One Step Closer

I wonder when my father diesif all the things he couldn’t say will flyout of him, if like a butterfly’s wingin the dark of another continent,the things he couldn’t facewill mount as a wind athousand miles away.

I wonder if his giftswill leave him, too,if his ability to buildsomething out of nothingwill spark another’s confidence.

I know I was born to say what he couldn’t,to face what he’s turned from.It’s the way these things work.An ecology of spirit.

For instance, a friend has a little girljust ten months old and I can tellby her deep attention that she’sbeen here before.

I can tell she will say what I cannotand face what I can’t bear.She stares at me and I stare back,our eyes sorting what lives, whatbreathes, what gives to the air.

She still smells the womb-sea and I,the rocks of this world. She’s eagerto be here, though her eyes don’t under-stand the many shades of weight.

But I feel compelled to translate weightswhich means I sense the thingsthat hide in wood and stone,the things that boil in the potof human traffic.

How I make hymns of my father’s pain.How my friend’s little girl will makeportraits of how I burn.This is necessary. It’show spirit recycles.

We each are born one step closer to Godthan those we are born to, for whichwe are loved by some and neverforgiven by others.

We each will die with one more thingto say. We each will wake withsomething familiar on our lipwhich we must find and love.

–Mark Nepo

The Bear of Life and Death

Having lived in the cavesof my father’s facethese last winters,I emerge into the greening of Aprilstarving and gaunt,looking for food I cannot hope to find;tender father-shoots, son-berries,flesh of minor gods.In the caves I sleptamong shards of pottery,kernels of corn, pointed stones.There were marmot bones,tea leaves, dull knives.Beads of shame. Strands of guilt.The air was thick and warm,shadows of warriorsfought and died on the walls.There were echoes of women crying,and bone flutes.

–Mike Koehler

Mike Koehler is a citizen of the Fox Valley in Wisconsin. A lover of rivers, wine, and solitude, he lives with two ornery cats and writes poems on yellow legal pads. Koehler has written three collections of poetry published regionally and has one in the works.

Mark Nepo is a poet and philosopher, currently program officer/scholar-in-residence for the Fetzer Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His books include The Book of Awakening (a finalist for the 2000 Books for a Better Life Award), Fire Without Witness, and the forthcoming The Gift of Attention: Being a Spirit in the World.

–Naomi Shihab Nye