Just Like You

How, Then, to Live from Here?

by Bruce McConnell

We are honored to share 7 poems selected from Living from Here by Bruce McConnell. His new book brings to life 50 years with 41 poems written between 1968-2018. Bruce has graced many of Gangaji’s retreats in the last decade with his innate lightness of being, sharing with all his profound open heart. He was a member of the GF board of directors until 2014.

His bio describes him as a “poet, lover, warrior and mystic who acts in the world.”  He’s played many parts, large and small, on this world stage, from roofer, motorcycle messenger, blacksmith, mechanical engineer, business consultant, and tenor, to adviser on cybersecurity to the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama Administration. Wherever he finds himself Bruce is committed to sharing the emanation of love that speaks so loudly through his poetry. He presently serves at the EastWest Institute and lives in Oakland, California.

On Easter 2014, Bruce read the poem “How Then, to Live from Here?” for the first time at a Gangaji small group retreat in Ashland, OR.

 

Dreaming

Sometimes, eyes closed
the big screen dark
shadow-shapes
move.
three a.m.
deserted cobbles
shining with rain,
an iron-wheeled cart
bears a clutter of echoes
from yesterday, overtures
from tomorrow, tethered
forever
in this
moment.
Slowly shedding its
wearies, the body
begins to fall away,
dissolve, ooze out,
flatten into an
unboundaried expanse,
become sea water only the
orifices remaining
palpable, sentient, breathing
barely worth the effort.

Space complies, aligns,
conspires to bring the outside
in, noises integrate, the
click of a latch a pistol
someone’s moan a warning
the tide at neap.

Finally, the observer
surrenders. I feel so alive
I can hardly sleep.

 

What Does Love Look Like?

Unexpected thoughtfulness.
Patience, unreserved.
An unnecessary smile.
Elation unrestrainable.

Listening well.
Creating sanctuary
Without judgment.
Holding, tenderly.

Exercised restraint.
Steadfast commitment.
The courage of sacrifice.
Cherishing the sacred.

At every turn, beloved,
Your face reappears, your
Voice echoes, your reflections
Bedazzle. Whenever, I tune in,

I am lost. I am complete.

 

How Then, to Live from Here?

I surrender, again and
Somehow, finally – lost
To the abyss. Hallelujah.

First Priapus, then Thor
Has been admitted
To the Council fire.

They have come in
From the nether region,
Stinking of blood and shit.

Welcome, Dear Ones, come,
Take a load off. Thank you
For all you have done:

Over the years,
Toiling in obscurity,
Minding the Holy fires of Hell.

The Wise Old Man reports.
He is well. He is ready
To tell his story.

Since the earliest days,
He has lived in two worlds.
The veil now is pierced.

The lights shine through.
The division is ended.
The day has arrived

When he can sit
At the head of the circle
Because everyone is present.

Why, you might ask,
Admit these coarse fellows
To our civilized gathering?

The answer is the same
As the reason why the
Old Man loves them.

They simply do not give
A shit. Theirs is the
Terrible swift sword.

They have not been idle
These many years. They
Persevere, decide, act.

They hold space in all weather,
For equanimity, for justice,
For freedom, and for sacrifice.

They are not afraid of dying.
They are not going back.
Welcome, brothers. Welcome

Home: this place where
Everything is lost,
And there is peace.

Here will the Feminine tend your wounds,
The child run out before you,
The dog cherish your hand.

Here there is music and dance
And room for your stories and songs
Heard without judgment.

For you have had enough
With judgment. We have all
Had enough. There is no more time.

The watch fires of the world
Blaze anew in fear. Steadfast,
We shall not be moved,

Neither by fear of loss
Nor death, nor love. Abiding in you,
Beloved, in full measure.

Allelu.

 

In a Taxi to LaGuardia

Sometimes the morning
Is so entirely beautiful
I can barely look, the blood orange sun
Turning the steam clouds purple,
The icy sparkle off warming snow.

I fall back, into last night’s
Half full waxing moon, your
Own dear eyes, clear, twinkling.

 

On Garlic

for my brother

When I crush and peel garlic I think of you,
Perhaps from the night we made
Chicken cacciatore, something
We did in hunter’s style.
In your Yorkville basement kitchen.

Back home, tonight’s garlic finds company
With peppers, okra, squash, tomatoes:
Locals of a southern city.
That night I left before dessert;
The cabbie, botching the turn,
Toured around Penn Station.

Our wives report you finished
All the chicken, showing a preacher’s
Sunday appetite, while I, facing north,
Rode south on clattering rails.

Solitude in travel is the rule.
That night, though, I rode
With boon companion,
The sweet scent
Lingering on my fingertips.

 

Raw Love (Amor Fati)

After coffee you can start from here.
Faint scents of bliss, and of destruction
Waft through the window, arouse. Almost
Fearless, you rise shivering, sail
Tenderly, boldly into your life.
It helps if you break clinch with yesterday,
Become lighter, more essential.

What happens next, what fusion with the
Day’s ordinary, is so much less
Your choice than you were taught. All you can
Do, really, is try to keep your heart
Open, your mind curious, your soul
In awe. You fall in love with the world,
Into its rhythms. Your heartstrings sigh
In contentment. Life’s exultation,
Its human pain, become your own. On
A good day those whom you must love, each
In their own way, laugh and weep with you.

At evening, there is time for reflection.
You fall back, rue your brokenness, review
The costs of living and who shall bear them
Into the night. Offer them up. Hone
Your craft. Vow to cultivate compassion.
Honor truth and kindness. Look ahead,
But do not think you are the Captain.

 

A Friday

In my kitchen
Sun is setting.
Chopping figs
Coarsely, fondly:
Reflections on the
Spicy fragrance of the
Curry, complex,
Earthy, that
Is coming, that
Is
Life.

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