Guest poem sent in by Rachael Shaw
(Poem #1944) Call Me by My True Names
Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow because even today I still arrive. Look deeply: I arrive in every second to be a bud on a spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone. I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, in order to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive. I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river, and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly. I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond, and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog. I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks, and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda. I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate, and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving. I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands, and I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to, my people, dying slowly in a forced labor camp. My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life. My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans. Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one. Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up, and so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk. His lifelong efforts to generate peace moved Martin Luther King, Jr. to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. He is the author of over 75 books. This poem was sent to me by a friend recently when I was becoming frustrated with someone's judgmental approach to a client of mine that was due to be executed. Hanh's poem is essentially about understanding. It is about not judging one for their crime but rather seeing what got them to that point. Working with prisoners on death row, one learns that the prisoners come from neglect, abuse and poverty. Hanh explains that if raised under these circumstances, one may end up like this also. I interpret this poem as encouraging the practice of deep empathy for those we have trouble understanding. Hahn is urging us to treat everyone kindly and look at all living beings with eyes of compassion. Rachael Shaw [Links] Information on Thich Nhat Hanh http://www.seaox.com/thich.html Publisher of Thich Nhat Hanh books http://www.parallax.org/