POEM: THE OLD INTERIOR ANGEL

by contemplativeinquiry

Young, male and

immortal as I was,

I stopped at the first sight

Of that broken bridge.

 

The taut cables snapped

and the bridge planks

concertina-ed

into a crazy jumble

over the drop,

four hundred feet

to the craggy

stream.

 

I sat and watched

the wind shiver on the broken planks,

as if by looking hard

and long enough, the life-line

might spontaneously

repair itself –

but watched in vain.

an hour I sat

in silence,

checking each

involuntary movement

of the body toward

that trembling

bridge

with a fearful mind,

and an emphatic

shake of the head.

 

Finally, facing defeat

and about to go back

the way I came

to meet the others.

 

Three days round

by another pass.

 

Enter the old mountain woman

with her stooped gait,

her dark clothes

and her dung basket

clasped to her back.

 

Small feet shuffling

for the precious

gold-brown

fuel for cooking food.

Intent on the ground

she glimpsed my feet

and looking up

said “Namaste”

“I greet the God in you”

the last syllable

held like a song.

 

I inclined my head

and clasped my hands

to reply, but

before I could look up,

she turned her lined face

and went straight across

that shivering chaos

of wood

and broken steel

in one movement.

 

One day the hero

sits down,

afraid to take

another step,

and the old interior angel

limps slowly in

with her no-nonsense

compassion

and her old secret

and goes ahead.

“Namaste”

you say

and follow.

 

David Whyte River Flow: New & Selected Poems 1984-2007 Langley, Washington: Rivers Press, 2007

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