It’s like swimming across a river
with our eyes closed, this passage
through the center of our life.
Sometimes we have to navigate
from the inside out—when the stars
hide their light, when we cannot see the bank
on the other side, when the hounds
of our past bark on the shoreline
braying their mournful song at our leaving.
It is the stillness at the heart of the fire
that guides—the voice of our angel of mercy
that rings out when we look over our shoulder
at the old life with longing. You cannot go back,
she says, that place is gone now. And for a moment,
we freeze in the river sure we will drown,
forgetting which way is up and down,
forward and back, as the roar of the roiling rapids
pours through us, our heart filled
with all the questions that have refused
to leave us alone. And then something
remembers itself, lifts our shoulders above
the swirling cauldron of in-between,
and we simply let go of the fight to stay.
The tangled paradoxes flow on through
the body of the river, and we are carried
by an invisible current that draws us closer
and closer to the edge of a new world.
On our knees, we find root and ground,
give thanks for this fertile soil, seeded
with our dreams, thirsty for our arrival.
In every being there lives a wound.
This is the nature of being born here, like this.
And in every life there is a choice—
to wrap ourselves around that wound,
protective of its shape, its cadence, its nuance
to build our life around that story—
or to extend through the fire of pain
to some other horizon.
The seed knows this: how to arise
from the dark tight curl of itself—
to bloom from the dark. As does the butterfly,
as it emerges from the chaos
of its own dissolution into winged delight.
It is the impossible miracle
of the luminous heart that brings us
to the hearth of our own awakening
that risks stepping forward to broach
illusory walls, that opens against all odds
seeing that we have nothing to lose
but our own false protection,
our own holding back.
In every being there is a wound~
a fissure where sacred longing is born
so our gifts can be revealed,
so our gifts can be given.
It was the chasm below the sacred cliffs
that called me that spring morning to climb,
step by step, into a knowing of what I must do.
Burning in my ears was the fierce song of a vow
I had made long ago, not to bend the truth inside
or live forever in a house of mirrors.
There, perched high on the granite rocks
I listened to the high, insistent cheeping of peregrines
sounding out like this forgotten one of me.
And as I watched, out of the stone spires
the mother falcon shot, dove down deep into the soul
of that canyon—the ribbon of riverlight moving far below.
She showed me a thing or two about the source
of my own desire—the glint of her arrowed wings,
the heat of her body searing the air. And just before
certain death, she caught a swallow in her beak,
rose to circle these impossible heights, then slid
into an invisible crack in the cliff to feed her newborns—
still crying out as if they had been forgotten.
What it is to be half-blind, vulnerable, hungry for the world~
not yet seeing the coming fledge, but knowing,
deep in bones, this compass of primal instinct.
What it is to understand just how to ride the current
at full speed, to lift before colliding, to break buoyant
into that late afternoon canyon light,
wings thrumming, filled with the ecstasy
of your own mysterious wild.
The riot of the earth’s wild feast is laid before us,
daily, in places we have forgotten to look. In the veins
of the leaf in the sunlit corner of the room.
In the depths of the tiger iris of the daughter who has grown
into a woman overnight. In the clear pools of water
where night animals bend down and drink.
If we have any task it is this: to live in this exquisite seeing,
to clear our eyes of the dust of memory and expectation
that would leave us blind to what we most long for.
For even in the leanest of years, when our bodies are wracked
with grief, there is more than enough beauty to feed
all the species of this world. Take the Pleides.
Take Jupiter arcing west in the night sky. Take, the bees
that roll over on the flowers drunken with nectar. Take the globes
of squash and the sage brush in the russet hills. Take it all in.
For even in the bones and cinders of the old world, children
reach into pockets for marbles and a man gives another man
his coat. Even in the skeletal remains of fields gone fallow,
seeds settle and germinate. This cornucopia is what you came for—
for this chance to tend life, to give back to that which gives.
To be breathed one breath at a time.
Beyond hope and fear
good and bad
low road or high road
curse or blessing
there is this moment
this invitation to arrive
on your knees
in your glory
The forestlight trembles
the mountains surge and quake
the meadows exhale wildflowers.
For even as you see, you are seen.
As you bless, you are blessed.
As you drink, you are drunk.
Nothing is outside of this.
we are dis-mantled
bone by bone
cell by cell
into creation’s great belly
there is no where to go.
I once dreamed
we were a winged people
who had forgotten our wings
and then designed a whole world
whose sole purpose
was our re-membering.
Can you see us?
singing on the wind?
Step closer to the story that scares you~
the one that has you gasping for air
in the night, searching for ground.
This one wants to take you past
the lip of the void to the birthplace
of stars, where all stories dissolve
into the blessing of original song.
Leap into the love that terrifies—
you know just what it will do.
It will un-hinge every door in your house.
It will blow in like a hurricane
and re-arrange your furniture.
