,
nights you wish would last longer so you could remain hidden in darkness.
These are the nights you spend weighing your options,
oscillating between extremes, unable to balance unstable dreams
of who you might have been with the unmovable weight of who you are.