REDUCED TO JOY: The Poetry of Mark Nepo

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by Mark Nepo

Walking Together

I don’t spend time with the broken

because I like pain, but because

I need to feel life

from inside its shell.

Everywhere I turn, I witness

such resilience breaking out of

ordinary people: the fourteen year

old who was burned saving her grand-

mother; the Black sergeant carrying his

white lieutenant out of live fire and how

they fell in the sand and cried in each

other’s arms; and the one with no arms

who keeps asking what she can carry.

I’m watching a hummingbird now

work so hard, its wings seem not

to be moving at all. Is this what

happens when we love?

I’ll tell you a secret. I ran a comb

through Grandma’s hair minutes after

she died. She was still warm, her Spirit

on its way. I still have the comb. And

when in doubt or awe, I get by myself

and finger the spaces in

that comb.

How can I say this properly:

We can cheat death for a while

by feeding it things that are false.

And we can draw life out

by giving when we think

there’s nothing left.

Where is God?

It’s as if what is unbreakable—

the very pulse of life—waits for

everything else to be torn away,

and then in the bareness that

only silence and suffering and

great love can expose, it dares

to speak through us and to us.

It seems to say, if you want to last,

hold on to nothing. If you want

to know love, let in everything.

If you want to feel the presence

of everything, stop counting the

things that break along the way.

Behind the Thunder

I keep looking for one more teacher,

only to find that fish learn from water

and birds learn from sky.

If you want to learn about the sea,

it helps to be at sea.

If you want to learn about compassion,

it helps to be in love.

If you want to learn about healing,

it helps to know of suffering.

The strong live in the storm

without worshipping the storm.

Excerpted from Reduced to Joy by Mark Nepo, published by Viva Editions,

Mark Nepo is a poet and philosopher who has taught in the fields of poetry and spirituality for forty years. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Mark has appeared several times with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday program on OWN TV. Please visit Mark at: