The poem is not the world.
It isn't even the first page of the world.
But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.
It wants to open itself,
like the door of the temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.
Yesterday, driving lonely roads, my want returned. As before, I wanted a spiritual experience.
Not church. Not saving. Not even epiphany.
But dramatic transformation.
So much of life is showing up. Listening. Being present. These are not small things. They sound small but they are not small. They are not even simple. In this dailyness, I know, is transformation.
But you can't see it. Not right away.
There are no harps or bugles or sweeping sounds. A lot of life is crickets.
And so, for many years, this urge arises: I want to awake with new eyes. I want to really see.
* * *
A friend and I roll our eyes at those who boast of being "called." We imagine lightening bolts and mock their certainty. We envy this sort of clear direction because we think most of life is figuring out the path as you are on it. This method of travel doesn't feel spiritual, determined or even accredited, but it is our way.
* * *
This week I found a book wedged within another. The Leaf and The Cloud by Mary Oliver. It's a thin book of just one poem. (Caveat: I am not an Oliver follower. I like the wildly popular Wild Geese — most likely because it departs from her usual nature-gazing style).
But this thin volume has me entranced. The sentences are short, clear, and the sentiment reverent and reflective. Reading it, I am giver and receiver. I am hushed and expectant.
Would it be better to sit in silence?
To think everything, to feel everything, to say nothing?
This is the way of the orange gourd.
This is the habit of the rock in the river, over which
the water pours all night and all day.
But the nature of man is not the nature of silence.
Words are the thunders of the mind.
Words are the refinement of the flesh.
Words are the responses to the thousand curvaceous moments—
we just manage it —
sweet and electric, words flow from the brain
and out the gate of the mouth.
We make books of them, out of hesitations and grammar.
We are slow and choosy.
This is the world.
I copy these words, messy and quick, into my journal. I want to inscribe the tone onto my muscle, my memory, the mysterious place in the brain where words gather to mix with experience and reason and later rearrange into poem. I do not understand this place or process but I hope immersion will leave a residue.
* * *
Yesterday, traveling roads far from home, I loosened in the quiet. Tires on route. Rolling miles. The sun showed up, warmed the dashboard with light. The pale sky brightened, and I could see.
And I am thinking: maybe just looking and listening
is the real work.
Maybe the world, without us,
is the real poem.