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Devotional or Prayer Poems
I don't really care to discuss my spiritual beliefs. Putting them into poetry is another matter. I read Tagore when I was twenty and that led me to other poets-of-god, like Rumi and Kabir. In poetry I can let myself celebrate, agonize and be exactly who I am in my relation to God as I conceive It. That conception is always changing. I often see the Jew in my poems, there's an Old Testament feeling filtered through a modern sensibility. The poem below, PROPHET, is absolutely one of my favorite poems. I realize that it may not be the favorite poem of anyone else, but that doesn't matter. Its ideas and questions come straight from my heart.
September 10, 2001
Oh lord, oh lord,
what has befallen me?
That which I hoped to make straight
only becomes more twisted.
That which should be understood
only becomes more strange.
How did I come to this unexpected shore?
And what am I to make of the walking wreck of myself?
I wanted to be a radiance
but I am more like a garbage can
tipped by a raccoon in predawn hours.
I pick myself up,
I sweep my contents
into a tidy pile,
but each time I think to rest,
I am again overturned.
I speak to you, o lord,
like the wounded Jew,
like the baffled bloodied prophet,
like the broken fated sage.
I take help from any quarter,
even those with dangerous denizens.
I take comfort with the scorpion,
I sleep with diseases,
I marvel and lament
at my scattered state,
at my continued surprise that I am alive.
Oh lord, what has befallen me?
You see, I have nothing but questions.
It could be much worse, I freely admit.
It could be much better,
I ruefully entreat.
Pieces of me have gone numb.
Whole continents of my psyche have been submerged,
I am the world I have made.
I am a man, dreadfully incomplete,
unwilling to meet the terror,
reluctant to behold the fire,
shrinking always from the worst case,
taking the hand of any wiser being,
like a lost child who needs to be led home.
I shall try now, lord, to snatch a bit of sleep
from the bottom of the night’s cup.
I’m glad we had this little talk.
I thank you, uncomfortably,
like one who has opened the wrong gift
at the wrong party.
Oh, is this for ME?
I’m not quite sure it fits,
I’m not sure how to use it.
I’ve broken it a little
but it still works. See?
I’ve tried, I’ve hopped on one foot,
I’ve danced insanely.
I’m still here,
waiting for your soft voice
to bring me peace.
October 2, 2001
If you have held a child in your lap,
tenderly, warmly, feeling yourself flow
into your child, feeling yourself melt
into your child,
that is how you, too, are being held, always.
Your child also holds another child,
a future child who is eternally present,
in his or her lap.
And that child holds a being,
living, evolving, eternally present,
in his or her lap.
And what holds you in its lap
is being held by something greater,
warmly, tenderly, and that too
is being held by something greater still
in its lap, infinitely held, holding,
creating, soothing, caring,
angels hold other angels
in their laps,
Buddhas care for their Boddhisatvas,
nothing is alone,
no one is lost,
no death is unatoned,
no tragedy is without triumph,
no pain without a holding caring hand
of infinite empathic sorrow and love.
Letter From the Afterlife of A Terrorist Bomber
October 7, 2001
I thought I would be in Paradise
but I am in unspeakable hell.
The fire, the fire!
I thought it would only burn for a second,
but it keeps burning!
I thought I would lose consciousness
and wake up in heaven,
but I am stuck now for an eternity
The screams of the innocent dying
are like poisoned darts,
lancing the exposed nerves of my inmost soul.
The tears of the bereaved in their hundreds and thousands
rain upon me like acid.
And the worst hell of all is my regret,
my infinite regret,
that I was so stupid, so gullible, so callous,
so easily swayed by insipid argument,
so readily moved to escape my living awful depression
by casting it upon others.
The fire, the fire! The jet fuel
sears me for ten thousand years!
The screams and the grief that blame me, rightly,
crush me under a million tons of leaden metal and concrete!
Allah, Allah, I was not merciful, I was not compassionate,
and now when I call to you I see the grit of your robe
as you turn away from me.
I thought I would awake in Paradise.
What a dreadful dreadful mistake!
