Archive for the poetry Category


Read Mark’s weekly reflections on The Huffington Post.

It’s a recurring lesson that, try as we do, the things that matter can’t be prepared for, only met. In this way, preparation requires being fully awake and present, more than anticipating every possible outcome. Meeting life over anticipating life lets us be surprised by care.



It used to be so

complicated: going

where I’d want

without a word

as if telling anyone

made me less free.

Or coming into

a relationship

like a bus station,

checking fares and


before boarding.

It used to be so

confusing: needing

to be touched

while wanting

to be left alone,

and still it’s hard

to let all I am show

in the presence

of strangers or

intimates who’d

like me to change.


But when I’m

stopped or stalled,

I spray the plants

and they shine for me.

I laugh in public

at what music does

to my notion of silence.

I touch your wrist

and something flows.

A Question to Walk With: How guarded are you with others? How does this help you? How does it harm you?


Meeting My Selves

Read Mark’s weekly reflections on The Huffington Post.

We are all blessed to live more than one life within our one life. All of us challenged to grow out of one self and into another. I am not the same person I was ten years ago, nor was that self the same as the one I inhabited twenty years ago. We blossom and outgrow selves the way butterflies emerge from cocoons. Except that being human, we have the chance to emerge from many cocoons. This poem tries to look back at the many selves I’ve lived in.


I came upon a younger me. He was pressing
against everything. Seeing what would hold
and what would give way. What gave way he
thought weaker. What resisted he thought
oppressive. I was embarrassed at how little
I knew. Then I stumbled on an artist obsess-
sed with the fire of creation. He thought it a
sacred obligation. He threw everything into the
flames. Those close thought him an arsonist. I
felt guilty for those I burned against their will.
Midway I found a fish-like man whose chest was
pried open like a ragged shell. This was me tossed
ashore by cancer. I felt grateful for the cracking of
my stubbornness with time enough to be. Along
the way I dreamt of the old holy man. I can’t say
he was me but I have met him many times. He
stays in the world though he faces the interior.
Whatever the difficulty, he stops to bless what-
ever is near. When I was near death, he stopped
to bless me. I have searched for him ever since.
When I close my fear, I feel his hands entering
my hands. When I close my worry, I feel his
eyes parting the curtain of my eyes.

A Question to Walk With: Describe at least one former self and how you have grown from that into the self you are right now.

Returning to Where I’ve Never Been

Read Mark’s weekly reflections on The Huffington Post.

It’s very human to have an understanding, to have a dream, to grasp for a moment a larger sense of things, and also very human to then get lost in the details, entangled in the problems along the way. And so, we forget what we understand, what we dream; we forget the larger sense of things. But when we are returned to the depth of life, as we always are, it feels both familiar and new. This is a poem about such a moment I fell into the last time I was in New York City.


I’m sitting in Bryant Park
and the light through the trees
has stopped my mind. At last
nowhere to go.

I was here twelve years ago.
So many stories I could tell
but as with all migration,
everything has changed
and nothing has changed.

I am older, gentler, less afraid,
stopped more easily by subtle
things, only subtle because
of our noise.

So the story is this:
I went in search of you
and found myself.
I went in search of God
and found the magic of light
waiting in everything.
And so I search for wisdom
only to fall into this life of
feelings too deep for words.

We work so hard
trying to get there
but I think this dream of want
is God’s trick, because
without burning it up
we’d never accept here.

A Question to Walk With: Describe a moment you fell into that was too deep for words? Tell its story to a friend.

Below Our Strangeness

Read Mark’s weekly reflections on The Huffington Post.

I believe we are all connected at the deepest and most elemental level and that experience and circumstance manipulate us away from our better selves. This poem speaks of that place.

My soul tells me, we were
all broken from the same name-
less heart, and every living thing
wakes with a piece of that original
heart aching its way into blossom.
This is why we know each other
below our strangeness, why when
we fall, we lift each other, or when
in pain, we hold each other, why
when sudden with joy, we dance
together. Life is the many pieces
of that great heart loving itself
back together.

A Question to Walk With: What is your fundamental view of human nature and life? Do you feel we are self-contained life forms, only interested in self-preservation? Or do you feel we are interconnected beings that need relationship to survive and thrive? How does your fundamental view inform the life decisions you make?

The Moment of Poetry

Read Mark’s weekly reflections on The Huffington Post.

