Finding a Teacher (a poem by W.S. Merwin)

FINDING A TEACHER
By W.S. Merwin

In the woods I came on an old friend fishing
and I asked him a question
and he said Wait

fish were rising in the deep stream
but his line was not stirring
but I waited
it was a question about the sun

about my two eyes
my ears my mouth
my heart the earth with its four seasons
my feet where I was standing
where I was going

it slipped through my hands
as though it were water
into the river
it flowed under the trees
it sank under hulls far away
and was gone without me
then where I stood night fell

I no longer knew what to ask
I could tell that his line had no hook
I understood that I was to stay and eat with him

http://www.merwinconservancy.org/2017/05/finding-a-teacher-by-w-s-merwin/

~BT Waldbillig
May 24, 2017

The Journey (a poem by David Whyte)

THE JOURNEY
By David Whyte

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

~BT Waldbillig
May 15, 2017

Upon Glimpsing a Plaster-Cracked Virgin

I recently discovered a handful of poems I wrote many years ago in Rome. When I was in need of a place to stay for a few months, my friends Miriam and Chris let me crash in their guest room. Every morning I would walk in a nearby park and write a few verses as a sort of spiritual exercise. Some of the poems are stiff and mannered but a few, like Roman Market, aren’t entirely terrible. In that spirit, I dedicate this poem to Lilli, my friends’ departed canine companion who brought joy to everyone she encountered. Well, almost everyone, since there’s a waiter at a restaurant near the Lungotevere in Rome who might disagree. Much like the Zen master slamming his pupil’s foot with a door again and again until the pupil attains enlightenment,  Lilli used her canine chompers to awaken the careless waiter with big feet. To my experience dogs, like rain drops, are far more effective spiritual teachers than even the most learned and eloquent of men.

Lilli

~BT Waldbillig
March 26, 2017
– – – – –
Roman Market

October 2003

I turn my wine-heavy head
and hurry past an ancient
tribal matron
settling into a forgotten corner
of the abandoned market
still littered with rotting abundance

settling under a faded Madonna
she hopes perhaps for shelter
from the delirious clouds
swiftly drifting across the muddy sky
and whistling hot-cold gusts
over the asphalt desert

thunder-crackle deafens me
to her mumbled request
as I lift my eyes to glimpse
the tempest’s first droplets alight
the plaster-cracked Virgin

and marvel at how
they resemble tears

‘You Do Not Have to Be Good’

American poet Mary Oliver offers a reminder that there is room within a spiritual family for all of its members, whoever and whatever they may be. A parent doesn’t stop loving a child because of the child’s wicked deeds or hateful words. A son of today doesn’t reject the life he has received nor does a daughter of today hate the blood that courses through her veins because of some wicked ancestor. Even the mistakes of the past and the errors of the present bear witness to the possibility of beneficial spiritual transformation. Too often our fixed ideas and habitual patterns of thought and perception distract us from the change that is already taking place in this very moment.

~BT Waldbillig
February 10, 2017
– – – – –
Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Click here to hear the author read this poem.