suite for the living
BREAD FOR THE JOURNEY, MILL VALLEY, CA, SEPTEMBER 2004
Bread for the Journey International (breadforthejourney.org)
is a non-profit organization dedicated to nurturing the natural generosity
of ordinary people. In 2004, they published two books of Mark’s poetry,
sold exclusively through BFJI as a fundraiser. Suite
for the Living has been assembled from many years of teaching and
reading around the country and abroad. Its 43 poems are set in four sections: Breaking
Surface, Let’s Voice the Possibilities, The
Great Opening, and
Suite for the Living
WHERE NO ONE STAYS A STATUE hear it
Please, read this first
It was a sunny day
and I went to the park
and sat on a bench. I was
one of many coming out
from under our rocks
to warm and lengthen.
He was two benches down,
a gentle older man
staring off into the place
between things, beyond
any simple past, staring
into the beginning or the end,
it was hard to say.
When he came up
our eyes met
and he knew I’d seen him
journey there and back.
There was no point in looking away.
And so, he shuffled over
and sat beside me. The sun
moved behind the one cloud
and he finally said
in half a quiver, “How
can we go there together?”
I searched my small mind
for an answer. At this,
he looked away and the sun came out
and I realized this is what the lonely
sages of China were talking about,
what the moon has whispered
before turning full for centuries,
what dancers leap for, what violinists
dream after fevering their last note.
But I was awkward and unsure.
He stared, as if to search my will,
and after several minutes,
he just patted my hand
I watched him
darken and brighten in the sun
and vowed to look
in the folds of every cry
for a way through
and hoped someday
to meet him there.
The Lesson hear it
When young, it was the first fall from love.
It broke me open the way lightning splits a tree.
Then, years later, cancer broke me further.
This time, it broke me wider the way a flood
carves the banks of a narrow stream.
Then, having to leave a twenty year marriage.
This broke me the way wind shatters glass.
Then, in Africa, it was the anonymous face
of a schoolboy beginning his life.
This broke me yet again. But this
was like hot water melting soap.
Each time I tried to close
what had been opened.
It was a reflex, natural enough.
But the lesson was, of course, the other way—
in never closing again.
Utterance-That-Rises-Briefly-From-The-Source hear it
Peace is an odd word for the bubble of all there is
breaking repeatedly on the surface of the heart,
but I know of no other. The Native Americans
come closest; nothing between inner events
and what to call them. I see you and you always
glow. Why not call you One-who-shines-like-a-
sun-upon-first-meeting. Why not call the moment
of doubt and fear: Dark-point-spinning-loose-
that-presses-on-the-throat. Why not call the
moment of certainty, the fleeting moment
when everything that ever lived is right
behind my pounding heart, why not call
that moment: Beat-of-the-thousand-wings-
of-God-inside-my-chest. When I feel love so
deeply that I can't bear it, when I feel it so much
that it cannot be contained or directed at any one
thing or person, why not call it: The-stone-at-the-
bottom-of-the-river-sings. Why not call you: The-
Why not call this miracle of life: The-sound-that-
“Mark (and his poetry, for they are as one) has been a loving friend,
guide, muse and teacher for countless grateful audiences around the world.
Wherever I speak, if I read one of Mark’s poems I know to bring many
copies, for I will inevitably be asked by hungry listeners for something
to take home. Here, finally, are two glorious collections of Mark’s
poetry, some familiar and beloved, some new and refreshing. They are a
string of pearls, a daisy chain of gifts, blessings and treats for the
heart. May you find some comfort here.”
— Wayne Muller, author of Learning
to Pray, Sabbath, and founder of Bread for