Four Lines Worth

I don’t know anything about holiness;
I thought I knew plenty –
I saw the high star to aim for:
It was bright as an angel.
I polished my wings and leapt towards it and
Dived into a crevasse in the Earth.
It was not Heaven,
But a blessed loss of grandeur,
Though it tore apart my wings.
Not sanctity,
But a prayer of gratitude
That comes near extinction:
For this leaf in the frosty morning,
The heron’s flight over the river
And this breath after the other
And this and this.

I’m left cold by great exclamations.
The words of the prophets are well-
Intentioned and sincere,
For the most part honest, but…
I know the touch of my fingertips,
The magic of honesty,
The way a body weaves
Its story of life’s untold mystery.
I’ll take a warm fire and the
Shared delight of sunset,
The majesty of the rising sun
And the incredible wonder
Of arriving on this Earth.

I haven’t turned aside from anything.
Simply, things have fallen away.
You could say to me:
‘All the way to heaven is heaven,’
Or ask me if the dog has Buddha-nature.
Who is any the wiser?
I’ve watched a universe unfold
In my blood and I’ve
Carried Baba Yaga a thousand miles
On my back.
What have I got to tell you?
‘Look after the trees.
Spend time in nature.
Smile at children.
Keep your kidneys warm.’

Not much to show for
Thirty-seven years?
Perhaps enough.
Hafiz and Naropa and the
Countless dazzling saints
Have said the rest
And will continue saying so
Until the end of time.
I’ll sit by the river and
Marvel at owls and rats and falcons.

In your body and mine,
There is a scripture
That needs not be written down.
Quiet as an oak in winter
And as eloquent as Spring;
A voice of blood and wonder,
Of bone and grief and joy.
When I speak to you
In the holy wilderness
Of our lives,
Let us read together
From that book
And forget that we ever
Once thought we knew
A thing.


7 thoughts on “Four Lines Worth

  1. Your poetry tells my story. Once again it speaks to me that I am not the only one on the journey…Thank-you for sharing your beautiful insight, through your gift…

  2. Oh! This resonated deeply. It seems as though I spent years studying ‘Zen’ and reading this book then that and quoting one then the other…then the point comes where it HITS you…
    And you see that your teacher, your meditation, your yoga, your “spirituality” is just These Everyday Things — moss, animals, splitting wood, delighting in a thunderstorm, the poly-rhythms of insects at dusk — and there’s nothing to say anymore, nothing to prove.

    That is what I get from this poem. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read.

  3. Your poems are beautiful Tom. I’m going share it on my Facebook. I’m a dance movement therapist and part of my work is with people who had traumatising experience and emotional struggles. Do you mind if I use some of your poems in my future workshops?

Please leave word - I don't often reply these days, but I do read and appreciate all comments. If you'd like to share my words elsewhere, please see NOTES ON SHARING in the top menu bar.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s