REVELATION MUST BE TERRIBLE

Revelation must be
   terrible with no time left
to say goodbye.

Imagine that moment
   staring at the still waters
with only the brief tremor

of your body to say
   you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.

Being far from home is hard, but you know,
   at least we are exiled together.
When you open your eyes to the world

you are on your own for
   the first time. No one is
even interested in saving you now

and the world steps in
   to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment

as if it believed you could join
   its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness.

As if you were meant to be exactly
   where you are, as if
like the dark branch of a desert river

you could flow on without a speck
   of guilt and everything
everywhere would still be just as it should be.

As if your place in the world mattered
   and the world could
neither speak nor hear the fullness of

its own bitter and beautiful cry
   without the deep well
of your body resonating in the echo.

Knowing that it takes only
   that one, terrible
word to make the circle complete,

revelation must be terrible
   knowing you can
never hide your voice again. 

  -- David Whyte
  from Fire in the Earth
  ©1992 Many Rivers Press

THE LIGHTEST TOUCH

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then like a hand in the dark
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.
In the silence that follows
a great line
you can feel Lazarus
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

 -- David Whyte
 from Everything is Waiting for You
 ©2003 Many Rivers Press

THE OPENING OF EYES

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

  -- David Whyte
  from Songs for Coming Home
  ©1984 Many Rivers Press

WORKING TOGETHER

We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again.

The visible
and the invisible

working together
in common cause,

to produce
the miraculous.

I am thinking of the way
the intangible air

passed at speed
round a shaped wing

easily
holds our weight.

So may we, in this life
trust

to those elements
we have yet to see

or imagine,
and look for the true

shape of our own self,
by forming it well

to the great
intangibles about us.

  -- David Whyte
  from The House of Belonging
  ©1996 Many Rivers Press

Written for the presentation of The Collier Trophy to The Boeing Company
marking the introduction of the new 777 passenger jet.

SELF PORTRAIT

It doesn't interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

  -- David Whyte
  from Fire in the Earth
  ©1992 Many Rivers Press

LOAVES AND FISHES

This is not
the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time
of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

  -- David Whyte
  from The House of Belonging
  ©1996 Many Rivers Press


MAMEEN

Be infinitessimal under that sky, a creature
even the sailing hawk misses, a wraith
among the rocks where the mist parts slowly.
Recall the way mere mortals are overwhelmed
by circumstance, how great reputations
dissolve with infirmity and how you,
in particular, live a hairsbreadth from losing
everyone you hold dear.

Then, look back down the path as if seeing
your past and then south over the hazy blue
coast as if present to a wide future.
Remember the way you are all possibilities
you can see and how you live best
as an appreciator of horizons,
whether you reach them or not.
Admit that once you have got up
from your chair and opened the door,
once you have walked out into the clean air
toward that edge and taken the path up high
beyond the ordinary, you have become
the privileged and the pilgrim,
the one who will tell the story
and the one, coming back
from the mountain,
who helped to make it.

  -- David Whyte
  from River Flow
  ©2007 Many Rivers Press

ARRIVALS

Imagine the confines of a long grey corridor
just before immigration at Washington Dulles
airport. Imagine two Ethiopian women amid
a sea of familiar international plastic blandness,
entering America for the first time. Think of
their undulating multi-colored turbans raised
atop graceful heads, transforming us,
a grey line of travelers behind them, into followers
and mendicants, mere drab, impatient, moneyed
and perplexed attendants to their bright,
excited, chattered arrival.

Imagine a sharp plexi-gass turn left and suddenly
before them, in biblical astonishment, like a vertical
red sea churning, like the waters barring Moses from
The Promised Land, like Jacob standing before the ladder,
a moving escalator, a mode of rising, a form of ascension,
a way to go up they'd never seen before, its steel grey
interlocking invitation on and up to who knows what,
bringing them and everyone behind them, to a bemused,
complete, and utter standstill.

So that you saw it for the first time as they saw it
and for what it was, a grated river of lifting steel,
an involuntary, moving ascension into who knows what.
An incredible surprise. And you knew, even through
your tiredness, why it made them raise their hands
to their mouths, why it made them give low breathy
screams of surprise and delighted terror. You saw it
as they saw it, a staircase of invisible interlocking
beckoning hands asking them to rise up
independent of their history, their legs or their wills.
And we stopped as we knew we had to now
and watched the first delighted be-turbaned
woman put a sandaled foot on the flat grey
plain at the foot of the moving stair and sure
enough quickly withdraw it with a strangled scream,
leaving her sandal to ascend strangely without her
into heaven, into America, into her new life.

