The boat is rocking. Which way should I lean?
Should I hold tight to the boat, be one
with the boat, have faith that the boat will hold us
as it was made to do?
Or should I try to level the boat? When other riders
jolt from side to side, try to direct our course, should I join with those who counter their every move
with equal force?
And the water—
the waves carrying us the gods know where,
raising, then negating what’s under us,
and water gathering around
our feet, at first a bother and now, deepening,
it becomes a third force in the boat—
it seems willing to take us down as one.
I remember how I once loved being in a boat.
I knew fear then, too, but greater than that I knew
a trust in my companions. Together,
balancing, moving in and on the waters
which held our bulky forms so lightly we
laughed, and had to wonder….
Let us turn and look another way.
We’ve been staring at the flag on the hill,
longing to possess it, make it our own.
Our task is so much greater. The hill
when it has gone to dust will be replaced
by what our wisdom creates today.
If that line of thought doesn’t thrill you,
just know that we agree on the
absolute need to love
more greatly, more actively, more broadly,
more generously, more anonymously, more
in all directions till we are stretched
beyond our limits, because love is more than a model,
it is a tool we are entrusted with, it is
both the sword and the plow. Someday
the world will be something we wouldn’t recognize now,
and all the errors we have made will be
etched upon the earth—sing Praise—
but no one doubts that love will be just
as great and living then.
They may be different, your love and mine,
your will and mine, but all the open-hearted love we try
to plant into the earth today
may give our far-away descendants a better light
to see by, a reason not to
look back at us and mourn.
Here is a poem from two decades ago that still has some resonance for me as I try to pay my debts with love. I’ve posted a bunch more of these old soldiers and am making them march around again (see the link to Poems up near the top of the page). If you’re interested, please go see them so their efforts won’t be in vain. (Thank them for their service, you know, that kind of thing.)
After the Demonstration
Nothing makes me as lonely as being told
how unified we are. The cell swirls
in jubilation and I am expelled into orbit.
There is great freedom in wanting different
from anyone else. In my life, I have evolved:
First I despised the haters. Next I looked down
on those who despised them. Now, adrift and rolling away,
I have the next person trapped in me, and I despise
my righteous isolation, my mirrors, my need to judge.
The Pentecostals (whom I now love
for their holy separation) cut through the rain
seemingly on their own band: He made a change
in my life. He made a change in My Life.
My wheels keep beat for me, as if pulling me down
will make it so. For a moment I slip back to the world
and am jarred by the normalness of myself,
a man in a jacket. Possibly a complete vessel.
If I could prolong that motion--grow
from human to artwork--I would long
to drop in the world's pocket, wait
there to be found and judged, yes, held
in the sweet above and below of the human world.
But I am away, untethered, again--
Adam. Where a word would have saved me, I veered
toward loneliness. It seems this will not
be the day my wary heart finds
a back door to its categories, lets in
the next person, the one for whom
no body has been made yet.
The radio plays —
quiet now –Mother will come in
to tell us to turn it off.
Lower still. Maybe it’s off already.
We’re hearing memories. We’ll let them go too, and still
hear the memories of them.
Who is this Mama who listens for us,
and does she really care for us?
Stay away now, Mother. The radio
is off. The music all around us —
and you, and your mother, and hers,
going back —
will be there when we wake.
No receiver, no Mother, no ears.
Traveling by night.
The starlight will come in and
go out, now, and still, going out, coming in.