And all of my practices have been replaced by poetry…Rumi
I’ve been posting a lot of poems recently. I love poetry, and reading it is one of my favorite ways to spend time, ever. Also foot rubs from Craig.
I’d like to explain why I post so much poetry here . . . because each time I do I get emails saying: C’mon, G…we need funny. Didn’t you set anything on fire today? What’d Tish do? Got any shirtless pictures of Craig? Let’s have some pan talk!
I know you need funny. But in addition to laughing here, we are also exploring ways to communicate our feelings and ideas non-combatively with other people. We are trying to find common ground. And I think poetry is a good start.
Poetry is one person’s heart to another person’s heart. Sometimes when I’m reading a poem, a moment arrives in which I discover the question that the poet is trying to answer. And my heart leaps a little. And I realize that I also have that question, and have been trying to answer it forever. My answer might be the same or different than the poet’s, but the answer doesn’t matter, really. I’m just so grateful that someone else is asking the same questions. Makes me feel human. Discovering the question behind someone’s poem is like being invited into her most special, private room. It’s an honor.
I don’t write poetry or fiction, but I wish I did. I might start trying, actually. Because they’re the only two forms of writing that don’t feel bossy to me. It’s hard to take offense to a story or a poem. Poets remind us to think and feel without telling us how to think and feel. This is how art differs from say, politics and preaching. Good art doesn’t have an ulterior motive. It just says…In this busy, bossy, distracted, confusing world, I have to keep remembering what it means to be human, to be divine. Will you remember with me? And so people with wildly different ideas and opinions and styles can come together over a good poem, and have a moment together. Because truth is truth. C’mon. We know it. We just like to argue to pass the time.
My favorite thing about poetry is that it reveals both the power and powerlessness of language. The poet uses language to reveal a truth that resonates so deeply in my heart and I’m saying YES, YES, YES, That’s IT. That’s RIGHT. That’s TRUE.
But that’s all I got, usually. I can’t put into words what it is that my heart is celebrating.
I just know that The Truth is in that poem and so all of a sudden I feel known and understood and connected and forgiven. And I also feel like my suspicions have been confirmed . .. that the truth is simple after all!
But I can’t describe with words what it is that the poet and I have shared in that moment, what it is specifically that we both know. What she has revealed and I have seen. There are no words. It’s just this deep, deep knowing. It seems just outside of my peripheral vision. But this inability to grasp it fully is how I know it’s true. Because language has its limits. Words are not God. So it follows that God cannot be reached only through words. We have to use our hearts, too. We can’t really understand the prayer or the poem. We have to feel it. We have to remember that the poet’s words are just the map, not the destination. The poet does not prepare the food. The poet is just the menu writer God uses to present dishes that might taste good, might nourish. The creation of the food and the tasting of it are between God and the reader. And so the poet presents the menu respectfully, then steps away and lets the Two eat together in peace.
There is something about prayers and poems, monks and poets, that is exactly the same. They try to live in a place where truth is found behind (beyond?) words. Their hearts meet beyond the words. They could never describe that place, that place where they meet, their destination. But they know how to get there. And they know the others will be waiting there when they arrive. Because that’s where they have agreed to commune. Just beyond the words they are saying or chanting or reading.
It’s like this. Can’t you read this poem and know exactly where the poet stands without explanation or commentary? Don’t you just know? Doesn’t it make you want to smile and nod and wink at somebody, but wouldn’t you have a hard time explaining why? It’s okay, I don’t think we should try to explain. Because then lots of words would become involved and we might hurt each other accidentally. The beauty is that we can just read the poem, and meet behind and beyond the words. And giggle.
The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
So yes, Monkees. There will be kitchen stories. There will be shirtless pictures of Craig. But there will also be poetry. Always, always poetry.
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest