Who I Write For
I just finished an Earth Day Weekend retreat, based in the dharma teachings of the pāramitās, the psychotherapy modalities of IFS and ACT, and what I called "eco-principles". Below I am sharing the poem prompts that were shared over the retreat.
In part I am sharing here for the retreatants, AND I hope these poems help anyone investigating how to live a more fully awake life, while also caring fully for the planet.
The following poem by Vicente Aleixandre, Who I Write For, is reminiscent of the famous poem by Thich Nhat Hanh, Please Call Me by My True Names.
This poem provided a profound entry point for the writing exercises we did on the Rise Up Rooted Retreat, helping us to access more sidelined parts of our ourselves.
Who I Write For by Vicente Aleixandre; Lewis Hyde, trans.
Historians and newsmen and people who are just curious ask me, Who am I writing for?
I’m not writing for the gentleman in the stuffy coat, or for his offended moustache, not even for the warning finger he raises in the sad ripples of music.
Not for the lady hidden in her carriage (her lorgnette sending its cold light through the windowpanes).
Perhaps I write for people who don’t read my poems. That woman.who dashes down the street as if she had to open the doors for the sunrise.
Or that old fellow nodding on a bench in the little park while the setting sun takes him with love, wraps him up and dissolves him, gently, in its light.
For everyone who doesn’t read my writing, all the people who don’t care about me (though they care for me, without knowing).
The little girl who glances my way as she passes, my companion on this adventure, living in the world.
And the old woman who sat in her doorway and watched life and bore many lives and many weary hands.
I write for the man who’s in love. For the man who walks by with his pain in his eyes. The man who listened to him. The man who looked away as he walked by. The man who finally collapsed when he asked his question and no one listened.
I write for all of them. I write, mostly, for the people who don’t read me. Each one and the whole crowd. For the breasts and the mouths and the ears, the ears that don’t listen, but keep my words alive.
But I also write for the murderer. For the man who shut his eyes and threw himself at somebody’s heart and ate death instead of food and got up crazy.
For the man who puffed himself up into a tower of rage and then collapsed on the world. For the dead woman and the dead children and dying men.
For the person who quietly turned on the gas and destroyed the whole city and the sun rose on a pile of bodies.
For the innocent girl with her smile, her heart, her sweet medallion (and a plundering army went through there).
And for the plundering army that charged into the sea and sank.
And for the waters, for the infinite sea.
No, not infinite. For the finite sea that has boundaries almost like our own, like a breathing lung.
(At this point a little boy comes in, jumps in the water, and the sea, the heart of the sea, is in his pulse!)
And for the last look, the hopelessly limited Last Look, in whose arms someone falls asleep.
Everyone’s asleep. The murderer and the innocent victim, the boss and the baby, the damp and the dead, the dried-up old fig and the wild, bristling hair.
For the bully and the bullied, the good and the sad, the voice with no substance and all the substance of the world.
For you, the man with nothing that will turn into a god, who reads these words without desire.
For you and everything alive inside of you, I write, and write.
by Sarah Ruhl
Let the day open slow around you.
Let the night open slow around you.
Let the spring open slow
the fall open slow
the waking animals open their eyes slow
Let the night close slow around you.
Let the day close slow around you.
The winter close slow
the summer close slow
the sleeping animals close their eyes slow
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,
"You owe me."
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.
Hafiz (trans Ladinsky)
by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.