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In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair. --Howard Thurman

Poems Emerging from Stillness

--by Charles P. Gibbs, Apr 14, 2022

Into Ever Deeper Water

One moment you awoke
no longer content
to continue treading water.

You set out for the farther 
shore beckoning you from before time,

patiently, subtly, insistently
awaiting your deeper listening,
your deeper opening

to the awareness
that being truly alive
offers only one choice:

set out, one stroke at a time,
into ever deeper water
toward the far unknown shore
where your Self awaits,

knowing surely that, opening
in the journey, you will arrive
and know yourself as your Self
for the first time.

***
At The MJ Hotel

Sitting in remote Kabala, 
Koinadugu, Sierra Leone 
on the veranda at the back 
of the MJ Motel, whose front 
features two large banners of 
Martin Luther King, Jr.,
on a morning thickly hazy 
with the smoke of so much 
burning across the valley below me.

The white kleenex blackens
as I wipe fine ashes 
from the tabletop
to the music of birds
in the trees around me – 
the red earth, the dry grass,
the lush green banana trees
hanging heavy with fruit.

The music of Krio flows
as the motel workers converse,
breakfast just completed,
lunch already cooking slowly 
over a nearby charcoal fire with 
whisps of pale smoke rising.

Ahmed, the manager, ambles over.
Greets me. Your first time in Africa?
My second time in Sierra Leone.
He arches his eyebrows.
My second time in this hotel.
I was here two years ago.

He pauses.
Then the recognition – 
Yes, two years ago,
before Ebola.
Yes, I say, before Ebola.

You like Martin Luther King, I ask?
He replies, Yes, and Gandhi and Mandela – non-violence.
I say, I have some of his speeches on my computer.

I Have a Dream, he almost whispers.
I Have a Dream, I had that once.
Could you download for me?

I had it once.
Before Ebola.
Before our need
to hold and be held
became deadly.
I would like it again.
I would like to have the dream.

***


There is a land 

a Motherland of vast
imaginative spaces and absolute
belonging her open heart a deep well
where all draw and drink
freely and fully the waters of life,

where we meet unknown
immediately recognized neighbors
share the water wander together
through imaginative spaces with
paths of potential to our
transformed tomorrow today

yes scorched land here
and there but not barren 
our neighbors seeming poor
possess invisible wealth
waters waiting to be
tapped and shared

knowing we belong
to each other and this land
let us abide in peace
and possibility; invite and be
guided by our neighbors’
invisible wealth water
the scorched land plant
transformed tomorrows
together today

***


New Day Awakening

I am not
different from everything
or anything else
that is and yet
I’m not the same.

The rising sun
turns the ribbed clouds
into an inviting canyon
stretched in unfathomable
depth across the dawn sky.

The wind tousles
the tops of the towering
poplars and pines
swaying as I am
entranced by the beauty
of this new day
awakening. I feel
an invitation 
from the clouds, the sun,
the amber washed across 
the sky, the breeze,
the trees, the damp grass
under my feet and
the tiny random daisies – 
release, they say, forget
and remember.

Be more than
only an observer
in your own life
in the great life
we share. We are
not different.
We are not.

We are.
    




The Rev. Canon Dr. Charles P. Gibbs is an Episcopal priest, Sufi by adoption, peacebuilder, interfaith activist, speaker and writer. He is the Founding Executive Director Emeritus of the United Religions Initiative, and Senior Advisor for Catalyst for Peace. He is currently working on a new volume of poems to follow -- Light Reading - Poems from a Pilgrim Journey. As son, brother, husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather, Charles cherishes and is inspired by his family. He is blessed with dear friends and colleagues of diverse faiths around the world with whom he shares a commitment to serve the world through spiritual transformation and cooperative engagement for the good of all life on this sacred Earth.      


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