How Shall I Compare Thee?

How Shall I Compare Thee?
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 
Some compare life to the layers of an onion,
And how fitting—how easily, once cut especially,
The layers fall away, and yes, there are the tears.
There are those.

Some compare life to a rose—
Thorns, fragrant, exquisitely beautiful,
And when you struggle to find the center
It all unravels and is no longer a rose.

Some compare life to the sea—
Deep (obviously), ebbing and flowing,
Full of dark mysteries and storms,
Leviathans, and beings made of light,
Seemingly endless in its distance,
Moon kissed, full of tears, and sun-drenched
Waves of desire.

Use anything–the mirror even,
Just begin, go on, try. Try to compare life
To anything on earth or in the heavens.
This is not a challenge or a call to fail.
This is a plea to encourage you to look,
To search. Find places, beings, other people,
Feelings, images, objects that resonant
With your heart, your body, your experience
Of breath and of grief, of joy, and of divinity,
Of growing and becoming, of withering,
And blossoming.

Why? Why do this?
Isn’t it effectively separating yourself from yourself
And others? Not for me. This exercise, this discipline,
This holy, unquenchable fire
Helps me sort it all out, helps me discover myself
In the world and the world in myself, it helps me to see you
And allow myself to be seen by you, or else I am alone,
Somehow outside the circle of God, as silly
As that sounds. And of course, it’s just a suggestion,
Like everything else in life that is truly alive.

We get hints while moving towards
A fullness that culminates in a blessed emptying–
Fountain into fountain, river into sea, image
Into image, love into love.
So take the suggestion
As it is given—a passing brush stroke across the canvas
Of your life.

 

 

 


 





Dream Image I

Dream Image I
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

roots of trees 2
Imagining the tree will suddenly
Lift the skirt of her roots and run,
Or dance, or simply move closer
So I can rest in her branches,
Run my fingers through her leaves,
Kiss her trunk of concentric circles.
Or maybe she would run right passed me,
Headlong into the ocean, leaves scattering
In her own private autumn, and become
A ship, trailing her wake of roots
Slowly, into the waiting arms of the sun.

 

 


 

 

 

 





The Lighthouse and the Lightkeeper

The Lighthouse and the Lightkeeper
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

The Lightkeeper climbed the spiral stairs he had built
Many years before, illuminating his own way as he went.
Arriving at the barely burning light, in the sea-whispered darkness
He trimmed the wick, like a gardener pruning a flower.
Shrouded in salt-scented silence the wick wept in pain and gratitude.
The Lightkeeper knew all about the storm-swirled foundations
Of the lighthouse–her laborious beginnings and genuine attempts
To remain solid and in good standing with a shore covered with rocks and waves,
And an ocean full of lost vessels–untethered, uncaptained, bobbing
In their own sickness, void of direction, unsure of the way ahead,
Lost without rudder or sail. The Lightkeeper knew them each by name.
He knew their voyages, their origins, who built them and set them sailing,
He knew where they wanted to go. He knew the emptiness in their hulls,
And their desire for treasure. He knew their wheels longed to be held and steered
Despite their cries to be left alone.
He knew he wanted each and every one of them safe in the harbor.
He knew all about the ideas that the wind-tossed-tide threw around like little shells—
Ideas that say the world no longer needs lighthouses,
Ideas that say it is somehow wrong to shine, or wrong to want or need
To be rekindled by another, that the ships are perfectly fine
Drifting as they are with their own unique and uncriticizable navigation equipment.
Into these ideas he simply implanted the sound of the sea.
Having finished his trimming for now, the Lightkeeper
Touched his light to the wick with all of the tenderness
Of an angel kissing the forehead of a sleeping infant,
And when spark caught spark and the light of the lighthouse
Began to blaze, filling the space with warmth and steadiness
Ship after ship began sailing for home, and the lighthouse
Remembered why she was there and how important
Her mission was. And then the Lightkeeper
Looked at her flame dancing in the light of his light and said:
“This is my Beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased.”

