Tuesday, June 2, 2009

You See I Want A Lot

Rainer Maria Rilke

You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.

So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.

But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.

I've always been a big reader, voracious and restless; keeping stacks of books piled on the table next to my bed, always afraid of not having a new book by my side. I love to read several books at a time--maybe a good memoir and a new novel, while paging through a piece of nonfiction to learn something new. But for years reading has been about the escape. Reading books has always been about taking me to another place that is not HERE, that is not where I am, but somewhere far away, where I want to be instead.

Lately I've been reading a lot of poetry. Rediscovering something wonderful, a long-buried passion I had nearly forgotten. I love the cadences and rhythms of verse; not so much rhyme, but I'll take a rhyme if it's a good one. I love the voices of poets. They way they can take a simple phrase, sometimes just a word and make it sound so powerful. I love how one line of a poem can sometimes suck the breath from your body, make you want to drop to your knees, make you cry out in solidarity with the unseen poet, because you know EXACTLY how they felt when they wrote it.

I love how poetry, for me, is more about the here and now than the escape. It can send me free-falling WITHIN my everyday life to a place I didn't even realize existed, a place I didn't know I was capable of living. I think for a long time there has been an unrequited longing deep within me to give myself over to life, to stop walking through it without noticing what is around me. A crack of light has been let in, a fault line that is getting wider, deeper. A desire to embrace the darkness, to call it to me and let it reveal it's meaning. As Rumi says in the poem, "Prayer is an Egg":

Hatch out the total helplessness inside.

Does that make sense? It's an awakening and the revelation that the terrors of my past, the fear and anxiety and loss and suffering, all of it, it's all important. It's all part of my creation, it all means something, has brought me somewhere--brought me here--hatched me in THIS moment . . .

The lesson here for me is about living this life fully and well. It's about living with kindness and respect and a great depth of love. It's about leaving grief behind and being willing to take risks. It's about being open to possibility and creativity and the best things that life can give us. Antonio Machado's poem "Last Night As I Was Sleeping" says it so well:

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt--marvellous error!--
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

That verse, right there, it drops me to my knees and makes me cry out.

It reminds me that life is good, really good. In it's simple way it inspires me to grab hold and take the life that is meant to be mine.

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