Song for Meher
The sunlight of long ago was soft and long and lay like pale fire in the air,
soft breath humid, leaves languid, sweetly tired.
Lost sunlight, lost time, a wave of Your hand in the pulsing air,
a glance suddenly turned in my direction, a smile in the shape of an arrow,
a sigh wrenched from the lips of a thousand throats.
Where did the sunlight go, he wondered?
Where did it fade to, like lost weight.
The somewhere it went is still there…a bright and shining day.
And we walked through sunlight thick as stars.
Turning, I saw sundrops in Your hair.
A light breeze lifted one of Your curls and I was lifted away.
Now in the frozen dark of my forty-seventh winter,
I hunt the sun.
Vanished sunlight of long ago, found sunlight (and stars’ envy)
of Nineteen-Fifty-Four, the shadows of Your swiftly moving feet
above the turning earth more bright than a thousand suns.
Afternoon tea on a tabled lawn, late afternoon sun golding the grass,
the folds of a muslin dress lifting slightly in a sudden soft breeze.
Continents of cloud drift overhead.
(Have I learned too late not to worry?
Have I learned too late that “leaving everything to You”
implies not passivity but activity of the highest order?
Or have I lingered too long in the country of the blind,
turning my face ever away from Your face?)
(When will it deepen in me that really depending on You
doesn’t mean knocking on Your door every two seconds,
hoping for a friendly smile, a pat on the head, and a confirming nod,
but just sort of going ahead anyway and doing what feels right,
not really giving a damn but giving the action to You.)
(When will I understand that to rely upon You does not mean
to lay the full weight of my load upon Your shoulders, broad as any galaxy,
but rather to walk forward, without continually looking over my shoulder,
somehow sure that You are walking beside me.)
Vanished sunlight on a vanished world, lost sunlight on vanished faces
seen in black and white on an old, old screen.
When You smiled from your car and then sped swiftly away a thousand hearts
went with You.
The road turns back the way it came;
Forward or back, each seemed the same.
Which the beginning, and which the end?
Impossible to measure the smile of the Friend.
The film threads its way through the projector.
The film of time runs so much faster now that you have
come and gone
come and gone
an echo in my heart.
Who could plumb the depths of Your eyes –
two oceans with no bottom, no shore.
Who could gauge the breadth of Your smile –
stretching to everyhere to everythere.
All the tears that have ever been cried
could not equal one drop of Your ocean –
yet it is with tears that we drown in You.
O God Almighty Sustainer of my every breath!
Bear me swiftly to my self’s death,
that I may awake and sing a new song –
a song of one note singing its way to You.
Late afternoon sun, hammered brass, the air thick with risen and fallen dust.
A million impressions of a million lives, rescinded, revoked, renewed,
just in time for Your smile to rise like the sun.
Summer shadows lengthen,
goldenrods and fireflies float in the heat-throbbed air.
Heart rise and sorrow set over an enormous summer moon.
Memory like a shadow lengthens across the span of our lives,
darkening the empty places with a strange longing.
Memory plagues the hours with its insistent whisper
heard above the roar of events and circumstance;
it licks at the lobe of our ear and arouses a longing too deep for words;
it quilts the comforter we throw round our shoulders in the cold and dark.
And memory is a whisper heard as a thunderclap.
The light was lambent as it struck Your cheek,
illuminating a fairy network of vessels and tears.
The shadow cast by just one of Your eyelashes
was enough to rest in, and to sleep.
So in that shadow I took my rest,
and awoke as the beat of your heart.
The glance You shot at me toppled my dreams,
yet I clung to them like a mountain climber
on a breaking precipice.
Would that I could have let myself fall,
and broken the fall with thoughts of You.
Bright stars in their turning stop turning; the engines of infinity
deliberately lose a second just to pay You an eternity of obeisance.
Would that I could slip unnoticed into the eternity of that lost second
and pay You obeisance forever.
Raised hands lift like palms in the sleepy air to bid You goodbye
once more, yet once more.
Summer and woodsmoke, sandalwood smiles.
Time was, time was, time was.
In some lost lifetime I held an umbrella over Your head
and that lost sunlight I so carefully shielded You from
I have been trying to recapture ever since.
To have walked in the footsteps You once had trod
Is to walk in the footsteps of Almighty God.
To have walked in the sun which streamed down upon You
Is to have walked an eternal mile or two.
O! lost sunlight that I can never now share
Shines still in time upon lovely Meher.
O! lost sunlight, now lost to me
Must remain for me, mere reverie.
I walked in sunlight long since gone,
Threads of lights ‘twixt dusk and dawn.
I walked on ground You’d once passed by.
What to do now but ache and sigh?
Time has distanced what can never be:
Just a moment’s meeting ‘tween You and me.
What use are regrets for what might have been?
That one day, by Your grace, this meeting I’ll win.
Now I move in a harder light, a harsher light,
ringing with sirens and cellular phones,
the sound of angels’ wings drowned out
by the electric dynamo of progress.
