Poetry and Prose
- A Veil of Tears, T.S. Eliot
- Absolutely Clear, Hafiz
- There is a Brokenness, Rashani Phoenix, D.H. Lawrence
- Last Sonnet to Orpheus, R.M. Rilke
- Too Big Heart, Anne Sexton
- Hymn to Matter, Teilhard de Chardin
- From Courage, Anne Sexton
- Dragons & Princesses, R.M. Rilke
- For Sandy, Lee Brewster
- First Duino Elegy (selection), R.M. Rilke
- In a Dark Time, Theodore Roethke
- People Walk Away, Jeff Brown
- The Guest House, Rumi
- Heartbreak, David Whyte
- Go Deeper Than Love, D.H. Lawrence
- A Zero Circle, Rumi
- On Sadness, R.M. Rilke
- Trust the Precipice, Rich Myers
- Meditation on Affliction, Gyalwa Longchenpa
- As I Grow Older, Langston Hughes
- The Pact, Rebecca del Rio
- Kindness, Naomi Shihab Nye
- Awakening as the Beloved, Symeon the New Theologian
- If You Want to Change the World, Love a Woman, Lisa Citore
- If You Want to Change the World, Love a Man, Lisa Citore
A Veil of Tears
I said to my soul, be still
and wait without hope,
for hope would be for the wrong thing.
And wait without love.
For love would be love of the wrong thing.
Yet there is faith.
But the faith and hope and the love
are all in the waiting.
And the darkness shall be the light
and the stillness the dancing.
Don’t surrender your loneliness
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My need of God
There is a Brokenness
There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole
while learning to sing.
Last Sonnet to Orpheus
Quiet friend who has come so far,
Feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent Earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
The Big Heart
“Too many things are occurring for even a big heart to hold.” —W. B. Yeats
wide as a watermelon,
but wise as birth,
there is so much abundance
in the people I have
and all in their short lives
give to me repeatedly,
in the way the sea
places its many fingers on the shore,
again and again
and they know me,
they help me unravel,
they listen with ears made of
they speak back with the wine
of the best region.
They are my staff.
They comfort me.
the artery of my soul has been severed
and soul is spurting out upon them,
bleeding on them,
messing up their clothes,
dirtying their shoes.
And God is filling me,
though there are times of doubt
as hollow as the Grand Canyon,
still God is filling me.
He is giving me the thoughts of dogs,
the spider in its intricate web,
in all its amazement,
and a slain ram
that is the glory,
the mystery of great cost,
and my heart,
which is very big,
I promise it is very large,
a monster of sorts,
takes it all in—
all in comes the fury of love.
Hymn to Matter
Blessed be you harsh matter, barren rock; you who yield only
to violence, you who force us to work if we would eat. Blessed
be you, perilous matter, violent sea, untamable passion: you who
unless we fetter you, will devour us. Blessed be you, mighty matter, irresistible
march, reality ever new born; you who by constantly
shattering our mental categories, force us to go ever further in our
pursuit of the truth. Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable
time, boundless ether, triple abyss of stars and atoms and generations;
you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards of
measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God.
—Teilhard de Chardin, (Translation by Bernard Wall)
If you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.
Dragons & Princesses
How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.
So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Your dazzling grief
Cuts clean through to the Source
This ruby sword, hot to the touch,
Shines a red light
On all that moves in the heart of hearts:
Naked, thump-a-thumping drum of pain,
rage, love, hatred, and amazement.
The shock of it strikes us dumb,
Opens the door and
With one swift, precise punch,
Breaks us through,
Breathless and broken wide open,
Yawning into the empty arms of the One.
The First Duino Elegy (beginning)
Who if I shouted, among the angels
would hear me? And supposing one of them
took me suddenly to heart, I would perish
before his stronger existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror we can just barely endure,
and we admire it so because it calmly disdains to destroy us. Every angel is terrifying.
—Rainier Maria Rilke, (translator, C.F. Macintyre)
In a Dark Time
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood —
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks — is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.
A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is —
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.
People Walk Away…
Sometimes people walk away from love because it is so beautiful that it terrifies them. Sometimes they leave because the connection shines a bright light on their dark places and they are not ready to work them through. Sometimes they run away because they are not developmentally prepared to merge with another- they have more individuation work to do first.
