A Poem on Leading

We want to think that some­thing as elusive
and strong as a butterfly’s wing
can be con­tained by the fine fil­i­gree of language; 
that there are words that say what can’t be said
about the essence. Once and for all. If you’ve read 
all the books you still won’t know (I’ve tried) 
though your head will be filled with a million 
abstract geome­tries set just like constellations;
you go out­side only to find it’s night 
and as the cold air clears your brain, there
it is hov­er­ing, that strange­ly infinite 
arch­i­pel­ago of stars.

No one seems to believe that leading,
like being enlight­ened, or dying, or loving
well or bad­ly, or let­ting go of a lit­tle child to your­self, a stranger,
is not some car­rot in a secret garden,
wait­ing to be pulled up when need­ed. Once and for all, 
it can’t be served, though all the experts try so hard –
shout with such author­i­ty — to say their high-sound­ing bargains. 
Whether it’s five or sev­en or nine steps 
to nir­vana, the jar­gon just doesn’t mat­ter. Â 
It can’t be held like that,
it’s a baby.

You might as well say the Dylans knew, 
Bob the poet and Dylan Thomas the folk singer, 
the one named after the oth­er. Or you could hope 
to say that all the great Teach­ers knew 
and did so well before each one stepped 
in peace or skipped in suf­fer­ing through the portal –
once and for all. You could say there is some 
pro­pri­etary for­mu­la, known only to a few 
in Hol­ly­wood, that keeps us shelling out the dough
to see our­selves as hero or hero­ine and hope,
hope for the final heal­ing report at that last session –
just so we’d all know who real­ly had it, baby, 
and who didn’t.

Light pours down, like
inno­cence stuck to green ribbon:
it’s that thing that keeps invit­ing us to stand up
in our own lives, you know, unit­ing us in silence 
to say the obvious 
in the face of the risk of…what? Hold out
for the truth just because it’s right 
to know and say it and then not be shamed?
And then, to top it all off, with­out turn­ing the oth­er cheek, 
express exact­ly, once and for all time
some­thing so unwound­ed and bril­liant it brings
the whole dia­mond-like prob­lem to tears,
shear­ing it apart like the miraculous, 
weight­less atom we had per­son­al­ly forgotten
was already our own?

As that thing Dr. King said one day, like this.… 
once and for all
faith is tak­ing the first step
even when you can’t see 
the rest of your own

~Dan, 1/22/08


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  • Well said Dan!

  • Vincenza wrote:

    Love­ly, Dan. Thanks ever so much for the reminder that the risk is usu­al­ly much small­er than we make it out to be, and that an ounce of faith is all it takes for one step down the road, and all it takes is one step at a time.

  • Thank you, Dean and Vincenza!

    And, Vin­cen­za, yes, faith does seem to make a cru­cial dif­fer­ence to step­ping out of the shad­ows. We are made, I guess, so that know­ing is nev­er enough for us. The brain can­not think its way through every­thing — we must at some point dis­cov­er belief in our natures and des­tinies in order to take anoth­er step, the right step to unfold our own wings. I would say that assum­ing this rad­i­cal trust in our­selves can be the key to becom­ing total­ly alive.

    Best to both of you.

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