Little Altars Everywhere


There is a friend who is older than birth
who danced with you before you had a body,
a friend who stays close to your life, the way
heat stays close to a flame.  Can you feel it?
I know it’s hard.  I often turn and it’s gone.

But you may have seen it in the glow
that remains for those few seconds after you
turn the lights off.  Or in the ache that beats
in your blood after you turn away
from something you love.

We each have a friend older than birth,
more patient than the ocean, more giving
than the rain, a place of safety
waiting like a nest of song whenever
we are ready.

All we have to do is put down the many
things we believe we have to carry, put down
everything we’ve worked for, not deny it or
curse it, but simply undo our grip, simply
untie our need to have it last.

If we can’t, the friend will wait
until we die, when it will carry our pain
like seed into God, the way the song swallows
smoke when no one’s looking.  But while alive,
if we can find what’s alive, the friend will
stretch its honeyed thread between our
heart and eye to sweeten what we know.

Yes there is a friend older than birth
who dislikes mirrors, but adores windows.

And when you look upon something with
love and close your eyes, the trace of light
you see is the litmus of the Divine, and all
you love, all you see with love, all you hold
in your heart after love–all are images that
the friend carves on the cave of your soul, for
the times you fall down and are forced
to look within.

– Mark Nepo, “The Friend”

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