It will howl like a banshee through your bones
and leave you delightfully hollow.
Without this love you are only playing
at this life– and you are so tired of that!
Turn your wild horses out
into the fields in the morning,
when first light purples the hills.
They are hungry for this earth
under hoof, this thunder of full gallop.
They may trample all the places
you have so carefully tended.
They may leave you in a cloud of dust.
And yet, this is the only way
they will return to you truly,
without a fence to keep them in.
Let the current lift you
out of the churning eddy.
There is only one place where this river flows—
through slot canyons and the eyes of midnight,
through singing valleys and greening glens.
These holy waters will have their way with you.
They are dreaming you into a body of light.
Why fight what you most long for?
There is nowhere to hide
in the desert, under the full moon
in the blue light that pours
through the body like water.
It as if we are born again
in the open air, to feel our bare
skin against the world for the first time.
And from here, eyes untethered,
we see a different kind of beauty
that lives underneath the surface,
that quivers in the thorns
and breaks out of the volcanic rock
like a song you hear in a dream,
when your mind has gone quiet.
To meet this kind of beauty,
Make a slow approach,
a spiral walk to the center,
leave offerings, show up
in the odd hours of the night—
then she may let you see her fur, her sharp teeth,
the flash of her pale underbelly.
For this beauty moves in the spaces,
in the interior of things, in the rivulets
of a dry land that rarely sees rain,
in the seed that blooms once in a hundred years,
in the sap of a Joshua tree lifting
its arms, heavy with blooms, to the piercing stars.
This beauty leaves you weeping
in the blue of that moonlight
with nowhere to hide.
It wasn’t long ago
when humans and bears were one tribe,
when in the winter freeze
down in the hibernation caves
dreaming would happen both ways~
from bear to human and human to bear~
in this way they kept their clan intact
and remembered together what it is
to live in sacred reciprocity with this world.
But lord knows
there are so many distractions
so many ways our importance pulls us
from the center of that circle in the heart
where the fire burns. At times we may forget
that the whole destiny of the world
hangs on that blue flame.
Years ago, a baby hummingbird flew
into a window, fell to the ground
in a dark heap before me. I picked her up
in my hands and still, for moments,
she did not stir. It was only when I placed
her heart against mine, then blew my breath
into her feathers, that she trembled again
with her own life. How many times
have I flown into that same glass
thinking it was sky?
I remember the first flicker
of my son’s body swimming in my own.
A miraculous sea creature in my depths—
this exquisite intimacy. I remember long walks
in the forest, my hands on my ripe belly,
whispering secrets to him
that I have never told another.
When you held me like that
in the middle of the night
in the middle of a dream
when I had forgotten my own name,
it was like touching starlight for the first time.
It’s been a long, fierce voyage, I said,
tracing the fine line of your spine,
remembering the ship of my body
sailing in the sea of eternity.
Even with this tattered sail
and bruised hull, I remember
how to ride these storm-tossed waves.
It wasn’t long ago
when eagles and humans flew together,
hunting on spiraled currents
diving into life after life, rebirths
that turn on the same bright still point.
Making love is all there is, they cried
to each other as they soared,
burning feathers in the sun one last time,
before trading wings for limbs
to walk the sweet meadows of this earth,
to know root and bone as home,
and learn the heart’s morse code
of longing and bewilderment.
Where the Honey is Stored
Beloved, we do not have to do anything to deserve you.
And yet we are always trying to prove ourselves~
asking about purpose, looking for meaning,
when all along we are swimming in the coral reefs
of your warm oceans and tilling the soil for the next season
of waving rye. This is the home we have always dreamed of~
the garden where we once saw a no trespassing sign
and believed it! The drill of the mind bores down
through layers and layers of solid rock searching
for answers. Meanwhile, a dance is wildly unfolding
just outside our seeking. Nothing to do but love them—
these bees of our thoughts, buzzing the summer flowers.
Quick! Run past the construction sites of the self
to the hive where all the honey is stored!
When I reach into the earth
I reach for stars—the rough bump
of seed swelling itself into flesh. When
I search for you in the middle of the night
I move towards the beyond—the curve
of your hip a valley I have walked over
and over like a nomad. The cottonwoods
shed their fluffy seed, the tender grass bolts,
the press of summer is upon us. I shift plants
in moonlight to act out this restless
stirring to spread beyond first planting.
We build only to tear down, to relocate. Tonight
your fingers rub tomato vines, trace the tendrils
of clematis dancing up the lattice on the axis
of the sky. Already we have forgotten the barren
nights. We stand on teetering apple ladders, reaching
for the fruit just beyond the green fur
of leaf—our want a kite tugging to get off
its leash. Then where would we go? Would we find
sky in that floating? Or would we long only
for our feet on the ground, hands in the earth,
mouth upon mouth in a wild, unweeded garden?