For A. D.
Having just returned from watching fireworks,
Celebrating the Fourth of July— thousands gathered
On the public parks and lawns, children running
As they waited for Sun to set over the western hills.
The context is a wealthy town not far from the Hudson River,
Early in the 21st Century, approaching over a hundred years
Of rising Empire and now on the possible slide down from its apex….
May I speak to you as though you and I are the only ones,
Here within privacy of these four imagined walls,
Intensely reflecting if only for a moment on where we are?
Today, for me, it was an extraordinary day, as I am sure it was for you.
You surround by your family. I was alone, reflecting on
So many passing things, walking among gravestones of the dead—
Patriots of war who sacrificed their lives— even now
It makes me weep to see what they gave up.
We should never assume that soldiers living
In the harsh realities of war are not thinking about
High ideals of gallantry, nobility, duty and willing sacrifice.
Tonight, the sky was clear. I could see surrounding towns,
Rockets in the distance arching into the air,
Exploding soundlessly in a multitude of brilliant and muted colors
That only a great poet could hope to describe.
As darkness arrived upon the local stage,
Fire streaked through the warm night,
Bursting high above me, great exploding displays—
Ovals and circles and parabolas of light.
Fireworks are interesting things
For revealed within their brief moment
Lies deep order– design, careful manufacture,
Intent and intelligent calculation all timed precisely,
To be released to burn when fuse is lit to burst alive,
Branding deep into the imagination of the viewer. With each bomb,
Cries of young girls—nine or ten— but only girls—
Where were the cries of boys? Here only yards away
Such power, such awesome and thunderous beauty
Literally on display for all to see and hear together.
Surely there were those within the large crowd,
Besides myself, who saw this play as metaphor for life itself—
So bright, so fleeting in the plunge to darkness….
With so many of the exploding works of art,
Perhaps a hundred stars or more dancing together
Orchestrated as though in an intricate ballet—
Yet so often there was one singular star
Soaring higher or wider away from the rest.
I could not venture whether by aberration or design,
But over and over I came to see these wayward stars
As you, shining so brightly, attracting attention to yourself,
Not necessarily by intention but by singular path….
Exploding and imploding forces of the universe.
These “orphans” seemed to find essence of their beauty
Not within the crowd, but standing apart—
Never diminished but in fact enhanced in energy as
They fell alone, whether slow or fast, down to Earth at last.
Of course I know at times you’ve wanted to end your life.
The suffering that you bear within your soul
Is at times so heavy….
I only hope you feel I sense some measure of your pain,
Admire and honor your journey on this plane of existence.
Your life is not mine to live. I have few answers,
Barely glimpse some of the questions that arise for you,
But I hear your cry, feel it reverberate down and down
Into the universal and silent space within my own soul.
Ultimately, it is not left to me to say that you must live,
Though I may fight your impulse to destroy the light
Now carried so brightly in your body, mind and heart.
I will stand forever at the edge of the cliff to block your way.
I trust you won’t misconstrue my words
If I say how much I love you—not in any perverted sense,
But I cannot be silent and not confess, man to man,
That I cannot put boundaries around my open heart
When touched so deeply as it was tonight—
Watching glorious display of stars fall to their fate.
I sat there in awe and wept—
For you, for me, for all of humanity.
Some have written of Shakespeare that he had
Such gentleness of spirit that none could speak with him
Or behold his very presence without sensing
Bond of deep affection toward him that passage of time
Did not diminish, which lasted beyond limits of death itself.
I’m sure we could both name
Those great men and women of history who had
This sense of charisma— Helen, Achilles, Alexander, Jesus, Moses,
Francis, Gandhi, Mandala had this gift of Deep Soul.
You have your own unique gift of personality,
Intelligence and charisma—
Whether by fate or karma or
Shaped by your private suffering.
You should not take pride in this. Many others have this as well.
I suspect we all have such capacity if we are vulnerable to it,
Open ourselves as you at times have done with me…
When you dive down to the painful depths of Ocean’s Deep.
Most run away from this or hide it until alone.
But with you it is more visible, and this vulnerability is a precious gift,
Shaped both in solitude and by the forces that have
Buffeted and bullied you in this cruel, cruel world.
As yet you have not developed an elephant’s hide,
Perhaps you never will…..
But you are uniquely beautiful and so deeply loved.
Two days ago, I saw a glimpse of this from your family
When I had to tell them that you told me
That you were going to kill yourself.
I heard their cry, sensed their urgency as they
Rushed to be with you, to protect you from yourself.
Please take the time to acknowledge that you are loved.
There are so many fractured families—
And I know yours has also failed you at times.
None of them are perfect, yet each and every one
Would feel your loss like a knife in the heart—
As would I— so deeply do we wish to see you live.
You are a precious star, streaking through the night,
Exploding brightly into sight,
Touching more than you will ever realize.
You have a tattoo upon small of your back,
Chosen by yourself— an Arabic symbol for the name of GOD.
I will say no more for now, other than that
You are very present in my prayers this night,
Hoping you will find a way to cling to life,
Experience healing and soaking love
In such a way that over time you’ll have greater strength,
Different perspective on what you have to face.
I know you know that I am here for you….