On the back of the MBTA bus An ad for Devil Dogs complete With photos of “vanilla-flavored Crème sandwiched between two Fun-shaped Devil’s Food cakes” Exclaims “Yes please!” urging us To “listen to our cravings” which is To say consume whatever we imagine Might fill the hungry ghost of fear That dwells in each of us living In this land of plenty where more is Never quite enough: but what if Craving became longing for something Of another order, and what if we instead Said “Yes” to prisoners, lepers, refugees, And what if we might someday learn To let this moment be enough, This naked twig, this autumn sky, This bird in flight, this drifting leaf.
Everything in the world begins with a yes. Clarice Lispecter
For Bishop Tom
In the beginning there is only Yes, infinitesimal, infinite, invisible seed sprouting in the swirling dark, the slow integration, expanding, extending, the sudden explosion into light—baby, blossom, universe, all beginnings are the same—and Yes to a world begun before words where nothing separates this from that, and Yes to the senses alive before language, bird song, leaf shadow, skin touching skin, and Yes to Tom whose injured brain erases speaking, reading, names, but through hands cupped upon bent heads, his unimpeded heart pours forth with nothing to restrict the flow of Yes in beginning and Yes in the end.
This is an updated version of the poem that appears in the print edition.
Crossing the lake in thick fog with nothing to be seen except the buoy to starboard marking the rock we didn’t want to hit that Tom said we’d already passed but Whit said No, we’re way beyond it which is when the boat rose up bow riding high to leave us stranded the boat an ark the rock a mountain the fog a cloud that covered us waiting for who knew what—a voice, a face, a sudden shining— but there was nothing more than thinking how many times when losing sight we circle back to where we started only to begin again.
That’s what it’s called the men tell me after our discussion of Matthew Five and what it means to turn the other cheek, or not, the latter being the path that brought them here. But what, I wonder is a “natural life”? Isn’t it, really, the life led by everyone, those behind walls and those without, each of us living the one life given which is to say there’s no parole for anyone. Yet listening to the men describe how they found Jesus, or rather He found them despite everything, or maybe because, I think of Paul on the road to Damascus, the sudden light, blinding, transforming, reforming, or then again this, a slow inner revealing, the shy gift of sweet snowdrops