Sunday, January 30, 2011

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass


Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat
of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or
forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say - behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings
of this gritty earth gift.


Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone's face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs….


Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
The dancer, the potter,
To make me a begging bowl
Which I believe
My soul needs.

And if I come to you,
To the door of your comfortable house
With unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
Will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.


We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we change.
Congratulations, if
You have changed.


Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some fabulous reason?

And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure-
Your life-
What would do for you?


What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements,
through with difficulty.
I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment
somehow or another).
And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself.  Then forget it.  Then, love the world.

Someday I feel like a child playing in the meadow, while bombs fly over head and digging parties put friends into the ground next to where I stare in wonder at the trees.  What do I mean by this?  Some days I grow weary of fighting – I just want to love the world. 

For instance I am at a bird conference now.  Many of these people, if not most, have wild parrots as companions in their home, or raise them for various reasons, including making a livelihood.  I am mostly of the clan, “mutual other” where I see birds as beings with their own inherent worth and dignity. After years of studying them in the wild, my heart hurts to have them in captivity where we humans make most of the choices for them.  Those surrounding me are mostly of the clan, “utilitarian.”  Humans have ultimate control over birds and it is not an ethical dilemma to control them and place them into our lives, where the birds live quite differently from their natural and evolved behavior.  Truly I guess that all of us belong to both clans, to the one clan called earth.

So I find myself torn – is it possible to fight with one’s self for any worthwhile reason? How do I speak of my truth, of my longing, and of my pain while letting the other know that I hold their needs tenderly and that we are of the family of things?

I go to the other, hold out my begging bowl, and ask them to fill it with their beauty.

As our cups fill together, may we forget to love only ourselves, and instead love the world.

Love the world…them’s good fighting words!

To whom or to what do you hold out your begging bowl today?


  1. I think I hold my begging bowl out to be filled with beauty from the world a lot. I liked the way she put the mutual exchange which benefits both.
    "I would like to take this chance."
    (to see if you can fill my need)
    "I would like to give you this chance."
    (using the knowledge that giving fills a need to belong and be useful, etc.)
    I hold out my begging bowl to my neighborhood children and they respond by helping me and feeling needed, belonging and appreciated when they are at my house. They help me remember to play and not take myself too seriously. As you said, "As our cups fill together, may we forget to love only ourselves, and instead love the world."

  2. Perhaps appearing with a beggar's bowl - unwashed is a risk for her as we tend to not want to ask for things of others, and we tend to want to appear a certain way before the world especially our friends. Then it is kind of biting because she asks if you would still see her humanity and see past the things we have aversion towards -or fear of, and extend your heart and your resources to her.

  3. You missed the 3rd stanza; one of the most stunning parts of this poem..

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