The Word is the Way

Sage CohenSage poetry and prose, The life poetic0 Comments

We all walk our own paths to discover heaven on earth. My portal has always been poetry. At the borrowed retreat house, I place the blue mug on the red counter, lay the dog bed down. How little it takes to make a house a home.

As each turn in the travel reveals a new landscape rising up, I recognize the patterns of yesterday. There is a kind of belonging to seeing the same sight twice. How easily we nestle into a new life with just a few repetitions. The way practicing music makes the scales a part of you, this drive belongs to me. In the driving of it, I will embed Route 53 into the hardwiring of my non-thinking, the backbone of my memory.

Here I can simply climb the loft into my quiet mind, let the rising heat warm me, let the dishes turned upside down dry in their own time because slowness has its own rhythm of wood gathering, of closing the gate, of firing the alarm with the doors closed, the mind alert. I love my little nest of covers framed in sky. I like sleeping above the sleep of my dogs, as if my beneficence might pour down over them like starlight.

I love my dogs: Henry curled into a little knot like the heart of Cherry wood, Hamachi stretched long and lean like a fallen branch too full of the weight of its own potential to stay suspended above the earth.

The worn chairs with their slumped pillows feel something like a family, a circle of friends, witnesses. I feel the sitting, the thinking, the gathering of the women who have been here before, receiving words through their wide nets of butterfly catching: mash of bananas and beer. Attracting the spirits with the song of the river, with the receptivity of the dictionary. She waits for me to open her. She is alive with an orderly thinking, a waking of the mind that can be activated with any interpretation. As if there were such a thing as definition.

This must be how electricity was discovered: a charge we all know but have not figured out how to tap. Like music, captured and channeled into individual songs, when the truth of music is everywhere, swarming us in our inability to listen. The gift of the musician is to untangle a melody, a harmony and a base line and feed those to us bit by bit so we can learn how to digest them.

And this is what the poet does: relieve the heat of its burdens; send it into the atmosphere to mingle with the particles of words that are accumulating there, waiting to fall down upon us, fat as bread crumbs whose trail we follow into the darkness.

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This essay appeared alongside thought leaders such as Barack Obama, Al Gore, and Thomas L. Friedman in the anthology How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth. Learn more about the Heaven on Earth project, or get your own copy of the anthology!

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