October 22, 2001
I didn’t expect
I would have to be this brave
to live in the world.
I had no idea.
I didn’t know what I would need,
how much strength it would take,
how deeply I would fail,
how inadequate I would feel.
I wasn’t ready.
I’m not ready now.
I look at ways out;
I look at death,
I look at drugs,
I use every excuse
I do it every day.
I didn’t expect it
to be this hard.
My imagination was not prepared
to encompass the misery,
to absorb the sheer strangeness
of what happens,
what has happened,
what I can’t make un-happen.
I thought I would be protected.
I thought it would be pleasant.
I thought it would be okay,
that I would have a good time,
be satisfied, get away free of entanglements,
leave a nice footprint
that could be seen clearly
down through time.
I am surprised by the mud,
appalled by the blood,
angry with god for letting terrible things happen.
I didn’t expect to have to be this brave.
I didn’t think I had it in me;
I still don’t. But I persist
in spite of every difficulty.
I don’t really know why.
It’s not a matter of a foolish belief sustaining me.
My belief is not foolish. My belief is my survival.
There simply is nothing large enough,
other than God,
to hold the grand squalor,
the screaming birth,
the wriggling, enduring heart at the center
of this beleaguered world.
I have no strength, no courage,
I have nothing but strategies to avoid
agony, and they don’t always work.
I survive, for a time,
while the world survives
forever, stronger than
I can be, deeper than I can fulfill,
more powerful than my will,
defiant in the face
of my disappointment in myself.
The world and something loving that redeems
September 6, 2001
At the tip of my nose
there is something sweeter
than any earthly perfume,
yet I cannot smell it.
Every time my eyes blink
a vision appears
of splendor beyond imagining;
I see it not.
At the ends of my fingers
is a touch filled with love
deeper and truer than any devotion
I can conceive.
Yet my hands hang loose
connecting with nothing.
If I turn around,
it is behind me.
If I look over my right shoulder,
it hides at my left.
There is nothing for me to do.
You will show yourself
when you wish.
I know you are here,
hiding in music I can’t hear,
as the lover I have never found,
in the clarity I have sought
but not achieved.
Sometimes I am discouraged,
but not deterred.
You are here, you are here,
waiting for me to stop the drama.
I can’t find you by any effort,
though you embrace me like a cocoon.
I can’t smell you, see you, touch you,
catch you, hold you,
love you, discern you,
sense you in my breathing,
achieve you in my dying.
I can only exist as I find myself,
You would not have made me this way
unless it were your will to do so.
You would not hide yourself
so close to me, unless you wanted to be found.
Little Red Riding Cosmos
Feb 19, 2010
Where am I?
I know this much:
I am in California, on planet earth,
within the solar system, part of the milky way,
which is bound to the local galactic group,
which forms The Great Wall Galactic structure,
which is part of further strings and shapes of galaxies
in structures too big to see, yet, part of a thing
and then , then…
where am I? Large or small, or in between?
Fractal geometry reveals that size
is meaningless, macro is the same exact shape
as micro, and if that is true,
the Where of Am I?
could put me at the very center
of….of what? Not too big, not too small, just right?
If our universe “banged” some fourteen billion years ago,
then evolved into the shape we now see,
this universe is temporary, it’s passing on through,
truckin’ down the road. What’s fourteen billion years?
Nothing much. An expanse of time. It’s not Forever.
So where am I? Let’s leave alone the What am I? question.
I have a feeling that the Where will reveal the What and the What
will reveal the Where, but man oh man, this thing is complex and subtle.
Wrap your mind around the most brilliant idea EVER thought,
an idea that dwarfs Einstein’s most stunning insight,
an idea that has Steven Hawking playing coloring books and wooden blocks
that have letters carved in simple relief, “A”, “B”, “C”,
that’s very good Steven, very good Albert
very good deepest thinkers of our world,
you’ve gotten us off our tricycles,
but we don’t know where we are, don’t know what we are,
and surely don’t know why we are,
so it looks like I’m going to have to keep asking,
I mean doesn’t EVERYBODY ask?
