It All Started With a Box of Darkness

It All Started With a Box of Darkness


Joseph Anthony

Last night my dear friend Mindy sent me a quote by Mary Oliver (the best poet in America of the last 100 years, maybe even ever):


“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”


I read that and as so often happens, words and images started flowing. Sometimes they come like a flood, right away, rushing and gushing–exploding all over the page; other times it’s a more gradual build, images and words finding their way into me slowly, like the dawn. Last night it was the former. It all came out in one brief, satisfying, healing torrent of images, words, and insights.

I went with the current on Twitter. Sometimes the constraints of the 140 spaces is a perfect discipline to channel the flow. Other times it’s silly to even try. Last night, the Twitter format worked fine.

So thank you Mindy for the initial share; thank you Mary Oliver for writing your wildly luminous poetry; thank you Muse for coming to me in the form of Mindy and Mary; and thank you also, Dear Darkness, of whom I am learning so much from, thank you for being full of light. So many times the depression feels only like utter and complete blackness. I am learning, little by little, the more I simply keep walking, that as soon as the darkness begins to feel overwhelmingly isolative (isolate=from the Latin: to become an island), that exact moment—if I tell someone, find a way to share the hidden pain, the secret suffering, then the darkness blooms into light, into lessons, into invaluable help for myself and others, and I can breathe again. For deep depression is nothing more than the suffocation of the soul.

Last night, I didn’t drown in the darkness. I was able to swim. Thank you everyone who helps me to do this. The trinity of diseases: addiction, depression, and isolation, often go hand in hand and can lead to the final darkness. I needn’t go through anything alone again, ever. You don’t either. May my journey through the heart of darkness bear witness to this truth: bring others with you—not dragging them into the chaos, no, bring them with you into your heart, invite them—the safe ones into where the secret hurts live, and the burdens, whatever they are, will become light, the yoke becomes easy (easier). For wherever two or more are gathered–there, in the midst of them, is salvation from the fears of being vulnerable, of showing one’s weaknesses, of being so-called-perfect. There, in this place, this holy space of breath and of embracing–the common experiences, the threads of compassion, identification, love, and eventually ultimately wonder, creativity, and dancing, weave us together into the shared fabric of humanity.

Thank you all.

The Poems in order of their appearance:

Wherever I go, I carry a box of darkness handed down by generations. Inside are echoes of sorrows; and light, beautiful, hidden light.


I speak, the box of darkness closes; I am silent, the box opens. I weep, the box closes, I sleep, the box opens; I sing the box disappears.


I reach inside the box of darkness and find a key. A door appears. I stand, set the box down, and go, go to fall into the shimmering light.


Three words: “Box of darkness,” open secret passageways to the soul. I’m going, take my hand, let’s go find the way back to now.


Where are you? I cry. Here, says the Beloved. Where? I demand. Here, says the Beloved, Where you left me, inside this box of darkness.


One day, I slipped the box of darkness under my bed, not wanting to see it again. When I got home that night, my room had become the box.


I never know when it’s going to come, this rush of images. I only know to slip into it and allow it to river through me to wherever it goes.


Goodnight. I open the box of darkness, slip inside with a blanket. I close the lid. And when I open my eyes to the darkness, I see light.





The Journey

The Journey
Joseph Anthony

A cool, spring breeze draped the dew-dappled dawn. The little girl and the Angel sat in a meadow on a blanket talking and weaving garlands of flowers in each other’s hair. A deep sense of rebirth and drowsy awakenings filled the bright blue sky. The Sun spread beams of light carrying fairies and sprites up and down their radiant columns. The Moon listened distantly to the conversation of the little girl and the Angel. Along with the bees and newly hatched butterflies, flowers unfurled their curtains and called out with their sweet fragrances for all to come and partake of their honeyed nectar. The song the Singer sang that morning thrummed through all things leaving everything polished and luminous. The song was particularly alive in the little girl. It swirled around her like daytime fireflies. It roused a desire she had been holding within her and lifted it to the surface. The Moon leaned in closer. The Sun took notice and turned his face upon them.
“I think I’m ready,” said the little girl.

“Come,” said the Moon to the little girl.

The little girl left the Angel (yet the Angel, magically did not leave the little girl) and scrambled up into the lap of the Moon. The Angel stood in their midst, eyes slightly closed, yet keenly interested in what they were saying.

“You want to go learn from there?” asked the Moon, pointing to the earth.

“Yes,” said the little girl.

“And what do you want to learn?”


“I see,” said the Moon, “and you also want to grow?”


“How tall?”

“Tall enough to be a grown up.”

The Moon laughed a little, as did the Angel, and then all three were silent for a long, deep moment.

“You know,” began the Moon, “You will suffer.”

“I know,” said the little girl bowing her head.

“Do you?” asked the Moon.

