Three Poems, by Mark Nepo

Photograph by Stephan Gersh

Photograph by Stephan Gersh

Saturated

Heavy drops, carrying more
than they can bear, fall from no-
where, bending leaves already
sagging, and one by one,
the leaves let go.

They drift to the earth,
each quiet as a master
juggler missing everything so
completely that he realizes
he is being juggled.

Surrender is like this.
Not giving up, but
missing and letting go.

Where is God?

It’s as if what is unbreakable
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.

It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.

Transformation

It could be the letter never answered
the one in which you declared your love
in such a tender way, admitting to every-
thing. Or when the shell you brought all
the way from the Philippines is dropped
by some loud stranger you never wanted
to show it to in the first place. It could all
unravel the moment the shell shatters on
your floor. Or on a summer bench, your
eyes closed, your fear about to vanish, the
heat bathing you as bees begin to fly.

It could happen anywhere you linger
too long, anywhere you stop hauling and
counting, when your mind spills its tangle
of lists. Often it comes with the relaxation
of great pain. When the hip finally mends
enough to step. Or your need to know
is broken by a bird lifting into light.

Or when succeeding in being something
you’re not. Being influential when you’re
shy. Or rugged when you’re tender.

Or while watching an old tree slip into
winter, like the one thing you won’t let
go of dropping all its leaves.

When the elements in all their beauty
reshape our eyes, it is God’s kiss: gentle
as erosion. When you could crumble in
an instant—all your pain, salt waiting
for a wave—you are close.

From Parabola Volume 38, No. 4, “Liberation & Letting Go,” Winter 2013. This issue is available to purchase here. If you have enjoyed this piece, consider subscribing.

 

About the Author

Mark Nepo is a poet and philosopher who has taught in the fields of poetry and spirituality for forty years. A New York Times #1 best-selling author, his work has been translated into more than twenty languages. He has published fourteen books and recorded nine audio projects. His book Seven Thousand Ways To Listen won the 2012 Books for a Better Life Award.

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