Wednesday, September 24, 2014

So Many Days

So many days, oh so many days.
Where do I put them?

I am like waves crashing
and decomposing into droplets.
I long to be collected and formed again.

And you are a rock
placed where the sky and ocean
meet like lips.

I have beat against you
like the wings of an albatross
violent and heavy
until your color changed
from gray to pink to green
smooth and slippery with algae.

I have stolen your shape
and portioned it out to the sea.
I have churned you to sand.

Oh, so many movements. I am tired.

I am still now, even as the wind
urges me to rise up.

Let us place these days
among the sunken warships
and the skeletons of ancient beasts.

Let my tide return to you
and reflect the land you will never know.
May you see mountains in me,
calm deer, wild everything
bands of travelers
an entire smile from east to west.

These waters that surround you
are pieces of me, always touching.
Let me rise up, not in speed
but in volume
and become a giant.
My heart a sea stone.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Letters Unknowingly to God


i. Regarding Countries

I reach to hold you
between the tangled vines of this dark canopy.
I have crossed many borders
in search of the great fire
whose smoke I have tasted in all things.
I want more.

In a dry country I dig for you like water
raking sand through stiff fingers.
With my mouth I soak you from deep pits.
Still I am thirsty.

Am I not the singularity?
Are you not the many?
The prophets scattered you among nations
smeared you across the sky.

In my wanderings I gather pieces of you
and while I try to construct you
in the shadows of dim candles
I sense a wholeness move toward me.

Now lead me to my deepest breathing.

Now lead me
to my
deepest
breathing. 


ii. Regarding Suffering

I exhale until the spaces inside me
are spewed out into immense forests.
At night these trees are filled with traffic:
limitless wanderers blown off course
by the pressing wind of many sighs.

To this pattern I deliver my breath
like I have for generations.
I am the father of things born in anger.

What is this undercurrent rushing through me?
It is like black waters pushing between cells
and cascading down to my foundation.
I feel you twisting in wide circles around my feet.

I am the terrified one,
and you, the great terror.


iii. Regarding Romance

I am awakened in the paleness of half-night
by the movement of longing:
it surges in my arteries like a great sound.

It is so loud now that I wonder
if the morning fog cannot dampen it
because it compels the sun to rise.

I am alone and you are unfolding.
There are many flowers blooming.
I wait patiently to become inside out
at once gathering all my longing
bundled together in the tendons of my hands
then flinging it wildly toward you.

There are so many loves in me.
I am a library of unfinished proverbs.
My words try to complete you—
you who are arriving.

With my greatest love
I can only stammer you.



Monday, March 18, 2013

On Suffering

Many of the most urgent questions that we will ever ask are on the topic of human suffering. When I consider suffering, I recollect a handful of images from my own life.

1. Pushing a needle through the lip of a six-year old girl to stitch her wound closed. Not a whimper. Not a flinch.

2. My ankle grasped firmly by a leper in Kathmandu. Her eyes looked for solutions. Expected none.

3. The wrenching screams of a mentally disabled boy undergoing a painless exam. My eyes filled with tears. If only he understood. Just helping.

4. King's face as an angry mob tried to repay him for his honest testimony. A mob of this boy's friends and neighbors. At first confused. Then . . . tranquilo. We'll get through this my friend.

5. Heartbreak. Heartbreak. Heartbreak. How impossibly difficult it is to stop the course of love. Or at least to redirect it.

Each memory has its own personality. For some, the feelings of grief and hurt are still fresh. For others, the feelings were not mine, but someone else's. For still others, the suffering was shared.

In each case, however, there was something else. Something beyond suffering. Beyond ecstasy for that matter. For in those moments something greater was glimpsed, if even for a moment. The object of this encounter goes by many names. Reality. Spirit. God. Love. I like all four equally.

All of humanity lives life behind the veil of physicality. What we see and sense only dulls our longing for Reality. We suffer from the disease of self-fulfillment. We want knowledge. We want material. We want pleasure. We want companionship. We want comfort. We want the absence of pain, of grief, of separation from our treasures.

But the the fulfillment of these desires only leads us farther from union with Reality. The Divine Presence only reveals itself in the absence of ego. And where do we find ourselves most absent from our self-fulfillment? In the presence of suffering.

The paradox of suffering lies in its ability to introduce us to Reality. On one hand, suffering is not Reality--it is integrally opposed to Reality. But on the other hand, suffering is often the most effective method of uniting ourselves with Reality.

The Christian thinker is correct in saying that suffering is the result of unnatural separation from the Divine. However, the Christian tradition of praying for the alleviation of suffering neglects the enormous opportunity for unity with the Divine in the midst of suffering. To assume that suffering is not a valid avenue for unity with Reality both inhibits the work of the Divine by presupposing Its limitations and puts to much faith in the individual's ability to initate unity with the Divine. Union is always initiated by the Divine Presence itself. Who are we to determine the ebb and flow of our experience with the Real Person?