“I, I think so.”

“You will know pain,” continued the Moon, “and longing, hunger, thirst, loneliness, boredom, fear, and shame. Youwill taste death and decay. You will also, of course, know exquisite pleasure, sheer delight, wonder, union, bliss, creativity, and vast amounts of fun. You will also lose your way (and as the Moon spoke tears formed in the Angel’s eyes. She looked away). You will also do things unimaginable to you now which you will regret and not be able to reconcile for a very long time. You will also do things of remarkable grace. Are you sure you’re ready for all of that?”

The little girl kept her head low, but she mumbled just loud enough for all of them to hear: “Yes, I am.”

“You will forget me,” said the Moon looking up into the sky.

“Never!” cried the little girl.

“You will,” said the Moon, “but not completely. I will always be with you in your dreams and creativities. Once you go however, you will turn your attention to the Sun, for I will take you as far as the gates of birth and leave you with Angel at the shore. Angel will go with you across the ocean to an even further shore where you will live out your time there; then, when the time is right, the Sun will take you to the gates of death and from there Angel will carry you home, and we will all be waiting for you once you return.”
The truths of the Moons words stung the little girl’s heart, yet, at the same time, the pain was somehow full of light and a strange, dizzying expectancy.

“Will you stay with me while I’m in the other world?” she asked the Angel.

“Of course,” replied the Angel. “I have been with you since before the beginning and I will be with you beyond the end.”

“Thank you!” said the little girl leaping into the Angel’s arms.

“You’re welcome,” said the Angel, “but you will forget me too.”

“And me,” interjected the Sun.

The little girl stepped back from the three gathered there and stared at them. “Why will I forget you?” she said, unable to hold back her tears. “You are my Mother, Father, and closest friend. Why must I forget you?”

“If you truly want to grow,” said the Moon, “and learn to be free, you will need to cultivate your own remembrances. You will need to awaken us within yourself, and once you do, we will be closer to you then than we are right now. Angel will help you through all of this. She will be your constant companion. She will do her very best to keep you on a good road and inspire thoughts and feelings within you to help you remember us and where you have come from. But it will not only be your angel that will help you remember. There is another teacher as well.”

“Who is that?” asked the little girl.

“It’s not a ‘who’,” said the Moon, “It is a what—pain. Pain will help guide you to us, so will your dream and desires, teachers and so too, will nature and the holy books written by inspired people. And of course, the song from the Singer Who Loves Us will guide you too. It’s just that sometimes we cover our ears to is music.”

“I’m afraid,” said the little girl.

“This is only the beginning of fear,” said the Moon, “the fear you will come to know will be great, right from the very beginning. Fear will fill your first gasping breaths. Angel will be with you though, guiding, supporting, and giving you just enough courage to make it through. You needn’t fear your fear or let it stop you from doing what you truly want or need to do. But be aware, many people there worship feelings like gods, yet they fail to realize that feelings are as transient as the wind. The fear you will feel will leave and return throughout your time there, just like happiness and joy. All of the feelings come and go. Angel will help you know what to do with your feelings.Angel will be teaching you the entire journey.”

“You’ll do that for me?” the little girl asked the Angel.

“I will do that with you,” corrected the Angel, “we go together. I am not your lord, I am your companion, and I will be with you always.”

The little girl took a deep breath.

“Keep doing that,” said the Moon, “You will need to learn how to breathe a whole new way. The more you practice and the more you learn to remember to breathe with your whole body the easier the journey will be, and the more you will be able to remember us.”

“When can we go?” asked the little girl, practicing taking another deep breath.

“As soon as we’ve gathered the provisions for your journey,” said the Moon.

“Here,” said the Sun, “You’ll need this.” And he took a piece of light from a little box that appeared in his hands.

“Open wide,” he said, and placed the piece of light onto her tongue. She beamed, relishing the sweetness spreading through her, sharp, alive, quick. She held it in her mouth like candy, allowing it to slowly dissolve.

“That will live in you,” said the Sun, “and serve as a homing beacon when you begin your search for me.”

“Thank you,” said the little girl, “it tastes like honey.”

“Good,” said the Sun, “remember that sweetness.”

“May I have another piece?”

“Yes,” the Sun smiled and dropped another piece into her waiting mouth, like a mother bird feeding her young.

“Each piece makes me want more,” she said.

“When you feast on my light, it will always leave you wanting more. And the more light you share with others, the more you will have, and the more you will want. So use it, cherish it, eat–the supply is endless.”

“And you’ll need this,” said the Moon, draping a garland of fragrant, delicate white flowers around her shoulders.

“Thank you,” said the little girl, carefully touching the blossoms.

“When you cross over it will merge into you,” said the Moon, “it will become you. Then you will have the Sun’s light and mine living within you. My flowers will be your connection with me. They will grow into my servant, the Muse, who will help you author your life.”