Maybe not everybody but a lot of us would like to know
and we put all these frustrations into books
and start religions and maybe they soothe the frustration a little
but they don’t put a face on my location in the scheme of things
so I just want to grab this super smart Intelligence, Force, Creator,
Joker, whatever it is, grab it by the collar and say just like a movie tough guy,
“Hey! Where am I? I want some answers! Quit fucking around!
Can’t you show us a formula, an artifact, a document that’s less ambiguous than Koran Bible Torah, can’t you send an angel or an E.T., or something to change me from frustrated to fulfilled?
Why can’t you do that right now, huh?”
Uh oh. I know I’m not as smart as Einstein much less this thing that casually
tosses universes out like a tennis ball machine, bang!
whoops we missed, Bang! There it goes again. Universes all over the place that support life, no, encourage life!
This is not someone you grab by the collar and get tough with, anything could happen. And does. Everything happens!
It makes me kind of tired. My eyelids droop from the effort of all this
I think I’ll go to sleep. Maybe I’ll find the answer in a dream.
Wouldn’t it be funny if I had that dream,
and then couldn’t remember it?
If you have asked yourself the
“why am I so crazy”?
the answer is simple.
You are crazy with grief.
Deep down inside,
you are like one attending a
tearing your clothes,
bewailing your loss.
“But what have I lost, to be so
Something infinitely precious,
something you love so ferociously
that even to remember it
would set you to rending your hair,
again and again.
There is a rage that attends this
a rage at yourself, because,
down in this same forgotten chamber
you know that you were offered this
beyond value, and you lost it,
from a moment’s inattention,
or cast it aside for something more
or ignored it because it did not
pretty jingling music
the way a child’s toy does.
The world is a child’s toy
compared to the majesty of that
which we have put away,
and now, unconsciously,
we grieve, and wonder
why we are so crazy.
Oct 19, 2009
Your breath has a shape
like a fingerprint
no two alike
in all the world.
Everything about you
is found in your breath
all your lives
all your thoughts.
Think of your body
only breath remains
it has an in stop
and an out stop
and contains so much more
If we could know one another
by our breaths
if we could see the human crowd
as a throng of breaths,
hello jagged anxious breath
how are you
hello smooth relaxed breath
nice to see you
the human race is
a breath collective
today some will arrive
today some will depart
lungs are merely homes
like hands fill gloves.
Everything sacred, every dark secret
lives in the breath
and when it leaves your body
for the last time
it is a system of information
like a letter full of you,
air mail, breath mail.
I would tell you more of this
if I knew any more
but this is as far as I’ve got
in learning the nature of breath.
A Worthy Destination
Jan 28, 2003
revised Feb 15, 2010
I haven’t found peace.
I don’t own peace,
buy or sell peace,
though I do encounter peace
from time to time.
Peace is like a friend
who comes for a surprise visit.
As my life takes on a shape
in which peace feels comfortable
I see peace more often.
Peace is not easily found in this world.
Peace comes like an accident,
a good mishap.
Peace lands in my heart like
a bird that’s raised its young
and is looking for a new place to nest.
I thought I would know peace by now,
but it’s taking longer than I expected.
The biggest problem is my mind.
It’s like a bag turned inside out, its contents
are the world, spilled and crazy.
Peace is not comfortable
in the world. When I’m with peace, I feel as though I’ve brought a guest
to the kind of party
that’s broken up by the cops after midnight.
I need to make peace more welcome here.
I should send peace an invitation, find a good solid tree
where peace can perch and sing
before taking flight
to a more worthy destination.
There are sides of me that I tend to hide. This poem really belongs on the page that I've set aside for devotional and mystical poems. I'll move it there after a while. I've noted a few new followers, here and on Twitter, and I'm grateful that they're reading me. That YOU are reading me.
This poem emerged from a an intense visionary experience. It expresses real grief, it expresses a sense that I've lost God, that I saw It, the Holy of Holies and then I fell away from that experience and am left only with a memory of it. In that memory there resides a promise that I will return to that place.