Posts Tagged ‘breaking open’

Doing the Heart Work

The heart circulates blood through the body
a thousand times a day and not once
do I give it a thought. Not once do I think
of those four chambers, flooding and releasing,
the valves opening and closing to keep blood flowing.
It does this while I eat, while I crumple, while I teach.
It does this while I hold my daughter as she weeps,
while I stumble, while I fall apart, while I sleep.
Oh body, though I speak of being broken hearted
and the gifts that come in the breaking, meanwhile,
you go on with your ceaseless heart work, the work
of flow, the work of current, the work of push through,
of never saying no, the work of life, the necessary work
that allows all the beautiful breaking open to happen.

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weeping beside

the pussy willows—

all those tears

over saying goodbye,

I wouldn’t uncry

a single one

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The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.

            —Joanna Macy



Give me a heart that breaks—

ears willing to hear the difficult news

and legs that do not choose to run from it.


Yes, give me a heart big enough

to accommodate a wrestling match inside,

a mind that knows no one wins a war,


hands that move to help no matter

what the mind might say.

Give me a heart that opens


long after it thinks it’s already open,

and lips that know when to listen.

Give me a heart that knows itself


as other hearts. Give me feet

that will stand when someone must stand

for justice. And a spine flexible enough


to turn and see all sides. Snow falls

on all my thoughts. It sometimes

takes a long time to melt, a long time


before I remember again to pray

to be open, to pray for a heart that breaks,

to notice the stars shining from the inside.


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the full glass, broken—

rushing for the broom

I break the vase, too

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Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.
—The Wizard of Oz

Give me a heart that breaks,
a heart that longs to open
wider and wider, always revealing

more space. Give me hands
that long to serve. Make them strong
enough to build what must be built.

Make them fall in love with letting go.
Make them unable to hurt. Give me a mind
that leans toward generosity. A tongue

that speaks in only we. Feet that run
toward those in need. Eyes
that see beneath the masks. Ears

that hear the silence
that is the staff for every sound. A nose
that follows the fragrance of truth.

Blood the same red as everyone else’s.
And give me a heart that breaks again
and again, the way ocean waves

break, unpredictable, an endless
breaking, an endless release,
in which nothing is ever really lost,

in which we are found.

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losing all my leaves
I did not yet know I would
lose my roots too


chipped, this cup,
the wine in it
tastes no worse


chanting to the sky
long after the prayer ends
these hands still raised

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The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
—Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Dear World,

Thank you for breaking me.

The rabbit brush are in full bloom.
Yellow in the field. Yesterday
I mowed the edges of the drive
and as a matter of course
I mowed whatever rabbit brush
was in my path. The air
smelled so good then,
a clean, sharp scent,
almost like sage,
only softer.

I have not been very good.
I have not been very gentle.
I have not been very brave.
But I have been sincere.
And I have loved.

There was a time when
I wanted to weed all the rabbit brush
from the field. I wanted only field grass.
I would wait for it to rain for days,
then pull up as much rabbit brush as I could.

World, I have not been very good.
And you have broken me so perfectly—
always leading me to just the right place
for falling apart. World, how do you do that?

The rabbit brush always come back
and eventually I learned to leave them
wherever they leap up. And eventually I learned
to find them beautiful.

I have not been very gentle, world.
I have taken what I wanted, sometimes mercilessly.
And you take every opportunity to kill me,
sometimes with fear, sometimes
with great or small beauty.

Yellow. Yellow. Yellow.
Thousands of yellow hands
all waving each time I arrive.

World, I have not been very brave.
I am not like Hemingway. When the war comes
I try to hide. And still you come to kill me
like a warrior, like a soldier,
only much, much slower.

The rabbit brush does not mind drought.
It thrives in cracked, parched soil.
The rabbit brush does not mind the rain.
It thrives. It thrives.

I can’t say I like being broken, world.
I can’t say I like being killed.
But you do it so well and I do admire
your insuperable skill. Keep killing me,
world, keep breaking me. Keep finding
my flaws. Press until I crack.
I am broken, dying, thriving. I am waving
at you waving back.

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I knew myself a swirl of ash
swept grayly by the wind
like wings, only without the bird,
like kites without their strings.

And I, who have been dead, tonight
I know myself the moon
with rings around it in the dark.
And I the darkness, too.

But I am also not the dark,
not moon, not ash, not kite,
not anything that can be held,
something beyond the lines.

I know myself a spilling thing,
a raveling, a leak.
Call it blessing, call it luck
the vessel as it breaks.

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I imagine myself
an empty vase
and you
the water,
the flowers,
the blooming,
the wilting,
the returning
of emptiness,
and you the crack
fine and growing
in the way
I thought
I could hold
you in.

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After we break
we learn there is always
more to break
the more
we break the more
our light radiates

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