when were you born ¿

Light streaming through clouds in the Inner Hebrides
inner hebrides, november 30, 2017 · ben wolfe

filling out a form
i was asked
when were you born ¿

there was no room to answer,
i was born a thousand times
yesterday alone

i am being born right now,

do you not see the blood ¿
do you not feel the contractions ¿
can you not hear
the endless mother-cry of
healed and broken joy ¿

— december 20, 2007

new rules (labour day)

sun-flower (black-eyed susan in millennium park, peterborough · ben wolfe

the world is as it is
because we so often followed the rules,
did as we were trained

used ‘best practices’
rather than our love
or higher brains

what if —
at first for just a half an hour a day,
until our long-domesticated hopes
recall the taste of it

we tell each other,
tell our disbelieving selves

that in this one small pregnant slice of time
our highest aspirations
are the rules

our longings are the compass, and the map,
the light that knows
and shows the next small step

they are the seed
that knows it is a tree

and we are free
to do
as we see fit

— September 4, 2017

love and fear

love and fear are the two directions,
i stand at each infinite end

my straddling feet make the circle complete
a line is a circle
once you know
it can
bend

— spring 2005

 

groundhog day

found art, jackson park, peterborough, ontario, canada · ben wolfe

do you remember the day i said
i was trying to figure out how to be
a buddhist who is being shot at ¿

i think i’ve found the way

what you do is
you die
if necessary
and as many times as necessary

you do it over and over,
and each time
your face forms
the same compassionate smile

the same sadness
the same forgiveness
over and over
like a character in bill murray’s movie
groundhog day,
doomed and blessed
to live the same
beautiful, endless
lesson

until
one miraculous day
that may never come
(and yet always comes)

it is learned
and this one part of the cycle
no longer needs to return —

and the crazy thing is
that all this time,
through every death-forgiving smile,
each blow and new denial
this is not some sad sacrificing martyrdom,
some hopeless, hopeful
offering of yourself as willing victim

no, you are doing this for you
because you know
that nothing brings more joy, more life, more hope, more peace
when being shot at like this

than finding the alchemy of forgiveness

over and over

until you, too
have finally learned enough
of what this day had to teach you

and are ready

for some
larger pain
to reach you

— april 10, 2006

a half-real world

poppy (“feeed me”) · ben wolfe

you live in a half-real world
of half-truths,
or rather you half-live there

how much of your life
do you spend spinning your stories,
how much trying to believe them ¿

you use your facts like bait,
cut off a tiny corner of the truth,
some bit that isn’t festering

dangle it on a string

half-believing in your own kindness
for making such an offering

and watch for some trophy of a future
you can hook

— June 22, 2007

(written for someone i was hurt by trusting,
revived in the first week of the trump presidency)

 

The Fountain

(by Denise Levertov)

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water
to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen

the fountain springing out of the rock wall
and you drinking there. And I too
before your eyes

found footholds and climbed
to drink the cool water.

The woman of that place, shading her eyes,
frowned as she watched-but not because
she grudged the water,

only because she was waiting
to see we drank our fill and were
refreshed.

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
That fountain is there among its scalloped
green and gray stones,

it is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,

up and out through the rock.

my anger came back

photo: ben wolfe
photo: ben wolfe

my anger came back —
the bastard moved into my basement :
he wants to tell me my story again

can i be a patient friend ¿
let him say his peace ¿
open my hands, like a priest
saddled with a self-absorbed parishioner
and say :
“tell me about that” ¿

i need him to stop his complaining
he had me on the run today
i got nothing done today,
i was just jerking around
letting him pull my strings

maybe if i listen
maybe if i can breathe my frustration away

and hear what he has to say

the bastard

will go away

— September 11, 2005