I followed you by rivers of phlegm and blood
followed you by rivers of gas and strong digestive juices and I found you
in my heart.
What I call my heart is you.
Now I want to hear you sing and play the flute the Virgin played
when she danced before our Lord in pious circles as the moon does in her orbit.
Once more I want to see you consulting with widows about their hemorrhoids
and with men my age asking for money.
I am more than 60 now
more than the smoke of memory gone in fire
more than what is left when bones are splintered ash.
When not even the echo of my voice is left
there you are.
With my hands I am listening for your voice spread over me like a flag of sky
open and let go of, carried in wind and snapping like a prayer shawl!
The mind without end or beginning
the heart alone with itself, the heart alone
I listen for that.
Whatever prayer is, this is a prayer:
the whistling a redbird makes shot through the wing with a pellet gun
the call of a buzzard falling from the forehead of an oak tree in Stephen’s Creek, Texas
shot from an amazing distance with a 22 rifle when I was twelve.
The arc of it falling beautiful in memory as the breast of a woman
or the flared nostrils of a muley cow in labor.
The arc of falling is my prayer and the memory of hitting the ground still trying
My own red face in the mirror is my prayer when I am feeling old
and bitter and used.
There is no burden greater than breath turned against itself
but if you are who I say you are, you hear these words before I do.
They say you are God but you are not God.
God is just another man who does not listen when we go down on our knees
crying in public.
You are more than God and I am laid bare to you!
The coarse hair over my heart
you know it well.
When I call your name you see the gaps between the crooked teeth I want to hide
behind my hands.
I have the tongue of a crow slit by a peanut farmer’s son and taught to speak
the words of men.
If I couldn’t lie there would be nothing left to say.
I am poor poor poor poor. I am poor!
I can’t earn your love
only stalk you as a crow will stalk a slice of wonder bread that falls
from your high window to this ground.
I tell you my heart is a decorated doorway
that the ribs over my heart are sanded smooth and lacquered with mantras
chanted in the remains of a East Texas accent.
But the face I show you only you can see
who see through walls and time before emptiness becomes a man.
Once I heard you telling someone on the street
“Abandon every face, see only sky.
If you must kneel, kneel completely through the earth.
You are free! You are not a prostitute and God is not your pimp!”
I kneel and I feel myself carried underground to the unconceived beginnings of a river.
I am the decorated doorway
the one you pass through walking with an arm of moon around your waist.
I will kneel before you like a man
or I will wear a long white skirt that drags the ground with a red hem.
I will dance for you with honeysuckle in my hair!
Shree Maa said to me
“Who am I? I am nothing, zero! If you want to see God, look in your mirror.”
I can’t say who I am
but I go round you like a red tailed hawk around a wild magnolia tree
in which a red winged blackbird sits.
Sometimes when the moon rises, our blood follows the limping heart and flows
in a spiral through the body
like the mob that followed Jesus through the winding streets of Jerusalem
when the cross was on his back, the sun setting on his head
followed by thunder, followed by rain!
Sometimes we may feel a wing has been torn from our spine.
Shree Maa told me that with one good wing we can fly in circles around our Lord
that a circle is as good as straight line when all we want is to be with you.
Before I came to rest in the one whose breast is white and fragrant as magnolia
I ate the flesh and drank the blood of memory.
My heart was a bible with verses marked by sticks of chewing gum.
Now in early morning I kneel by streams of breath
with the moon as my witness
and admit to you
I know nothing nothing nothing.
Copyright 2000 Charlie Hopkins Photo courtesy Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj Trust
Charlie Hopkins is poetry editor of this website.