small black tent

at the dusty outskirts of the
loud, crowded, boisterous
City of the Gods
there is a small black tent

windblown, ragged, humble, yet
seemingly aware of its own
power. firmly rooted into the sand
as if it had been here from the beginning

perhaps it has

grass, thistle, and wildflowers
escort the occasional midnight pilgrim along the
stony path. no guards, attendants, or priests
to show the way

a cool breeze and the faint scent of
death welcome me in, send icepricks down
my spine, into my gut, clenching
not yet

the dimly lit center
holds a low stone table
an oil lamp smoking
flickering, inviting me in

i kneel at the simple altar
filled with odd scraps of cloth, locks of
hair, childrens toys, pictures, a tube
of lipstick

these must be the most sacred offerings
in the entire city
for those who brought them here
have given everything they have left

for this small black tent
is the Temple of Grief
and those who find themselves here
have already lost so much on the long dark road

these humble gifts-
scraps and tatters of what has been lost
songs of grief and praise
tear-soaked memories, dreams of what could have been

for this stone altar
holds a thousand bitter prayers of deep gratitude
to the ancient wisdom of Grief
and i have come to add one more

i did not bring a picture, a lock of hair
or a scrap of cloth, for
she did not even leave me
those small dignities

i reach down into my gut and open up my
throat, releasing a long, low groan
a wild prayer of pain
and gratitude

Hail, the lords and ladies of Grief
you great and ancient ones
I have come to give offerings and praise
to your terribly exacting wisdom
to your damp mysteries

look, i have prepared an alter for you
in the raw weeping expanse
of my chest

listen, i sing hymns to you
in the wild animal moans
of my throat

drink, i pour wine for you
in the hot salted longing
of my tears

may my grieving be beautiful to you
may my tears bless the tired soil
nourishing the grief-starved roots of the world

may my words be carried to you
on a golden platter
and become a feast of soulful eloquence

for i do not take your attention lightly
i am humbled by your affections
in awe of your powerful ways

my heart is full of gratitude
that you have found me worthy
of such terrifying gifts

that you have chosen me
above all my companions
to receive such a full measure of your
intoxicating bitter medicine

may this be the first of many journeys
to this holy place

for i now know that
to give myself fully to Love
is to give myself fully to Grief
and for every joyful song of gratitude
offered at one of the many
Temples of Love

there will always be a low note of
Grief being sung as well
the echoing drumbeat of sorrow
the shrill cry of loss

Hail, the lords and ladies of Grief
you great and ancient ones
may i never forget your teachings
may i never lose my gratitude
may this be the first of many journeys
to this holy place


Printed in the collection, “Small Black Tent: a hymnal”

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