We moved through a slower time, a more tender time, or so it seems
when seen through the distant lens of memory, the slowly moving seconds
a gentler finger on the pulse of a slower time,
take it slow, take it slow, take it slow.
The sky an untrafficked blue, the sky as yet unpierced by skyscrapers,
the sky still a bed for dreams.
The seasons turned more slowly, or so it seems.
And there was always more time.
We didn’t demand that every minute be filled to the last second.
Whole hours might be allowed to pass without regret
that an opportunity we only imagined had been lost forever.
Now our opportunities are our undoing.
Okay, so there was an unhealthy heaviness to the past;
it lay dead all around you and no one bothered to pick it up.
It was dead, alright, and so God had to come and quicken the pace a little,
set in motion the springtide of creation and all the other tides that foam forth
from His shores.
Don’t mean to belittle Your energy, God, but how about a little balance here, okay?
There should be time for time, for Christ’s sake, time to savor God’s name
on our tongues instead of the latest stock quote and theater review.
Evenings lit only by starlight and moonlight and cowdung fires
and kerosene lamps linger longer in the memory than the neon evenings
of our own present.
Now the days are seized by enormities and alarums masquerading
We communicate not face to face anymore but over cell and fax and modem;
no eyes meet, no hands touch, our empty words couched
in business speak, the vocabulary of machines.
Now is the time of remembrance, for the backward glance
and the inward turning.
Now is the time to lock arms with stillness, to tightly embrace
the escaping quiet.
Now is the time of surrenderance;
time to stop twisting and turning and squirming;
time to deliver the weight of myself into Your hands;
time to let the Sculptor mold the clay.
There will be many protestations on behalf of the clay;
it will cry out at the slightest touch, but heed it not.
It will resist the Sculptor’s every attempt to expose the form
hiding within, but heed it not.
It is only a lump of clay that labors under the mighty delusion
that it is its own creator.
It sings its songs and thinks its thoughts and speaks its words
and writes its words and does not realize that without the Sculptor
it is just a thoughtless, wordless lump of clay.
Ah, but what a proud and vainglorious lump of clay it is!
How pleased it is with itself!
What a beautiful lump of clay I am!
So very fashionable!
So very au currant!
So very…oh! I just don’t know what!
I’m just about the most wonderful lump of clay that ever came down the pike!
But one day, if the lump of clay is very good and behaves itself,
it meets its Sculptor and begins to realize that it could use some adjusting,
a little smoothing here and there where the years have sharpened the edges.
And if the clay has any sense, any sense at all, it will stop fighting the Sculptor
and submit to His design.
This takes courage on the part of the clay, but even courage and sense are part
of the Sculptor’s design.
Now is the time of surrenderance;
time to stop twisting and turning and squirming;
time to deliver the weight of myself into the Sculptor’s hands;
time to let the Sculptor mold the clay any damn way He pleases.
Now is the time of forgiveness,
to forgive in heart what cannot be forgiven in mind.
The wiping away of regret with an act of wishful thinking,
the cleansing of wounds by the operation of tears.
Slow candles lit by broken bedsides,
bundles of seared sheets in a tangle on the floor.
The stripping of one bed for the next occupant.
I thought forgiveness would be easier after death.
How could I have known that it should have been accomplished
while I still had breath?
O Mason, take this stone heart and make it weep
at the slightest touch of Your hand.
Take these stone eyes and make cool drops appear
at the sight of Your lovely face.
Take this stone tongue and make it cry Your praises
where none but You can hear.
Take this stone of myself, soiled and filthy from being dragged
down the years, and melt it down in the heat of Your love.
And though this stone may cry out and shed tears,
heed it not; it is only a stone crying out
to return to its home of dust.
Forgive us our strangers, Lord,
those millions of wants and desires that keep us from You,
those trespassers on the hallowed ground of our trust.
Forgive us our strangers, Father,
those millions of yens and yearnings,
those occupiers of the rooms of our hearts.
Forgive us our strangers, Friend,
those hungers and hankerings after fame
and fortune in men’s eyes.
Forgive us our strangers, Beloved,
those intimates of our nighttime hours,
those snake-tongued temptresses who whisper Why not?
So seductively in our ears.
Forgive us these foreigners
who populate Your country in such great number,
who are so fruitful and multiply so quickly.
Forgive us our strangers, Lord,
whom we are always more eager to embrace
than our truest and best Friend.
To stop struggling like a fish and surrender to the hook,
to allow one’s self to be reeled in hook, line and sinker
into the waiting arms of the Fisherman,
that is the desire, but not the accomplishment.
To allow one’s self to be pulled wriggling from the water,
gasping for air, and to die upon shore,
that is the imagined bravery.
To remember You between the spaces of our own self-remembrance,
to sneak you in between the wayward laugh and the inconsequential tear,
that is the goal, but not its achievement.
To hear You between the millioned moments of our self-made noise
that is desire, but not its fulfillment.
