The Water Takes Many Forms

The Water Takes Many Forms June 23, 2014

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This fall, Sounds True is publishing a box set of teaching conversations based on the poems in my book Reduced to Joy. The poems are the teachers and unfold the journey from our head to our heart. For the next two months, I’m happy to be previewing poems and reflections from the box set.

This poem speaks to the proper role of guides and what they open us to. You’ll notice that the voice of this poem is imperative, that is, it offers instruction to the reader. I must confess that when poems appear in this voice, it is not me giving instructions to you, but more, I am receiving instructions from the voice of life and simply recording them. I am the you in the poem, too. What the poem offers is for me to learn as well.

 

The Water Takes Many Forms

 

When people are at a loss, the guide ferries them over.

When one is (awake), one ferries oneself.

—Hui-Neng

 

Listen for guides, but use their wisdom as you

would a lamp to read your own heart. If some-

one dissuades you from your heart, they are not

a guide. A guide, like a ferryman, brings you

close to the water, will even help you cross,

but it’s your own thirst that makes you cry

stop, wait—so you can drink.

 

When drinking of that water, it’s clear:

the taste of birth we long to keep alive grows

inside everything. In the sheerness of the

water once it stops moving. In the surrender

of exhaustion that loosens every grip. In the

peace within our loneliness once we stop

gnawing at what might have been.

 

When drinking of that peace, it’s clear:

doubt leads to humility, the way thirst makes

us drink. And pain drops into Oneness, the

way hunger makes us eat.

 

When finding a guide, listen, if you must, to

what they have to say, but look for the water

in their eyes and the wind that rims their

voice. Let your self be scoured back to the

beginning which is not behind us,

but about to crack open within us.

 

 

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