new rules (labour day)

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
know 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
and we can do
as we see fit

— September 4, 2017


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

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

— spring 2005


groundhog day

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

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


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

a half-real world

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)


poppy (“feeed me”) · ben wolfe

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

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.

the plan for my school

i will take your children to the farthest star
and read them stories


wild stories
of home

— February 1, 2005



my anger came back

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


photo: ben wolfe
photo: ben wolfe


(Rumi, version by Coleman Barks)

Drumsound rises on the air,
its throb, my heart.

A voice inside the beat
says, “I know you’re tired,
but come. This is the way.”

Conscious Closure (Vanessa Reid)

In this TEDx talk of unusual scope and beauty (Toronto, May 2015) Vanessa Reid, a pioneering social innovator, explores the wildness and creativity in life that are possible only in the embrace of the full cycle of existence — which includes dying. Our organizations, our parents, ourselves — all of us are on a journey that has an end, and the ability to “kiss the joy as it flies” has much to do with our capacity for conscious closure.