“Poetry is an expression of the Centering of consciousness…
It helps to enliven in us the awareness that all beings partake in each other…
When the sages of old used to say that poets are lawgivers, they did not
mean that you could find legal advice in heroic couplets somewhere.
I think they meant that the perceptions of the poets follow the natural laws of the
universe as organism, and that to overlook the laws implicit in poetic perception
is to risk estrangement from life. It is for this reason that we devote ourselves to
a study of poetry, that we may sensitize ourselves to the wordless laws of being.”
–M. C. Richards
“The world is altered by good, new poems. It is made larger, given new windows that open out onto different landscapes and that also shine an altered light back into the known, as opening a new window in what used to be a wall changes not only the wall but the room.”
Poetry is prayer, it is passion and story and music, it is beauty, comfort, it is agitation, declaration, it is thanksgiving… Often poetry is the gate to a new life. Or, sometimes the restoration of an old world gone…poetry can quicken, enliven the interior world of the listener… Poetry is a life-cherishing force… For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessaryas bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes, indeed.”
That first green night of their dreaming,
asleep beneath the Tree,
God said, “Let meanings move,”
and there was poetry.
Four poems by Rashani’s mother:
caught in a flight of clouds,
the evening star.
The shuttle of honeysuckle
through this warp of reeds.
They took freely from the tree of life
and were alive with gratitude and filled with light
which is not a mystic state,
but simply that of being awake.
Because they were awake
they found that every ordinary day was paradise.
is the child that I was.
All other images once living here
have stepped away.
With each leave taking
the view is simplified.
It is the child that hears the rain
and the sobbing winds;
the child that sees the garden
fluttering in midsummer.
I am what I was given,
not what I acquired, lost or gave away.
The secret sensibilities of childhood
Still clear and private
needing no rank.
I am the bee in dark blossoms.
I am the broken fox
crouched in the hedgerow, waiting to mend.
The sky and the new grasses
tempt me into Spring.
It is then I know I am loved…
and given the power
to read the leaves of trees.
Looking for the moon
we could not find it
and where it was
we could not go.
But the moonlight reaches us
and where the moonlight
touches us within,
it teaches us the way.
I look for the way
things will turn
out spiraling from a center,
things will take to come forth in
so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
totally its apparent self:
I look for the forms
things want to come as
from what black wells of possibility,
how a thing will
not the shape on paper — though
that, too — but the
uninterfering means on paper:
not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
from the self not mine but ours.
One faith is bondage. Two
are free. In the trust
of an old love, cultivation shows
a dark graceful wilderness
at its heart. Wild
in that wilderness, we roam
the distances of our faith,
safe beyond the bounds
of what we know. O love,
open. Show me
my country. Take me home.
All I know
is that I want to
gather you to me
moment of you.
Lover waiting in my bed
to give me your soft, sweet body,
do you mean well?
What will you take off me
besides my clothes?
-The 6th Dalai Lama
To what shall
I liken the world?
Shaken from a crane’s bill.
A diamond takes shape slowly
With integrity’s great force,
The profound ability to never relinquish love.
abstain from love
when like the beautiful snow goose
your soul too will one day
When I hold up
of my heart,
all I see
is your face.
The flute of interior time is played whether we hear
it or not.
What we mean by “love” is its sound coming in.
When love hits the farthest edge of excess, it reaches
And the fragrance of that knowledge!
It penetrates our thick bodies,
it goes through walls-
Its network of notes has a structure as if a million
This tune has truth in it.
Where else have you heard a sound like that?
stands for all things,
even those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
I was passionate,
filled with longing,
far and wide.
But the day
that the Truthful One
I was at home.
I didn’t trust it for a moment,
but I drank it anyway,
the wine of my own poetry.
It gave me the daring
to take hold of the darkness
and tear it down
and cut it into little pieces.
into new silence
dips on my horizon
of a cherished dream
riding my anchor
one sweet season
to cast off
on another voyage
No reckoning allowed
save the marvelous arithmetics
Black Mother Goddess,
Salt dragon of chaos.
hold me in your muscular flowering arms.
from throwing any part of myself away.
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.
Last night as I slept,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
Has my heart gone to sleep?
Have the beehives of my dreams
stopped working, the waterwheel
of the mind run dry,
scoops turning empty,
only shadow inside?
No, my heart is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
Not asleep, not dreaming–
its eyes are opened wide
watching distant signals, listening
on the rim of vast silence.
Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow —
even today I am still arriving.
Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.
I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his “debt of blood” to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.
My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.
Something from far off it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.
Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the
sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance
climbed up through my conscious mind
as if suddenly the roots I had left behind
cried out to me, the land I had lost with my
and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.
And it was at that age…
Poetry arrived in search of me.
I don’t know, I don’t know where it came from,
from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not words,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.
I did not know what to say,
my mouth had no way with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance,
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
unfastened and open,
riddled with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.
And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry void, likeness,
image of mystery,
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in a haystack
It is what I was born for—
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world—
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant—
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar, I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
What a task
of anything, or anyone,
yet it is ours,
and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.
One fall day I heard
above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was
a flock of snow geese, winging it
faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun
so they were, in part at least, golden. I
held my breath
as we do
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us
as with a match,
which is lit, and bright,
but does not hurt
in the common way,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.
I have never seen them again.
Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
Where the path closed
down and over,
through the scumbled leaves,
through the knotted catbrier,
I kept going. Finally
I could not
save my arms
from thorns; soon
smelled me, hot
and wounded, and came
wheeling and whining.
And that’s how I came
to the edge of the pond:
black and empty
except for a spindle
of bleached reeds
at the far shore
which, as I looked,
into three egrets – – –
of white fire!