It was one of your dear ones who once so sagely pointed out
that the words LISTEN and SILENT contained the same letters,
because to really and truly hear You silence one must listen to it
so that we may hear it’s ever-speaking voice speaking always
in our hearts.
He is in the silences, that is where he can be heard most clearly.
He is in that moment between systole and diastole,
between the taking of one breath and the exhalation of another,
between grief and the welling tear,
between joy and the sudden smile.
He is in the silences.
He is in that moment when wakefulness surrenders to sleep,
when soul slips from body, (a moment whose echo reverberates as another life).
He is in the silences, that moment between hunger and satiety,
between thirst and its quenching,
between pain and its surcease.
Do not listen for His silence amidst the noise of living;
listen for Him in the untrodden places of the heart
where even one second,
divided into ten thousand separate units,
may each hold all the silence there is to hear.
So we struggle through the days, hauling our hearts
and a thousand lifetimes’ worth of baggage and good intentions.
And one day there we are, on the mighty precipice of imagined bravery,
arms outflung to empty air, ready to jump, but still standing, feet planted firmly,
solidly, on the ground.
And there will come a time when you will want to remember everything:
the fragrant laughter of children, the way sunlight filled a room,
the slow way summer night came, the sound of an electric fan
in a slowly darkening room,
the patter of summer rain on the window and the steady rise and fall of breath
from the sweetly closed mouth of one who has slept and kept by your side
these many faithful years.
And you will remember all these things and more, holding it all so tightly
against your heart that it hurts.
And if you hold it to yourself hard enough and long enough,
you may one day be able to hold it with open arms.
And the work you labored over so long in offices of brittle light
will not linger long in your memory;
the awards and speeches have already been deleted from your computer,
now initialized with someone else’s name.
Instead you will remember the held glance and the encouraging touch,
not the stapled smiles nor the endless hollow hours that contained them.
And you will go out of your life thinking not of the memo
that praised your over-the-weekend efforts before a big pitch
but of the sudden smile of a child as it glanced up to you for just a second
before skipping merrily across the street and out of your life forever.
How sad is time.
How sad is time that turns young men old and old men into ghosts.
How sad is time that turns a well man sick and a sick man into a shade.
How sad is time that occupies itself with nothing
and makes you pay for that nothing with your life.
How sad is time that turns your head away from that face and that name
with the promise of name and fame that promises to be forgotten.
How sad is time that engraves on countless plaques, “In memory of…”
when even that memory is wiped away when those who mounted the plaque
have themselves passed away.
Name and fame the flung away layers of an onion,
memory disremembering itself.
And time is turning the pages.
What is dust? Asked the professor to himself.
What is this something which apparently comes from nothing?
Suddenly one day the professor knew.
Dust, said the professor to himself, is God’s seal upon what we call the past.
And each layer of dust is, as it were, a page from His diary,
which, having once been written, is turned over by Him, never to be read again.
And the professor sighed.
And I Have Passed This Way Before
And I have passed this way before
On my way to love, on my way to war.
The cities, the towns, the ocean’s shore
Tell me I’ve passed this way before.
A street, a road, a gabled roof
Each one a seeming solid proof
That I passed them once in age or youth
Robust or young, or minus a tooth.
A church, a school, a meadow fair,
Something has drawn my footsteps there.
Memory’s flame in my heart does flare
But sears the memory of when and where.
A cloud, a tree, a morning clear
Whisper to me, You’ve once been here,
Though not, I’m afraid, for many a year.
Is that the cause of this sudden tear?
I can’t remember, but something odd
Has caused me to stop and faintly nod.
Perhaps it’s where my feet have trod
Or knelt to an all-forgiving God.
What distant memory knocks at my door?
What devilish drill through my heart does bore?
The ache of a memory I cannot restore
Tells me I’ve passed this way before.
Each Life Is a Dress Rehearsal
Each life is a dress rehearsal
For the one that follows next.
Each day conforms to each new page
Of a previously written text.
Our actions herald grief or joy,
Our words may herald woe;
Together they determine who we will be
From head to predestined toe.
The run of the play, its chosen cast
And its wide array of reviews
Can each be cast in any light—
You simply have to choose
The words you speak, the deeds you do;
Both will set the stage
For the drama that’s about to unfold
From that previously written page.
For each day lived now, one page is writ
In a book not yet in print,
But will soon be stamped with your nature, sure
As a coin from your own mint.
And When I Reach My Final Day
And when I reach my final day, who shall have the final say?
My wife or the friend of some long-passed day?
Who shall make the final decision long after the last bloody incision?
Who will decide to pull the plug on this old, mustachioed, but mortal mug?
And at the last moment, who will win the game,
Myself, or Him, whose prayer-like name
I might or might not remember, more woe to my soul
If indeed I should forget to remember Him whole.
Will I pass away with His name on my lips?
Or shall my soul set sail on future ships?
If I don’t begin to remember Him now,
Will my last uttered question be the dreaded word, “How?”