Two Old Poems

Back in 1996 (sixteen years ago!), I lived in upper Manhattan and commuted by train to a job further north in Yonkers. I actually had to walk across a bridge into the Bronx to catch the train on the Marble Hill train platform. A cool thing about that platform is that it is situated at the foot of a rocky cliff right at the edge of the river — a pretty dramatic location that inspired a few poems. Here are two of them. They seem to reveal pretty contrasting themes, an awareness of opposites that is with me to this day. First, we have a feeling of calm acquiescence:

For the calm to get past the scurrying thoughts 
of the moment and sink down completely into 
this moment 
For a regular rhythmic breath 
the metronome of my practice of life 
For the patience to watch 
breathing in, breathing out;

For opening up and permitting 
the Creator to flow in 
For the patience and humility 
to go with the flow 
to heed the Voice 
to be an instrument;

For the clarity of vision to see 
exactly what I need 
exactly what I am 
exactly what I can be 
For the creativity and courage 
to take those little actions 
those steps on the path 
to making me happen;

For the clarity of vision to see 
exactly what he needs 
exactly what she needs 
exactly what the situation needs 
For the creativity and courage 
to know when to act 
and when to allow the Creator 
to act elsewhere 
For the humility 
to go beyond my needs and my comforts 
to do what needs to be done;

When I’m tempted to roll my eyes in sarcasm 
I vow with all beings 
to humbly lower my eyes to the ground 
respecting the dignity of all.

Then we have a more vigorous theme that encourages expression of the feelings of the moment:

Why don’t you just shut up!
Words that come with an exclamation point
straight from the heart
can never be the wrong words
Shut the fuck up!
Well said
Speak your mind
Don’t let your mind
get in the way of your words
There’s too much counting to ten
effacing what we need to say.
It doesn’t go away
It just eats away at you
beneath a veneer of politeness
Stealthily, we express our hostility
indirectly, monitoring each other’s rationality
fabricating our own good decent reasons
to make our enemies
Shut the fuck up!

I think both are essential.

2 thoughts on “Two Old Poems

  1. R L Vance/FS/VCU says:

    A GREAT BOOK JUST CAME OUT -tHE rIGHTEOUS mIND BY hAIDT. iT RELATES TO
    THE 2ND POEM
    OOPS. GOOTA FIX CAPLOCK
    R. Leonard Vance, JD, Ph.D., PE, CIH
    Associate Professor
    Center for Environmental Studies
    Box 843050
    1000 West Cary St., Rm. 220E
    Virginia Commonwealth University
    Richmond, Va. 23284-3050
    (804) 628-2513; cell: (804) 690-0779
    vance@vcu.edu