Sometimes they take off because love is not a priority in their lives- they have another path and purpose to walk first. Sometimes they end it because they prefer a relationship that is more practical than conscious, one that does not threaten the ways that they organize reality.
Because so many of us carry shame, we have a tendency to personalize love’s leavings, triggered by the rejection and feelings of abandonment. But this is not always true. Sometimes it has nothing to do with us. Sometimes the one who leaves is just not ready to hold it safe. Sometimes they know something we don’t- they know their limits at that moment in time.
Real love is no easy path- readiness is everything. May we grieve loss without personalizing it. May we learn to love ourselves in the absence of the lover.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
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 are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He 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 whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
—Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks
Heartbreak. . .
…is unpreventable; the natural outcome of caring for people and things over which we have no control, of holding in our affections those who inevitably move beyond our line of sight. Heartbreak begins the moment we are asked to let go but cannot, in other words, it colors and inhabits and magnifies each and every day; heartbreak is not a visitation, but a path that human beings follow through even the most average life.
Heartbreak is our indication of sincerity: in a love relationship, in a work, in trying to learn a musical instrument, in the attempt to shape a better more generous self. Heartbreak is the beautifully helpless side of love and affection and is just as much an essence and emblem of care as the spiritual athlete’s quick but abstract ability to let go. Heartbreak has its own way of inhabiting time and its own beautiful and trying patience in coming and going.
Heartbreak is inescapable; yet we use the word as if it only occurs when things have gone wrong: an unrequited love, a shattered dream, a child lost before their time. Heartbreak, we hope, is something we hope we can avoid; something to guard against, a chasm to be carefully looked for and then walked around; the hope is to find a way to place our feet where the elemental forces of life will keep us in the manner to which we want to be accustomed and which will also keep us from the losses that all other human beings have experienced without exception since the beginning of conscious time. But heartbreak may be the very essence of being human, of being on the journey from here to there, and of coming to care deeply for what we find along the way…
Go Deeper Than Love
Go deeper than love, for the soul has greater depths,
love is like the grass, but the heart is deep wild rock
molten, yet dense and permanent.
Go down to your deep old heart, and lose sight of yourself.
And lose sight of me, the me whom you turbulently loved.
Let us lose sight of ourselves, and break the mirrors.
For the fierce curve of our lives is moving agin to the depths
out of sight, in the deep living heart.
A Zero Circle
Be helpless and dumbfounded,
unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come
from grace to gather us up.
We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say “Yes, we can,” we’re lying.
If we say “No, we don’t see it,”
that “No” will behead us
and shut tight our window onto spirit.
So let us rather not be sure of anything,
beside ourselves, and only that, so
miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
we shall be saying finally,
with tremendous eloquence, “Lead us.”
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.
Rilke on Sadness
It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living. Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing.
That is why the sadness passes: the new presence inside us, the presence that has been added, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there, – is already in our bloodstream. And we don’t know what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes.We can’t say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens.
And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the seemingly uneventful and motionless moment when our future steps into us is so much closer to life than that other loud and accidental point of time when it happens to us as if from outside. The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadnesses, the more deeply and serenely the new presence can enter us, and the more we can make it our own, the more it becomes our fate.
—Rainier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1934
Trust The Precipice
It doesn’t matter when they appear, these thresholds, these footpaths that again and again end, drop into a chasm. We shift out of a phase that lingered too long on a broken horizon. We resist the fall with all our being, holding on like tenacious weeds to the cliff where meaning faltered, slipping from the place we made for it. Now life’s change waits like a stepchild at the doorstep of the house where it may belong.
As it gets darker you are afraid of the next step’s
blind touch. What can you now rely upon? Nothing to
do about the encroaching fact of gravity, a hint of vertigo,
anonymity. The precipice is the resistance to the next
moment, its unveiling, its miracle. Nothing to do but wait
for a visualization, a vague shape of a memory that
provides a theory of where you stand at this moment.
No other way but to perhaps study the light inside you.
Abide in it as threshold, as prayer or as somebody who
thinks about you as God. Abide in that courage that arrives
Meditation on Affliction
Assailed by afflictions, we discover Dharma
And find the way to liberation. Thank you, evil forces!
