Growing More and More For Henri
Joseph Anthony Petro
Trees are not defined
By how well they read
The scrolls of the sky;
They are not defined
By how wide or how far
Or how hard they stretch;
They are not defined
By the green they bloom in spring
Or the gold they scatter in autumn.
Trees see in the dark.
Trees brush their hands
Through the fields of heaven.
Trees find ways
Of securing themselves
In earth and stone no one else
Would have ever thought of.
Trees spread fragrance and fruit
Simply by being themselves,
And by growing more and more
Into being themselves.
Trees make time to stand
Draped in moonlight and starlight,
And the shawl of the sun.
Trees gracefully allow
The breath of God to whisper
Through their minds
And touch their faces.
Trees gather nourishment
From storms and winter soil.
Trees weave air with skillful fingers
From pure imagination
And devotion to life.
May we all learn to rest
In their confident shade,
And, by their example,
Grow more and more
Into being ourselves.
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There is a bridge to cross
Where afar afield
People have found a way
To live with relative ease
With themselves and others,
And now have formed
A welcoming committee
Eager to widen the circle.
Looking over the span
Of space and time
That spreads between
Where they dance
And where I stand,
I reach out–
Their dancing turns
I take a step a far
Afield and their dancing
Turns into a festival–
And they are singing my name
And they are moving as close
As they possibly can
Leaving me the dignity
To cross on my own, to stumble
And allow my stumblings
To become dancing,
And their singing
Gives me wings,
And their dancing
Gives me strength,
And their very presence–
The very fact of their desire
To help and to welcome and to share–
The very fact that they can even see me
From so far away,
And love what they see–
Is enough today
To help me get up,
Step away from my own shadow,
And keep walking, and so, to dance.
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Spring is trying,
The trees turning into carnivals of flowers are trying,
The roots are trying,
The sky is trying,
And the robins, the hawks,
The invisible, but audible owls are trying,
So many people are trying,
I know they are asking
Their gods to try,
I know you are trying.
I only hope it’s not too late.
That I am not already dead,
That the block not letting the air
Into my heart isn’t too massive,
Too menacing to let any breath
Escape in or out. I only hope
I can trust the kiss, the passage
Of your strength and courage
Into my chest. I only hope
The breathing will catch hold
And then gradually level into calm.
And I might need to hold your hand,
And I might need you to tell me
To hold on, or to let go,
And I might need you to have me,
To not let me drift into nothingness
Once I do let go or hold on,
Whichever the case may be once
The stream of your breath begins swirling
In my lungs, and I open my eyes
And live again.
And I might need you to remind me
There is white light around me
And within me.
And I need it be OK with you that I need you.
And I might need you to be the white light for awhile
And embrace me with healing gentleness like there’s no tomorrow,
Until I rise again a new creation.
I only hope it’s not too late.
That I am not already dead.
That once I begin to feel
The warmth of your breath
That whatever it is within me that is frozen
Will begin to thaw,
Will have its own experience of spring,
And will suddenly and without shame
Blossom into a life that is alive.
Fake it till you make it, they say.
I’ve been faking it for the better part
Of forty-seven years,
The rest has been out and out lies
Scattered through fleeting moments
Of a deep awareness of the oneness of things.
I am trying now, more than ever
To go through the motions of living
Because the motions of dying
Would hurt too many people.
Yet every living movement I make is hollow
And empty like a brainless robot riddled with rust.
I shave, clean my room, I look at you
And I write these words, I even gaze long moments
At flowers and roots of trees,
I walk yet I do not feel my steps,
I lie in bed yet I do not feel my weight,
And it isn’t so much a wind is blowing through me—
It is more I am not even here, not even a shell,
More of a ghost–a living, breathing ghost.
And I do not know when I crossed over
Into dying while living. I have tried so hard
To push through, to simply be,
To tell you the truth of my journey,
And yet I can slip my hand through my own body,
The mirror reflects the wall behind where I think
I stand. I want to tell you something beautiful,
I want to give you bushels of hope,
I want to tell you to never look away from the light
Or the darkness, I want to tell you to never refuse an embrace,
Or to never give up, yet I am faking it, so I truly do not know
If what I am telling you means anything at all.
Yet I am here. Going through
The motions, the way waves go through
The ocean, the way wind
The way space
The way time
The way the end of the road
Goes through, straight through
To the other side
I do not understand how I can be filled with such a sprawling emptiness.
I try letting the spring overtake me:
The trees breaking open with their flowers of colored light,
The ground erupting with tulips and daffodils who so clearly want sky and bees,
The robin eggs bluer than the sky filling secret nests with the wings of the future,
The silent flock of deer wandering the graveyards of my attempts to pretend, to obliterate
Myself– how they nibble at the moon-drenched grass at my feet,
How they touch my hands with their velvety lips,
Still–there is still a gray wind stuck in the tree of my soul.
I do not understand how such a desolate wasteland could just appear
After all the work I have done to cultivate prayer, to garden my heart, to reach out, to love myself.
It is beyond me.
Somehow I walk—a stranger in the town of my own life, no longer surprised
At the devastation, at the ground full of flower petals,
At the broken robin eggs on the grass, at the daffodils curling in on themselves,
At the riots, the stupidity, the greed, the betrayals,
At the mirror looking back with such vacancy into such a nowhere
That it is unbelievable I still exist. And please
Don’t talk to me of ingratitude. Anemia spreads
Through the veins of my spirit without my consent, there is a famine moving like
A procession of ghosts through the fields of my ability to sing.
Please just look away, and please just hold me until it is beyond me,
Until it is unbelievable that I could have ever felt this way,
Until I can breathe again in a life full of spring.