Even half-asleep they had
such faith in the world
that had made them – – –
tilting through the water,
by the laws
of their faith not logic,
they opened their wings
softly and stepped
over every dark thing.
Willow of crystal, a poplar of water,
a pillar of fountain by the wind drawn over,
tree that is firmly rooted and that dances,
turning course of a river that goes curving,
advances, retreats, goes roundabout,
…and this single moment
which never stops opening,
never stops revealing
where my life lay,
who I was,
what your name is
and what my own name is:
…for an enormous instant
we see darkly
our own lost unity,
how vulnerable it is
to be women and men,
the glory it is to be man
and share our bread
and share our sun and our death,
the dark forgotten marvel
of being alive…
How long will you keep pounding on an open door
Begging for someone to open it?
Yours is the face that the earth turns to me,
Continuous beyond its human features lie
The mountain forms that rest against the sky.
With your eyes, the reflecting rainbow, the sun’s
Sees me; forest and flower, bird and beast
Know and hold me forever in the world’s thought,
Creation’s deep untroubled retrospect.
When your hand touches mine it is the earth
That takes me–the green grass,
And rocks and rivers; the green graves,
And children still unborn, and ancestors,
In love passed down from hand to hand from God.
Your love comes from the creation of the world,
From those paternal fingers, streaming through the
That break with light the surface of the sea.
Here, where I trace your body with my hand,
Love’s presence has no end;
For these, your arms that hold me, are the world’s.
In us, the continents, clouds and oceans meet
Our arbitrary selves, extensive with the night,
Lost, in the heart’s worship, and the body’s sleep.
I want just one lesson, and it’s yours,
fountain falling back into yourself –
that of risked waters on which depends
this celestial return towards earthly life.
Nothing will serve as example
as much as your multiple murmur:
you, O light column of a temple
that destroys itself by nature.
In your fall, how each jet of water
modulates itself as it ends its dance.
I feel like such a student, imitator
of your innumerable nuance.
But what’s more convincing than your singing
is that instant of ecstatic silence when
at night, drawn back by a breath, your own
return passes through your liquid leaping.
You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.
Let it brush your cheeks
as it divides and rejoins behind you.
Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:
You are the bow that shoots the arrows
and you are the target.
Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;
for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.
The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.
Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold…
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.
My soul spills into yours and is blended…
I merge with my Beloved
When I love you.
With love, the bitter becomes sweet;
With love, copper becomes gold;
With love, the clouded becomes clear…
Be drunk with Love,
for Love is all that exists.
Where can you find intimacy
if not in the giving and
receiving of Love?
If the skies receive no rest
from being moved by Love,
Heart, don’t ask for rest, be like a circling star.
My soul is burning
Burning with the fire.
Love, too, is a furnace,
And the self its fuel.
Don’t hide your heart but reveal it,
So that mine might be revealed,
And I might accept what I am capable of.
Between the mirror and the heart
This is the difference:
The heart hides secrets,
While the mirror does not.
Love shines its eternal light upon you.
The lover passionately pursues the beloved:
When the sun comes, the lover is gone.
You are a shadow and in love with the sun.
When the sun comes,
The shadow quickly disappears.
My religion is to be kept alive by Love.
A house of love has no limits,
It is a presence more beautiful than the moon,
A beauty whose image fills the mirror of the heart.
I darkened my eyes
With the dust of sadness
Until each one was full of pearls.
In the Law of Love,
Everything is offered as a sacrifice.
Love is the astrolobe of God’s mysteries. Whether Love
is from heaven
or from earth,
It is Divine.
Some mysterious opening
of essence builds as
we turn the refuse of
mistakes over in the sun,
like garbage being composted
on a Damascus street.
This being human is a guesthouse.
Every morning, a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all,
even if they’re a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house empty
of its furniture!
Still, treat each guest honorably.
they may be clearing you out
for some new delight!
The dark thought, the shame, the malice
…meet them at the door, laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
All your anxiety is because of your desire for harmony.
Seek disharmony, then you will gain peace.
True gardeners cannot bear a glove
Between the sure touch and the tender root,
Must let their hands grow knotted as they move
With a rough sensitivity about
Under the earth, between the rock and shoot,
Never to bruise or wound the hidden fruit.
And so I watched my mother’s hands grow scarred,
She who could heal the wounded plant or friend
With the same vulnerable yet rigorous love;
I minded once to see her beauty gnarled,
But now her truth is given me to live,
As I learn for myself we must be hard
To move among the tender with an open hand,
And to stay sensitive up to the end
Pay with some toughness for a gentle world.
Help us to be the always hopeful,
Gardeners of the spirit
Who know that without darkness
Nothing comes to birth
As without light
Bear the roots in mind,
You, the dark one, Kali,
Love is an endless mystery,
for it has nothing else to explain it.
I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.
You are the clouds parting
and the dust
which never settles
for anything but the swirl of
God’s mad love.
You are the silent
one listlessly calling like the ocean itself,
content to drift in and out of our hearts
with the rush of tides.
You are the unmasked one
trying on and sloughing off
costumes as they arrive
here one by one
like a child playing forever
unattached in her mother’s
You are the conjunction
of words that spell
in a million languages.
You are the wind song
and I am the holes
of the flute,
which is all
friends really are,
and the one who is
both teacher and friend
is like a breath of intention
that blows into your life
until you are
hollow and singing.
I was once afraid to make in myself
which suddenly seemed
I must love the questions
as Rilke said
like locked rooms
full of treasure
to which my blind
and groping key
does not yet fit.
and await the answers
mailed with dubious intent
and written in a very foreign
and in the hourly making
no thought of Time
to force, to squeeze
I grow into.
Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.
Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game.
To play it is purest delight;
To honor its form–true devotion.
– Jennifer Welwood