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Poem: First Loves

Socrates was my first love.
Sitting on my grand-uncle's lap,
I was immersed in tales of
Greek and Norse gods and heroes:
escaping with Odysseus from the Cyclop's cave,
sacrificing one eye with Odin
for the gift of poetry.
But the old sage from Athens lived on in me,
as he walked the gardens with his questions,
and calmly emptied his poison cup.
Around the radio on our kitchen table
with my mother and grandmother,
we suffered with Jean Valjean in cruel times.
Our hearts glowed with dreams of justice.
And from ships on Far Eastern seas,
my father's letters came
with stories from a wondrous land,
where fortune and misfortune
couldn't always be distinguished.
The magical world of childhood!

But later, when I was fifteen or so,
the golden ball was cracked.
Its warm glow started to give way
to the cold light of neon signs
and lonely TV sets.
For many years I wandered
a land of concrete city streets,
turning my back to people
as they turned their backs to me.
My wish for love was left unexpressed,
my voice stifled and flat.
Death was there,
as a frightening black hole in my heart.
Then a door opened slightly.
An old Japanese man with mossy twigs for eyebrows
told a secret:
"You can see. It has been done before.
The golden light is still around us."

My grand-uncle's rasping voice,
father riding distant waves,
and the safe space of grandmother and mother—
silken threads in the norns' tapestry.
Socrates, Jean Valjean, and
Suzuki's T'ang Dynasty friends—
matches lighting the candle
in the Transformation Hall.
I bow down gratefully and touch the warm ground
of the here and now.

Svein Myreng

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Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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