When sorrows invade the mind, we discover Dharma
And find lasting happiness. Thank you, sorrows!
Through harm caused by spirits we discover Dharma
And find fearlessness. Thank you, ghosts and demons!
Through people’s hate we discover Dharma
And find benefits and happiness. Thank you, those who hate us!
Through cruel adversity, we discover Dharma
And find the unchanging way. Thank you, adversity!
Through being impelled to by others, we discover Dharma
And find the essential meaning. Thank you, all who drive us on!
We dedicate our merit to you all, to repay your kindness.
As I Grow Older
It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun–
And then the wall rose,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky–
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
― Langston Hughes
It was broken before
We arrived, the pact with
Life. Shattered like crystal
Heaved in fearful fury. All our
Lives, we walk across
The sparkling glass
Bleeding out breathing
In the agony of Ages.
How could we know
We came as witnesses?
Our job to see beyond
Even our own cynicism
The pessimism inherited
From millennia and millions.
Immerse in mourning
Inhale distilled sorrow
Become an alchemist
Convert loss into love.
― Rebecca del Rio
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the
Indian in a white poncho lies dead
by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night
with plans and the simple breath
that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness
as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow
as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness
that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
―Naomi Shihab Nye
Awakening as the Beloved
We awaken in Christ’s body,
As Christ awakens our bodies
There I look down and my poor hand is Christ,
He enters my foot and is infinitely me.
I move my hand and wonderfully
My hand becomes Christ,
Becomes all of Him.
I move my foot and at once
He appears in a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous to you?
—Then open your heart to Him.
And let yourself receive the one
Who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body
Where all our body all over,
Every most hidden part of it,
Is realized in joy as Him,
And He makes us utterly real.
And everything that is hurt, everything
That seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged
Is in Him transformed.
And in Him, recognized as whole, as lovely,
And radiant in His light,
We awaken as the beloved
In every last part of our body.
—Symeon the New Theologian
Hymns of Divine Love/ Hymn 15 (949-1022)
If you want to change the world… love a woman…
If you want to change the world love a woman—really love her
Find the one who calls to your soul,who doesn’t make sense.
Throw away your check list and put your ear to her heart and listen.
Hear the names,the prayers,the songs of every living thing,
every winged one, every furry and scaled one,
every underground and underwater one, every green and flowering one,
every not yet born and dying one…
Hear their melancholy praises back to the One who gave them life.
If you haven’t heard your own name yet, you haven’t listened long enough.
If your eyes aren’t filled with tears, if you aren’t bowing at her feet,
you haven’t ever grieved having almost lost her.
If you want to change the world… love a woman—one woman
beyond yourself, beyond desire and reason,
beyond your male preferences for youth, beauty and variety
and all your superficial concepts of freedom.
We have given ourselves so many choices
we have forgotten that true liberation
comes from standing in the middle of the soul’s fire
and burning through our resistance to Love.
There is only one Goddess.
Look into Her eyes and see—really see
if she is the one to bring the axe to your head.
If not, walk away. Right now.
Don’t waste time “trying.”
Know that your decision has nothing to do with her
because ultimately it’s not with who,
but when we choose to surrender.
If you want to change the world… love a woman.
Love her for life—beyond your fear of death,
beyond your fear of being manipulated
by the Mother inside your head.
Don’t tell her you’re willing to die for her.
Say you’re willing to LIVE with her,
plant trees with her and watch them grow.
Be her hero by telling her how beautiful she is in her vulnerable majesty,
by helping her to remember every day that she IS Goddess
through your adoration and devotion.
If you want to change the world… love a woman
in all her faces, through all her seasons
and she will heal you of your schizophrenia-
your double-mindedness and half-heartedness
which keeps your Spirit and body separate—
which keeps you alone and always looking outside your Self
for something to make your life worth living.
There will always be another woman.
Soon the new shiny one will become the old dull one
and you’ll grow restless again, trading in women like cars,
trading in the Goddess for the latest object of your desire.
Man doesn’t need any more choices.
What man needs is Woman, the Way of the Feminine,
of Patience and Compassion, non-seeking, non-doing,
of breathing in one place and sinking deep intertwining roots
strong enough to hold the Earth together
while she shakes off the cement and steel from her skin.