“It’s beautiful,” said the little girl.

“And so will be the story of your life,” smiled the Moon with a tear in her eye.

“Don’t cry,” said the little girl, reaching up and touching the Moon’s face.

“Why not?” asked the Moon, “tears are another gift each one of us gives to you, they will help water the garden that the Singer has planted in you. The garden Angel will help you tend.”

“Garden?” asked the little girl.

“Yes,” said the Moon, “The Singer Who Loves Us plants a garden in every living thing. “

“Even you?”

“Even me,” laughed the Moon.

“We all have gardens,” said the Sun and the Angel.

“My garden looks like a field of lilies,” said the Moon.

“My garden looks well, like a field of sunflowers,” laughed the Sun.

“And yours?” the little girl asked the Angel.

“Mine is still growing, but I suspect it will look a lot like yours.”

“What does mine look like?” asked the little girl.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” said the Angel, “here, take these.” The Angel handed the little girl a pouch of seeds.

“These are your destiny,” said the Angel. “You get to plant them whenever, however, and wherever you please in your garden.”

The little girl slowly took the pouch into her hands, felt its gentle, unassuming weight, and felt suddenly worried.

“What if I plant them wrong?” she asked, “What if I lose them, or plant them and forget about them?”

“That’s why I go with you,” said the Angel placing her hand on the little girl’s shoulder. “I will guide you and be with you, I will protect, inspire, and enliven you. However, you will be in complete freedom when it comes to how, when, and where you sow your seeds.”

“But what if I waste them? What if I do it all wrong?” The little girl was crying, and for the first time since this moment began, she felt unsure of wanting to take this journey.

“It is not a question of wrong, or of wasting,” said the Angel, “These seeds are eternal, gifts from the Singer Who Loves Us. So they are always right. It is only a matter of time as to whether they bear fruit or not. They all bear fruit, dear one. You may make mistakes here and there and need to rearrange the garden, pull a few weeds; but do it without shame, for we have all done so, every one of us. In fact, tending the garden of your heart, learning how and when and what to plant, is all part of the adventure and the fun.”

“The light I gave will help you,” said the Sun.

“Mine too,” said the Moon, “In fact, with the power of the Muse you will even be able to garden at night.”

The little girl smiled, comforted.

“There’s one more thing,” said the Moon, and she opened her arms, gathering Sun, the Angel, and the little girl into the silvery drapery of her embrace. They held one another, and each one in turn, the Sun, the Moon, and the Angel, showered the little girl with kisses, tears, blessings, and prayers. And as they did they heard a song rise from the horizon. It rolled towards them, unfolding its wings, and it flooded them, came upon them with the force of a river, and filled them with hope and joy; and within its music, the most tender, yet fiercest love wove through their embrace. It spiraled around and through them, above and below them.

And when they finally let go, the Moon gathered the little girl into her arms. The song unfurled into a rainbow-dappled road, and the Moon began walking slowly upon it. The Angel followed close behind, and the Sun ran ahead deep into the distance, until he was no longer visible. The Moon carried the little girl to the gates of birth which opened into an ocean lit with a million lanterns and lotus flowers. A basket made of flowers waited at the shore, and with one last kiss, the Moon placed the little girl into the basket and nudged it gently away, tears streaming down her face. The Angel slipped into the water like a ribbon of gold and took the basket in her arms and carried it through the water. They traveled across the ocean to another shore that opened surrounded by hills and mountains, and pulsed with wild, quickening drumbeats unlike anything the little girl had ever heard. They were hypnotic, mesmerizing, and yet soothing, like a gentle storm. They were strangely familiar and seemed as close to her as her own breath.

“Here,” said the little girl, “this is good.”

And with these words, the basket touched the shore and as it did, the gates of the other world parted. For a split second she thought she saw the Sun racing ahead. She thought she saw the Moon leaning in from the sky. She turned and realized the Angel had disappeared and moved to the other side of the gates. She heard moans of ecstasy and pleasure. She felt something shimmer through her, thrilling her with something like sparks and a slow, gradual explosion of wonder and of unfolding into time and space. And the song–the song the Singer Who Loves Us sang, threaded through the drumbeats of this new world with the drumbeat of the little girl’s. Little by little the drumbeats slowed and separated, and she suddenly found herself lulled to sleep. She slept for what seemed like forever. Somehow she sensed the Angel rocking her. Somehow she felt connected and protected by the one drumbeat that now enveloped her with its steady, caressing light. Somehow she knew other drumbeats were near and ready to meet her. Somehow the song of the Singer Who Loves Us thrummed through her newly forming fingers and toes, making her do little, fluttering dances.

And then one morning, she found herself being pushed, lifted, and born into the waiting, tender arms of the world.



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