Instead of accepting suffering with open and accepting hands, so many Christians get caught up in questions of origin. Is God causing this suffering to teach me a lesson? Is it a result of sinful nature and nothing more? Did I bring this suffering upon myself by living separate from God's will? To every one of these questions the enlightened thinker will answer simply, "Yes, of course."

If the seeker's highest goal is union with the Divine, then suffering should be viewed as simply rare opportunity to meet Reality on new terms. In the process of meeting the Divine, we are always changed. Perhaps it will be in finer alignment to God's will. Perhaps it will be to reduce our ego in order to form a more intimate union. Perhaps it will be to learn a great truth about Reality. And maybe in some cases the seeker can put an end to certain sufferings by the nature of this change. Maybe not. Either way, our experience with Reality through suffering is a gift that can never be taken away.

"Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is a country called life.
You'll know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand."

--Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, August 19, 2012

No More Leaving

Do not leave me.

You may kiss me
then turn away

you may swear
to be my despair

but do not leave me.

you may burn my words
as fuel to silence
your rattling bones

you may upturn my table
laid out with gifts for you

even pronounce curses
on these abandoned hands
that only knew
the softness of your form

but do not leave me.

I have loved you
like fire
that you may be changed

like the flowering of truth
that you may be honest

I have loved you
even until the low sun
smeared shadows of ourselves
across mountainsides
which I ached to command
by faith--
I have done it all
so that you may be moved

but I have not loved you
that you may be loved.

With what have I loved you?
My accuser is the emptiness of self
which dissolves like rust
these gleaming tools
I have wearily manipulated.

Do not leave me.

As cool fog twirls and breathes
let us walk on the coast
looking for signs in driftwood.
Let us sit in dense mist
and believe the sunrise is appearing
just beyond covered breakers.

And let there be
no more leaving.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Father

Father,

I believe you are a God of immeasurable power who delights in transforming your children. I am your child. And although it takes all I am to believe in the mercy that covers a sinner like me, I am willing to give all I am to embrace the beauty of what you offer. I have no preconceptions that this is an easy trade-off--my life for your control. All I know is that I am compelled to give myself completely to you. I expect it will take years for me to understand the fullness of what that means.

Let's just start with today.

Ben

"More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
the sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world all apart"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Making Lists

For the women of Nepal who have never met a man.


I have sold every instinct
for a chance to be closer
where your pulse beats
my shoulders like a crumpled fist.

I have shaved my beard
put chains on my wrists.
I have sold every instinct.
I have burned every list.

Now there are flowers drying
in my palm like dead spiders.
There are bones whirling
inside my skull writing
a new list.

Your pulse beats closer.
I can feel it above the rattling
of bones, of shackles
of Pashupatinath’s fires
my shaven face scratching
out lists on your body.

1. I am not a man.
2. You are not a woman.
3. God is not.

Each time I burn a list
I pull back the curtain.

Each time I pull the curtain
a new list is written.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Wall

I am on the wall
dividing a night of rest
from the appearance of it all.
The wall begins to fall
in violent silence.

I watch it lean slowly.
Here is sleep.
I watch it gain speed.
Here is sleep like a curtain
in front of me.

I am Moses in the Red Sea
eyes wide on the inside
reaching a hand towards the veil
of water rushing in stillness.

I have rushed in stillness too.
I have been like water
churning without flowing
like sleep
vibrating without going.

Now I stand before
one thousand photocopies
of my face, each generation cloudier
and less pleased
as if perfection is to just be,
unchanging, exactly the same.
The devil is a good marksman.

I have been paralyzed by the fear
that all men are created equal.
I have seen too many people
unencumbered by the numbering
of failures

1.
Let every tear be flowing
for in that movement
I can feel the trembling
of continents.

2.
May my dreams be remembered
like the scent of moist earth
drying in a cemetery.

3.
Let me hold you close.
On the day I asked you to be mine
I tied you to a bench.
I return every day to find
my best friend in the clench
of a gilded cage
as if allowing us to change
might pinch me to awaken.

I am covering myself in sleep
like a thin, white sheet.
I have fallen asleep just to greet
your face with a kiss.
In sleep we are thirteen months old
born on the day we met

and I am comforted by my face
now an infant's
my voice gooey as I stroke
your face with the back of my hand.

Maybe in twenty years we'll marry
maybe we'll stop fussing about problems
we're too young to solve.
Maybe I'll just love you
just love you
just love you
until I awake
to just
love you
again.