Monday, August 2, 2010

Holding Benjamin

No use to tell him that he

And the raccoon are brothers.

You have your soft ideas about nature,

He has others,

And they are full of his

White teeth

And lip that curls, sometimes,


You love this earnest dog,

But also you admire the raccoon

And Lord help you in your place

Of hope and improbables.

To the black-masked gray one:

Run! You say Run!

You say and just as urgently, to the dog:


And he won’t or he will,

Depending on more things than I could name.

He’s sure he’s right

And you, so tangled in your mind,

Are wrong,

Though patient and pacific.

And you are downcast.

And it’s his eyes, not yours,

That are clear and bright.

I once read an article about the violence between siblings. Brothers can pound horribly on one another – it is their way. So when I think of the raccoon and dog as brothers, and also caught in a terrible predator – prey cycle, I think of course, it is their way. Then I think of the human companion who feels the suffering of the one, and the responsibility of the other, and ultimately shame and guilt plays tag with acceptance for what is our way – to be complex social creatures who navigate in confusion the harm that we interconnected siblings inflict upon one another. We want there to be a right way and because we cannot discern how to meet everyone’s needs, we feel inadequate. What if we could move beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing as Rumi suggests in his poem?

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing,

There is a field.

I will meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make sense.

We could lie down in that field and play, and as we rubbed our noses in the fresh dirt and smelled the flowers, our hands would linger upon a half-buried bone, a sign of the carnage of our past and of our future. My prayer is that we do not run from that field, but stay engaged with reality and one another – no wrong doing, no right doing, but sure as heck a lot of pain and discomfort. My eyes are bright with living this possibility well, of helping each other hold awareness and acceptance of not a soft nature, but of a terribly beautiful whole and hard nature.

Do you think that predation and prey is an inevitable cycle in our lives; or, can we use our evolution possibility to support collaboration even more than competition?

1 comment:

  1. Dear Readers,

    You all may not be aware, but my spouse, Meredith Garmon has been writing me most days reflecting on these same Mary Oliver poems and what my writing brings up for him. His comments, as well as others who comment here, have enriched this experience for me. So I now include his reflection from today so that you might know the depth of sharing with Mary Oliver as our common entry into wonder.

    "Brothers" indeed.
    An apter word, perhaps, than M.O. knows.
    For brothers do fight so -- like dog and coon.
    And under the fighting there is the bond --
    The bond despite the fight
    The bond because of the fight,
    The bond expressed as the fight.
    When the throat growls, lips snarl, teeth bare, and the full-on death-aiming assault begins, do dogs know?
    Do raccoons?
    That this is the manifestation of their love?
    Do they know their competition is their collaboration?
    Do human brothers?
    Probably not. Though maybe later
    Curled up at rest
    They remember:
    How the wound they now lick was inflicted by the fullness-joy of the flow of life
    (They'd have died for that, and perhaps next time will)
    And what it felt like
    To be bright-eyed and clear