“Asking nothing, refuse nothing”… Brother David Steindl-Rast

this was hard.
i mean really hard.
i never wanted you,
didn’t actually ask for you
but you came anyway,
gift of my genes
echoes of my father
memories
shadows of
a pain.
watched
pitied
then suffered in my own
darkness…
endless
crushing
hated
feared.

i refused you
that’s the truth.
could not
would not
accept you.
knowing that refusing you
would make not one iota of difference
to you
i refused you.
fought you
crumbled
crushed
by the generations-long
weight of you.

i cried
screamed
cursed you
wanted my life back
but you held it firmly
tightly
unrelentingly
in your cruel iron fist
and try as i might
i could not
just could not
prise those fingers apart
to snatch back
just one second
of
remembered joy
of a forgotten life.
it was captive
and i could not pay,
didn’t even know
the ransom price.

so you won
in the end.
clearly
you weren’t leaving
going anywhere
moving on.
like Milarepa’s demons
you were mine.
mine alone.
you settled down
as I tried to chase you out.
how do you open the door
to someone who
is already in your house?
offer them a seat when they
are sitting everywhere?
make them welcome when they already
are burrowing deep into
your empty bones?
so you came in
and waited.
as did i.
but i couldn’t out-wait you.
so i stopped fighting…
this was a battle i could not
win
and discovered i no longer
even wanted to win.
i was so used to you
walking beside me
like a sideways shadow
aching for recognition
nudging to stop me
as i stared desperately ahead
seeking relief
from you
smiling in a shy way
as i wept
keeping pace with me
like a faithful friend.
you? faithful? friend?
with all those knives?
it jarred so much.
till i turned my head
to the side
and looked you full in the face
my own face
my father’s face
a loving face
your face.

so, scared, wonderingly
i stopped refusing
and breathed you in.

and thanked you.


Posted by kind permission of the poet.