If you want to change the world… love a woman, just one woman.
Love and protect her as if she is the last holy vessel.
Love her through her fear of abandonment
which she has been holding for all of humanity.
No, the wound is not hers to heal alone.
No, she is not weak in her codependence.
If you want to change the world… love a woman
all the way through
until she believes you,
until her instincts, her visions, her voice, her art, her passion,
her wildness have returned to her—
until she is a force of love more powerful
than all the political media demons who seek to devalue and destroy her.
If you want to change the world,
lay down your causes, your guns and protest signs.
Lay down your inner war, your righteous anger
and love a woman…
beyond all of your striving for greatness,
beyond your tenacious quest for enlightenment.
The holy grail stands before you
if you would only take her in your arms
and let go of searching for something beyond this intimacy.
What if peace is a dream which can only be re-membered
through the heart of Woman?
What if a man’s love for Woman, the Way of the Feminine
is the key to opening Her heart?
If you want to change the world…love a woman
to the depths of your shadow,
to the highest reaches of your Being,
back to the Garden where you first met her,
to the gateway of the rainbow realm
where you walk through together as Light as One,
to the point of no return,
to the ends and the beginning of a new Earth.
If you want to change the world love a man
If you want to change the world love a man—really love him
Choose the one whose soul calls to yours clearly who sees you; who is brave enough to be afraid
Accept his hand and guide him gently to your hearts blood
Where he can feel your warmth upon him and rest there
And burn his heavy load in your fires
Look into his eyes look deep within and see what lies dormant or awake or shy or expectant there
Look into his eyes and see there his fathers and grandfathers and all the wars and madness their spirits fought in some distant land, some distant time
Look upon their pains and struggles and torments and guilt; without judgment
And let it all go
Feel into his ancestral burden
And know that what he seeks is safe refuge in you
Let him melt in your steady gaze
And know that you need not mirror that rage
Because you have a womb, a sweet, deep gateway to wash and renew old wounds
If you want to change the world love a man, really love him
Sit before him, in the full majesty of your woman in the breath of your vulnerability
In the play of your child innocence in the depths of your death
Flowering invitation, softly yielding, allowing his power as a man
To step forward towards you…and swim in the Earth’s womb, in silent knowing, together
And when he retreats…because he will…flees in fear to his cave…
Gather your grandmothers around you…envelope in their wisdoms
Hear their gentle shusshhhed whispers, calm your frightened girls’ heart
Urging you to be still…and wait patiently for his return
Sit and sing by his door, a song of remembrance, that he may be soothed, once more
If you want to change the world, love a man, really love him
Do not coax out his little boy
With guiles and wiles and seduction and trickery
Only to lure him…to a web of destruction
To a place of chaos and hatred
More terrible than any war fought by his brothers
This is not feminine this is revenge
This is the poison of the twisted lines
Of the abuse of the ages, the rape of our world
And this gives no power to woman it reduces her as she cuts off his balls
And it kills us all
And whether his mother held him or could not
Show him the true mother now
Hold him and guide him in your grace and your depth
Smoldering in the center of the Earth’s core
Do not punish him for his wounds that you think don’t meet your needs or criteria
Cry for him sweet rivers
Bleed it all back home
If you want to change the world love a man, really love him
Love him enough to be naked and free
Love him enough to open your body and soul to the cycle of birth and of death
And thank him for the opportunity
As you dance together through the raging winds and silent woods
Be brave enough to be fragile and let him drink in the soft, heady petals of your being
Let him know he can hold you stand up and protect you
Fall back into his arms and trust him to catch you
Even if you’ve been dropped a thousand times before
Teach him how to surrender by surrendering yourself
And merge into the sweet nothing, of this worlds’ heart
If you want to change the world, love a man, really love him
Encourage him, feed him, allow him, hear him, hold him, heal him
And you, in turn, will be nourished and supported and protected
By strong arms and clear thoughts and focused arrows
Because he can, if you let him, be all that you dream
If you want to love a man, love yourself, love your father
Love your brother, your son, your ex-partner; from the first boy you kissed,
To the last one you wept over
Give thanks for the gifts; of your unraveling to this meeting
Of the one who stands before you now
And find in him the seed to all that’s new and solar
A seed that you can feed to help direct the planting
To grow a new world, together.