When I was younger, I tried very hard to get rid of difficult feelings, including an inexplicable sadness that would come over me from time to time. But I’ve learned that the full range of human experience is more important than happiness, because it opens a depth that can make joy possible. I’ve learned over time that the sadness and ache I encounter is actually the sweet ache of being alive. It lets me know that I’m here and connected to everything larger than me. It’s one of my oldest friends and teachers. This poem is a tribute to that sweet ache.


When the sweet ache of being alive,

lodged between who you are

and who you will be,

is awakened,

befriend this moment.

It will guide you.

Its sweetness is what holds you.

Its ache is what moves you on.


A Question to Walk With: Begin to describe the history of your own sweet ache of being alive.

The Sway of It All

Read Mark’s weekly reflections on The Huffington Post.

We tend to be preoccupied with difficulty and happiness, driven by experience from one to the other. But what life has keeps teaching me is that difficulty and peace are always happening at the same time, and that a primary challenge of being human is let both in. Our job it seems is to hold both at once. The reward is the experience of Oneness. This poem speaks to this.


And so I lift my face from the mud,

the mud of my past, the mud of history,

the thick and ragged bark of how we

think everyone but our own darkness

is the enemy, I lift my face like a worn

planet spinning on itself to get back

into the light, to say to no one, to

everyone—it is an honor to be alive.


A Question to Walk With: Is there mud in your history? Is there a gem that you’ve found in the mud? How would you tell this story to a child?

Being Carried

Read Mark’s weekly reflections on The Huffington Post.


This week’s poem is also about rest, the deeper sense of what we rest in. The way a cup rests in a saucer, how does each soul find the point of rest it fits in? How do we discover the sense of safety and faith in life that allows each of us to find our way with more peace than fear?


The things that happen to us

are trying to have a conversation,

to make us stop or turn around.


The things that matter are waiting

for us to drop down after the first

conversation has relaxed our will.


Then they will shine their light

without warning like a doctor

into the back of our eyes and ask,

“How long have you avoided rest?”


If we answer truthfully, they will

introduce us to beauty who after

a time will make us cry and throw

our judgments into the sea.


A Question to Walk With: How much space do judgments take up in your mind and heart? How much space do beauty and truth take up in your mind and heart? Try putting aside a few of your judgments and see if there’s more space for beauty and truth to touch you?

These Human Days

Read Mark’s weekly reflections on The Huffington Post.

Being human is a gritty mystery. We are the most gentle, resilient creatures on Earth. Through our humanness, things that don’t seem to go together show their underlying connection. This poem is a weave of ordinary events that opened a telling moment for me.


As the fog lifted, we sat on the couch,

our dog sleeping between us, her fur

with that familiar smell. Our hands

met in the tuft of her neck. Later,

after a very bad movie, we fell into

each other for the thousandth time.

Quiet and naked, I thought, how

seldom we are naked. No masks. No

covering. Your lips were soft. They’re

always soft. And in that softness, it’s

unclear where I end and you begin.


Today I’m in the dentist chair, deep

long drilling around old nerves. Five

shots to numb along the bone. As he

drills, I loft into his eyes. He’s such a

good man. The dog, your lips, his kind

eyes drilling, the fog lifting. I start to

tear. Such a privilege to feel.


Now I’m in the car and the rain is

coaxing the grass on the side of the

road. My jaw aches and what wants

to be said waits under that ache. The

longer this goes, the stronger and more

vulnerable I am. Like two blades

of grass splitting the sidewalk.


A Question to Walk With: What is your history with being vulnerable? What has being vulnerable taught you?

Years from It All

I think we loved so blindly,

every one of us meaning

to explore the other’s face

but knocking over


in the way.

Now each of us,

building dark images of

what we think happened.

I heard a song today

that played when we

were young.

It made me ache

to have you all near

just for a long minute

in which none of us

could speak.

Along the Flyway

Entering a field, our dog lowers

her head and sniffs around for the

longest time. Suddenly, she looks

up and starts running wildly in all

directions, just for the joy of running,

not after anything, just stretch, leap,

turn, and pant. I think she’s trying

to tell me something. For days I feel

I’ve done nothing but sniff around.

Except I feel guilty doing all this

sniffing. I used to wonder why

someone would hold a bird rather

than try to fly. But I finally under-

stand that holding is the way we

fly through all this loving and

suffering which is our sky.