Then, holding her friend away, who tried to grab
her, to save her, to hold her back, who pointed
and shouted, telling her not to risk herself,
not to be foolish, she silently watched her shoe,
that willful child, running ahead, its sole intent
to enter the country oblivious to visas and immigration,
above the need for a job, uncaring of healthcare,
pointing toward some horizon she had never dreamt,
intent on leaving only its winged footprint
for her to follow, like a comet's tail, like an omen
of necessity, like a signaled courage, like an uncaring
invitation, to make her entrance with sould and style.

Because she looked up at this orphaned, onward
messenger with her eyes ablaze, threw off the panicked
clamboring arms of her friend, raised her chin
in noble profile, and with all that other hurrying
clamor of the world behind her, with a busy,
unknowing, corporate crowd at her back and questions
beginning to be asked out loud, she lifted her arms,
clapped her hands, threw back her head and with
a queenly unbidden grace, strode on to the ascending
heaven bound steel like a newly struck film star,
singing the old, high pitched song her children
would hear when she told the story again.

And as her friend below sang,
applauded, danced on the spot
and ululated her companion's arrival,
we stood there behind her,
transfixed, travel weary,
and crammed into the corridor
like extras from some
miraculous scene in the Bible.

While
she ascended,
her arms straight out,
wide eyed and singing.
Into America.

  -- David Whyte
  from River Flow
  © 2007 Many Rivers Press


THE SEVEN STREAMS

Come down drenched, at the end of May,
with the cold rain so far into your bones
that nothing will warm you
except your own walking
and let the sun come out at the day's end
by Slievenaglasha with the rainbows doubling
over Mulloch Mor and see your clothes
steaming in the bright air. Be a provenance
of something gathered, a summation of
previous intuitions, let your vulnerabilities
walking on the cracked sliding limestone
be this time, not a weakness, but a faculty
for understanding what's about
to happen. Stand above the Seven Streams
letting the deep down current surface
around you, then branch and branch
as they do, back into the mountain
and as if you were able for that flow,
say the few necessary words
and walk on, broader and cleansed
for having imagined.

  -- David Whyte
  from River Flow
  ©2007 Many Rivers Press


FAITH

I want to write about faith,
     about the way the moon rises
        over cold snow, night after night,

faithful even as it fades from fullness,
     slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
          sliver of light before the final darkness.

But I have no faith myself
      I refuse it even the smallest entry.

Let this then, my small poem,
     like a new moon, slender and barely open,
          be the first prayer that opens me to faith.

  -- David Whyte
  from Where Many Rivers Meet 
  ©2007 Many Rivers Press


EVERYTHING IS WAITING FOR YOU

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

  -- David Whyte
  from Everything is Waiting for You
  ©2003 Many Rivers Press


FINISTERRE

The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn't let you pass
except to call and end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you brought
and light their illumined corners, and to read
them as they drifted through the western light;
to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that had brought you here
right at the water's edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you could still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves.

-- David Whyte
from Pilgrim
©2012 Many Rivers Press


Santiago

The road seen, then not seen, the hillside
hiding then revealing the way you should take,
the road dropping away from you as if leaving you
to walk on thin air, then catching you, holding you up,
when you thought you would fall,
and the way forward always in the end
the way that you followed, the way that carried you
into your future, that brought you to this place,
no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,
no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:
the sense of having walked from far inside yourself
out into the revelation, to have risked yourself
for something that seemed to stand both inside you
and far beyond you, that called you back
to the only road in the end you could follow, walking
as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice
that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,
so that one day you realized that what you wanted
had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place
you had lived in before you began,
and that every step along the way, you had carried
the heart and the mind and the promise
that first set you off and drew you on and that you were
more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way
than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:
as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city
with golden towers, and cheering crowds,
and turning the corner at what you thought was the end
of the road, you found just a simple reflection,
and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back
and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:
like a person and a place you had sought forever,
like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;
like another life, and the road still stretching on.

-- David Whyte
from Pilgrim
©2012 Many Rivers Press