START CLOSE IN – by David Whyte

Start close in, don’t take the second step, or the third,
start with the first thing close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

Start with the ground you know,
the pale ground beneath your feet,
your own way to begin the conversation.

Start with your own question,
give up on other people’s questions,
don’t let them smother something simple.

To hear another’s voice,
follow your own voice,
wait until that voice
becomes an intimate private ear
that can really listen to another.

Start right now, take a small step
you can call your own,
don’t follow someone else’s heroics,
be humble and focused,
start close in, don’t mistake
that other for your own.

Start close in, don’t take the second step or the third,
start with the first thing close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

START CLOSE IN ~ David Whyte : Essentials
Many Rivers Press © David Whyte

A New Year’s poem, if ever there was one. Carrying that certain air of self-admonition we all need to go in the right direction, and do the right thing. This piece was inspired by my growing familiarity with Dante’s ‘Comedia’, particularly the first lines, written in despair after being exiled from his beloved Florence. It reflects the difficult act we all experience, of trying to start again when everything has been taken away; the necessity of stepping bravely again, into what looks like a dark wood, when the outer world as we know it has disappeared, when the world can only be met and in some ways made again from no outer ground, but from the very center of our being. The temptation is to take the second or third step outer step, not the first inward one, to ignore the invitation into the center of our own body, often into the source of our grief and our reluctance: an attempt to finesse the raw vulnerability and the absolutely necessary understanding at the core of the pattern, to forgo the radical and almost miraculous simplification into which we are being invited. For a better, truer New Year – the invitation is always, always, always, to ‘Start close In.’

Woman Walking
Yorkshire Dales
Photo © David Whyte
December 2015


Owl’s Lullaby

Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo, Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo.

Startles me awake! Night Whispers in Echoes; Owl Haunts Awakens the Dreamer from Night’s Trance.
Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo, Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo.

Sing Me a Lullaby, Owl; Dream Me a Dream, Remind Me a Memory, Of Childhood Long Past.
Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo, Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo.

I hear Owl’s Call, Then the Other’s Response; I breathe and wait in unison, Breath Syncs into Owls’ Refrain,
Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo, Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo.

Faint, Your Cooing Stills; Then Whisks Me to Far-Away Hills; Mysteries and Rhymes, Like Rock-A-Bye Chimes,
Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo, Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo.

Fading, Lagging, Distant the Cooing. Wishing Wings Were Mine to Sprout; Take Me, Lead Me, Lift Me Up and Out; Usher Me into Night’s Quiet Keeping. Float Me on Winds and Wings; Sail Me on Winds and Waves; Sing Me in Harmony, Owl; Guide Me to the Place of Still.
Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo, Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo.

Owl’s Song, Off then On. Night Echoes, Owl’s Haunt; Owl’s Swoop, Owl’s Sweep; Owl’s Mystery Dreams Itself, Myself, back to Sleep. Sweet Sleep, I’m Coming; Rock Me, Lull Me, Cradle Me Softly. Can You Here Me, I’m Falling! Owl’s Chanting its Song of the Night; Good Night, Dear Girl, Dream Light.

Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo, Cuck-coo-whoo-whoo.