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Instructions of the Spirit
poems & intimations

 

Fearless founder D. Patrick Miller's first collection of poetry presents 36 poems and “intimations” celebrating the challenges and mysteries of spiritual experience.

“It is not easy to translate the experiences of the spiritual path into everyday language, but D. Patrick Miller brings his lengthy apprenticeship as a poet and journalist to the task. Alternately tender and rigorous, Miller’s poems record the colors and textures of his journey with skill, subtlety, and compassion.”J. RUTH GENDLER, The Book of Qualities

“This book is one startling collection of colored laser beams, searing to the core of our universal griefs and longings, iconoclastic and incandescent. Miller traces each memory, perception, and sensation to its hard, irreducible spiritual root.”— MARC POLONSKY, The Poetry Reader’s Toolkit

“This intriguing collection of poems is also a record of the writer’s long and winding spiritual journey over the last thirty years. The book is a kind of encapsulated meditation on illness, healing, forgiveness, and the earth, but the poet always returns to love as the root of all Being.” — ALISON LUTERMAN, The Largest Possible Life

 

INSTRUCTIONS OF THE SPIRIT
poems & intimations by D. Patrick Miller • signed
Fearless Books, June 2004 • ISBN 0-9656809-6-7
60 pages, paperback

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from the Introduction...

When I recently titled a poem “Instructions of the Spirit,” I suddenly recognized the role that poetry has played in my life as a writer. For me a poem arises from a mystical instinct, as if Somebody Up There (or In There?) is trying to tell me something, and it’s my job to figure out what it is and get it down on the page. But spirit is formless and so its communications consist of hunches, ah-ha’s, oomphs, and bumps in the night. It’s not that spirit speaks in code, because it doesn’t have a language. In fact I’m the one who’s writing in a kind of code: a translation of the ineffable. Whether I write good code or useless code is really up to the reader to determine. All I can do is pay attention to the input and carefully craft the output...

These poems are followed by remarks and reflections that I refer to as “intimations.” These brief asides are not attempts to explain the poems, because anyone who’s ever sat through Poetry Appreciation 101 knows that explanation can kill a poem right off. But I do try to provide a few intimate glimpses into where poems have come from or where they might be going, much as I would do at a public reading. Since I can’t give readings everywhere this book goes, the “intimations” are my stand-ins for a personal appearance. I hope that these asides also encourage the reader to take another look at each poem, because any good poem usually requires a second reading to really get acquainted with it. The baby who at first seems to be speaking gibberish may actually be giving voice to a revealing code...

 

Lullaby


I am not a body. I am the rain,
falling all over your house and
in the deep fold of the distant hills.
I cover the leaf, the roof, the field grasses
and the shiny street. A billowing wind
carries me through the swirling branches
and drives me against your window.
I strike and coalesce, fall and spill
into the soil and the swallowing gutter,
taking a wild ride to the sea.
Later the sun will draw me up,
but the clouds will lose me when
they let down their burden in water
again. I am not a body. You can
sleep to the sound of my falling.

 

Part of the process of spiritual surrender is learning to release our own consciousness into the watery medium of the spirit. Instead of anxiously planning what should happen to us next, we learn to “go with the flow.” Instead of trying to make ourselves different, better, or higher than the rest of creation, we learn to be content with the sensations of dispersal, falling, soaking through, and cycling between different states of being. Science tells us that our bodies are mostly water; spirituality teaches us how to live that truth.

                                                                                        

 


Dream of the SheBear

Somehow I thought you had come home unannounced,
creeping early, soft and naked from the airport,
slipping into bed behind me,
luggage abandoned on the circling carousel.
I decided to pretend sleeping a few moments longer.

But your surprise was more complex, for I felt
your spoonshape embrace enlarging around me.
Soon you were ten feet tall, and your clasp
bestowed the forbidden power of animal wildness.
A shebear! I thought, and the world behind me
turned dark, fragrant, and slick with
all-night rain before a clearing dawn.
A moment longer I listened to waking songs
of the crickets, the birds, and the
unnamable things —

and then I turned to pounce, but instantly
you shifted into deer intelligence,
a four-legged, springing ballerina.
My opening eyes glimpsed only your last bound
over night's receding edge, as you raced to stay
within a world safe from human travelers.


The experience of dreams suggests that we live more lives than our daily one. Our present form may be a composite of former shapes, dimly remembered instincts, and ancient yearnings. When we sleep together we mingle realms of natural history.


After Pain


Forgiving is a night spring,
a sparkling ribbon of release
spilling from the heart to the sea
of nourishment. The late, low moon
flashes on the stream’s surface.
Sleep quietly and feel yourself
carried by the water's gravity
of ceaseless return.

As soon as you arise,
a young horse prancing at the dawn
finds his strength and leaps the gate
on his first try. Walk through
the wet grass to find him.
He’ll be standing in the new light,
near the joining of the waters,
where the sorrow you have yielded
weds the river of wakefulness.


My conscious spiritual life began with a serious illness whose most severe symptoms were rooted in my abdomen, the “sea of nourishment” in traditional Chinese medical terminology. I had to forgive a thousand angers, and let the healing energy make its internal transit from heart to stomach, again and again, in order to heal. I have few poems from this very intense period, as I was generally too sick to craft a piece of writing, but occasionally a dream simply wrote itself out and told me everything that was going on.

 


 

What the Meek Shall Do


Terror answers terror through history because so few
covet the slow, undramatic healing of peace and quiet.
All war begins with a bad habit: our long preference
for the fireworks of catastrophe, the lights and action
of plans exploding in chaos, good intentions gone wrong.
Better to be the harbingers of bitter mischief than
the guardians of ordinary goodwill: the money
is in death, the residuals flow from reruns of pain.

So pity the poor peacemakers who must sell duller goods:
no killing, no guts, no glory — not much of a story.
The news at six and eleven will mispronounce their names
if they are mentioned at all, and investors will not find
their meekness enticing. It’s a hell of a business, this
mission to heal, this long ache of inheriting the earth.

 

I’ve always been astonished that our society glorifies its war dead and tends to denigrate its peacemakers. After all, war is the same old story of human fear and failure, while the effort to undo it — both within ourselves and in the realm of geopolitics — requires an uncommon courage and consistency.

 

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©2004 by D. Patrick Miller. All rights reserved.


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