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.  
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
staircase.

~Dan, 1/22/08

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3 Comments

  • 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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