 

 

 


 

 





On Being Held, an Ode in Prose to the Common Chair

On Being Held
An Ode in Prose to the Common Chair
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

We do trust falls every time we sit down in a chair. It is similar when we flop down on a bed, except in the case of the bed, we see the surface we are about to fall on. With a chair, our subconscious might maybe, maybe notice for a millisecond where the body is going—however, for all intents and purposes, we simply drop ourselves into the chair, and rarely, if ever, imagine crashing to the floor. We just suddenly renounce our verticality and allow ourselves to fall and be held in a uniquely folded position. Sometimes we lower ourselves slowly and let the chair rock us as we doze off after reading a few lines from our favorite book. We waive our right to gravity when we sit in a chair. We resign our mobility, and simply stop, trusting the chair will do its humble task of holding our butts no less, and supporting our backs. And aside from an occasional creak, chairs hardly ever complain. Yet there they are–ordinary servants in ordinary moments, standing at the ready for when we relinquish our desire to do it alone. Chairs are there when we collapse, yielding to the pressure of living, succumbing to the fatigue of grief, or to the deep relief of gratitude. Chairs are a steadying force when we let our guard down or lose our way. They let us fall only so far, keeping us from sprawling across the floor. They are as complete an image for faith in the care of God as any can be. Chairs, like God, want us to take them for granted. It’s what they live for. They want us to have perfect faith in their ability to set things right if we would only let them. “Come, sit down,” the friend says after we’ve heard the trajectory-changing news. And so we do, allowing ourselves to wilt in the chair, like a wounded bird being healed in the hands of God.

 

 


 





Tradition Three

Tradition Three
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

In the space created by gathering together
Tangled bundles of nerves loosen into usable threads of stories
Whose intricate plots become the fabric of hope;
Thunderous pasts and futures soften into the holy silence of here and now;
Knots of shame and sorrow unravel first into heaps of relief
And then are braided by wisdom into lifelines for others to grab hold of;
Springs of tension and rage wind down into shock absorbers
For the carriage of the heart;
Shells of human beings break open into birds of freedom;
Ghosts shimmer back into their bodies and bones reassemble
Taking on the flesh of experience and rise from the dead;
Dissonant chords of not knowing what to do
Resolve into melodies of mistakes and laughter;
The stormy seas of self-condemnation calm into self-acceptance
As we give ourselves over to the hands of another;
And no one has to step out onto the waves to prove anything
To anybody, and everyone in the space created
Stays in the boat and rows, while love dances on the water
Gathering us together in the sun-drenched wings
Of mutual aid.

 

 

 


 





Echo, Sadness

Echo, Sadness
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 
Echo, sadness, on the walls of my chest,
Over the skin on my shoulders,
Echo, sadness, roll down my arms
And splash from my fingers,
Echo, sadness, through the waters of my soul,
In the hollow of my hands, in the pit of my belly,
Echo, sadness, through my bones,
Through the shell of my memories,
Echo, like sonar and find the lost ships of desire.
Echo, sadness—shudder through the ghosts
Of my mind, allow them the gift
Of dissolving like mist in light—audible light—
Let them sing as they go, thinning
Into particles of mantras and prayers.
Echo, sadness, ring in the bell of my heart
And pour through the valley of my past
And the mountains of my fears.
Echo, sadness, here, in this rattled and quivering breath—
Shallow and catching—echo here and in this here–
Sound the call of healing and let this be but a beginning
Of the unleashing of the mighty dragons of joy
From the company of heaven.

 

 

 


 





No More

No More
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 
No more, he begged, crumbling to the floor, curling into a ball,
No more.

No more, he said, standing, fists clenched, shoulders straight,
No more.

No more, he whispered, gathering the frightened children in his arms,
No more.

No more, he wept, looking at himself in the mirror,
No more.

No more, he prayed, kneeling by the grave,
No more.

No more, he shouted to the sky, to the endless road,
To the silently falling snow,
No more.

No more, he cried to his nightmares, as he entered them
With handfuls of stars,
No more.

No more, he said to his tears, no more pretending
You are laughter. Fall. Fall without shame or censor.
Fall and water the roots of this moment.

No more, he said to his rage, no more thinking you have no place.
Do what you will—the world was created in fire.

No more, he said to the memories, no more hiding.
It is safe to breathe here, and to become light.

No more, he said to his heart, no more denying our brokenness—
Let us fall to pieces. There are those who will help us reassemble a way to live
And to love.

No more, he said, taking his soul by the hand,
No more going it alone.

