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Author: Ben Wolfe

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 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

shadow work

i am emerging into wholeness
through shards of brokenness,

i seem to long to watch me
nearly-not-survive —

i dodge life-ending fragments of my past
in bullet time

i am the actor,
i trained the actor,
i am the finished scene

i am behind the camera, watching me
not-knowing what the end will be

— September 25, 2008



how to get there

it has to do with calculus,
with breaking free
of the need to see
that one last step, the one that is
infinitely small,
as needing to be measured and divided
in its turn

it is zeno’s paradox,
we have puzzled it
for 2500 years,
circling the point,
at times infinitely close,

reaching for reunion with the whole,
yet always
steps beyond counting away,
as far as we began,

kept at bay
by this mind-made trick
that makes us stop to carve
one last small digital divide


and the welcome
on the other side

— December 17, 2005


dome interior, samarkand, uzbekistan

busy being born

i’m sorry i didn’t answer your message

i was busy being born

the trouble is
it happens every day —

how do i live
when being born
keeps getting in the way ¿

— March 28, 2006


poetry on wasan island