The old man tells me of his friend (and I am his friend)
as we drive home from dinner. He falls to weeping
over the buddy he sang with in the church quartet
all those many years ago.
His friend died young, aged 48, and he stopped
singing then (at 72 he sings to me as we drive).
The pain of sad loss trembles from him, the words
and images fall into my lap for safe keeping — this
is a heart opening into hearing as I whisper the normal
“I’m sorry” and “I know it still hurts” because that is what
one does —
But I want say — “I am listening” and “I will put this
in a poem” Your heart — THIS big with love —
“I will save it forever for you in a poem.” But
I only whisper the normal solaces one gives,
watch his tears fall and listen as he shivers —
His frail voice singing a song about a Lighthouse
as I take his aged hand in mine
across the center console of the car.
In the night drive home after dinner
in the shimmer and melody on air
and the spring of tears trembling down —
The ghost of his friend rides with us
on through the dark night
as hands both living and dead
reach out and touch —
And a poem is planted, unfurls —
Grows into a new song.
Memory: Bright-eyed boy telling me about Shark’s teeth — I was above and beyond the mire of irrationality then — as Seger says Deadlines & Commitments What to leave in, what to leave out.
Reality: There are dozens of us hundreds
walking the shoreline of Myrtle
each day —
You will know us by our eyes
cast down, scanning the sand
looking for Grace reflected
in an ebony shine.
We are a greedy and gracious lot
depending on our need in that hour.
because we need every syllable God whispers.
seeing another seeker with empty hands –
we smile and pass a treasure off –
Here, these are for you.
Handing the letters of God to others
because we are all seeking
words to ease the suffering
of all the questions
that convince us
there is any other answer
there is an answer
in the sand
to who we are –
why we love –
how we are here.
True silence is the rest of the mind. -William Penn
Be silent or let thy words be worth more than silence. – Pythagoras
The silence is much louder than I remember.
Words are a shrill hawker of the street promoting unwanted wares and thoughts roll in thundering reverberation across a mental landscape of water, air and mist. Time has an ebb and flow about it. The concrete solid state of things wavers – there is a stillness beyond that beckons, calls, whispers, pleads…soaks into tired bones and weary mucles, flows across the brokenness of heart, the tattered rags of ego. I have lived almost a year in this place where silence screams.
It started in a hotel room in Pryor, Oklahoma. A long day moving metal – selling cars – at another store, in another town. The idea hit me when I sat down on the bed – “I will not write again.” It was a simple, resigned understanding that washed through my mind and into my soul. Sadness followed the thought, a requiem to what writing had once been to me. And then, just a dull sense of loss and the knowledge that part of me would die with all the unspoken words. A better part of me somehow, in my estimate, a part that had believed in love, justice, and mercy. The niave world of letters and words and stories was something of my past, but I couldn’t see it as a realistic part of my future. The storyteller was saying goodbye.
The thought of never writing again was a foreign concept to me. I had been writing since I could write – my first poems where published when I was nine years old. I had spent years freelancing, achieving consistent yearly publication for 13 years. I had created and published two small-press magazines and edited writers working for me from all across the country. My most treasured possessions in life were pens, papers, and books. And I had been an avid journal keeper and letter writer all of my life. “Never writing again” would have been a funny, ridiculous concept to me prior to September 2008.
But, that night, sitting on the bed in a run-down motel, it was a concept that suddenly seemed real and logical. After all, people grow up and they change. I was about to turn 41 the next month, and I had been working 65-70 hours a week in an insane job for over four years. There wasn’t time to write anymore, and honestly, I couldn’t imagine having anything else to say. I prayed about the realization – it seemed more like that than an actual decision, and then I started thinking about all the projects I would never complete and the books that would remain unwritten. I said goodbye to the words and the person I had been when I cared so much about them.