 

 

 


 





Flood

Flood
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

Days, weeks, months, and years
Can go by without a flood. Oh, I know
The river’s there, and the storms,
And the groundwater saturates so much
Of the foundations, but the floods
Are something else entirely.
It’s like this: I wake in the middle of the night
And without warning the water is already
Spilling over my bed, and even as I wipe my eyes
Trying to make sense of what is happening,
I go under–my chest and guts fill with bone-
Crushing pressure; the ceiling disappears and the walls
Close in and there’s nothing but dark water
And a faraway distant night sky—way up there somewhere,
And if I don’t call out for help no lifeline appears,
And the walls close in to the very edges of my bed,
And the water keeps rising and I can’t swim
And I can no longer see and some part of me dies
As the night sky fills my blank, staring eyes.
And then, I am floating, gone, part of the nothingness
That comes with deluges like this.
And little by little, over days, weeks, months, and years
The walls will slip back and the water recede through the cracks
And into the basement and through the ground–
Soaking the surrounding roots. And I will suddenly
Be able to see, and water will gush from my eyes and mouth
And I will gag and cough and grab my stomach and chest
And retch. And somehow, somehow, somehow,
I will step from my bed and it will be morning
And the sun will be shining, and I will begin moving
Through my life, water logged, heart-soddened
With terror, mind drenched with ‘why’
And I will eventually make it, things will dry
As I move in the light, and I will go around
With secret sorrow dripping from my every funny word,
Until days, weeks, months, or years later, there’s another flood
And I will wake in the middle of the night
Water spilling over my bed

 

 

 


 





Center of the Universe

Center of the Universe
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

 

Imagine the idea that you are the center of the universe
Is true. Imagine from where you stand a big bang unfurls creating everything around you.
Of course, some big bangs will be experienced as whispers,
Or deep sighs of acceptance after years of working hard to simply trudge
Another step. Imagine the universe blossoming through your blossoming;
That all space and time is hereby localized in you.
Imagine being a focal point of God’s light, an emissary of the moment—
The very ways and means of God’s omnipotence. Imagine it’s you and I
And every sentient being experiencing being alive all at the same time.
Imagine galaxies gracefully unfolding their arms from the center of your heart,
Stars forming from a single thought, planets set to spinning from an impulse
To play.

Imagine self-centeredness being a blessing.
Imagine it meaning something altogether different
From what we usually think it means.
Imagine it means the complete desire to serve and to share,
To create and to inspire, to let go of rather than hold on to.
Imagine it is the way in which we imagine self-centeredness
That selfishness of the most terrible kind arises.

Imagine opening your eyes and seeing everything revolve around you,
And imagine everyone else doing the same, so that everyone would see together
Through their own unique lens the eternal dance of now.

Imagine God seeing through you,
Breathing through you,
Thinking and loving and touching through you,
And the gift is you get to feel what it’s like
To be light,
To be breath,
To be a vessel
Of divinity.

Imagine then your choice in all of this is whether or not
To close yourself off and turn away, or to be yourself–
An absolutely true center of the universe.

Imagine making your decision and then turning towards the momentum
And joining the dance.

 

 


 





The Revelation is Now

The Revelation is Now
By
Joseph Anthony Petro

Where do I begin?
The revelation is now.
When will I die?
The revelation is now.
How can I trust?
The revelation is now.
What will happen next?
The revelation is now.
Should I get my things in order?
The revelation is now.
Shouldn’t I be worried?
The revelation is now.
Isn’t there something else I need to be doing?
The revelation is now.
Will there be blinding flashes of light?
The revelation is now.
Which way will I go?
The revelation is now.
Which direction is true?
The revelation is now.
The horizon, will I reach it?
The revelation is now.
Will I suffer anymore?
The revelation is now.
Will there be healing for these old, open wounds?
The revelation is now.
Will you be there waiting?
The revelation is now.
Will I feel you holding me?
The revelation is now.
So much is falling away,
I don’t know what to hold on to
Or what to let go of.
The revelation is now.
Is it really OK to be happy?
The revelation is now.
Do you really want me?
The revelation is now.
Empty my bags? Anything.
The revelation is now.
Scatter my old ideas into the sea?
The revelation is now.
Take your hand?
The revelation is now.
You need my ‘yes’ before we go any further?
The revelation is now.
Yes. I am yours.
The revelation is now.
I’m trying not to be afraid.
The revelation is now.
Fear is falling away.
The revelation is now.
I believe you will never leave me.
The revelation is now.
May I have this dance?
The revelation is now.
Look! We are dancing on a river of light.
The revelation is now.
Will we dance like this forever?
The revelation is now.