The Industry of No

The Industry of No October 14, 2013


My new book of poems, Reduced to Joy, has just been published. The book contains seventy-three poems, retrieved and shaped over the last thirteen years, about the nature of working with what we’re given till it wears us through to joy. For the next few months, I’d like to share poems from the new book with you.


The greatest threshold to an awakened life is the courage to say yes. Not yes to being abused or mistreated, but yes to the authority of your own being which touches on the sea of all being. This quality of spirit is even more in need in a society that views saying no as some form of sophistication, as some necessary way to be more practical and less innocent. However, it is innocence that returns us to wonder. This poem explores the culture of no we live in.


The Industry of No

He was born in the river of yes

but looking for love wandered into

the industry of no, where the no-police

left warnings of don’t and the no-ministers

preached their morals of can’t. And soon,

he couldn’t help himself, he wanted to

try on no. So when his dog pawed his

shirt, he scolded her no, and when

two kids ran a shopping cart into his

parked car, he cuffed them no. And

when someone he liked started to come

close, he let her near but said he wasn’t

ready. Now he discovered there were

other ways to say no. When he was hired

as a no-engineer, he was sadly happy to work

alone. Steadily, he designed signs that said

stop and electronic guns that fired bullets

with a muffled no. The work of no kept

him very busy. If you called, you heard, “I

am the engineer of no and I am not here.

If you like, leave a no-message and I will

gladly send a no-reply.” He was flooded with

calls. The industry of no was so successful, it

had to hide its money from the government,

lest they say no. When he was promoted to

find other avenues of no, he rode no-planes

to no-cafes where inventors of no pleaded

for new no-funding. Soon, there were movies

that glorified no, and books that pondered

why the no-God was so insistent on no. And

seminars arose where no-scholars came vast

distances to say, “Yes, it has always been a

world of no.” And those specially invited

stroked their worried chins, whispering

to each other, “It is so. It is so,” as a no-

anthropologist traced the beginnings

of no. But they all went home and

dreamt of white geese flapping,

their wings parting

the ancient air.


A Question to Walk With: Begin to tell your own history with yes, the deeper yes to your own voice, spirit, sense of life.


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