I believe in the tortured artist, the suffering writer,

creator of truth and beauty.

 

I believe in words great and lasting,

which are conceived by heartache

and born of rejection.

They suffer under anxiety,

are depressed, insecure, addicted;

they descend into despondency.

In their revision they rise to power.

They ascend into canon

and stand among Steinbeck and Shakespeare.

From there they comfort and guide the living.

 

I believe in one muse,

exacting and jealous,

delivering inspiration to the broken,

who spoke to Plath the suicidal,

Keruouc the drunk,

Hemingway the shotgunned,

and—Snyder,

voice of Buddhist Beats,

who did not die of lead or alcohol,

but found peace in tin cups and axe handles.

 

I believe in burning ambition,

harsh and consuming,

which does not touch, somehow,

Mary Oliver the peaceful,

who writes of nature and breathing and love.

 

I believe in the truth of poetry.

Mary Oliver writes of hope:

in which I have goodness, and discernment,

and never hurry through the world

but walk slowly, and bow often, [1]

and I revisit torture and despondence,

the essential ingredients of great and lasting stories.

 

I believe in Snyder and Oliver, who have ascended into canon,

but who list different ingredients:

This is our body, he writes,

Laughing on the Great Earth. [2]

And she: Gratitude,

to be given a mind and a heart and these body clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren,

to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over,

how it is that we live forever. [3]

 

…I do not know what I believe.

 

I am trying to believe in joy.

A beer with friends,

an evening walk,

an icy tent beneath evergreens.

The confidence to enjoy this life

even in the absence of success.

 

I am trying to believe in small words with short lives

that touch a cheering and ecstatic crowd

of twenty

who forgot their signs and their cheers,

but instead brought love.

I am trying to believe in words that comfort only a few,

or two, or one,

even if that one is myself.

 

I am trying to believe in peace.

 

 

 

[1] “When I Am Among the Trees,” by Mary Oliver

[2] “The Bath,” by Gary Snyder

[3] “Messenger,” by Mary Oliver

Photo by Tamra Pontow

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