Sunday, December 27, 2015

Teddy Macker: "A Poem for My Daughter"

It seems we have made pain
some kind of mistake,
like having it
is somehow wrong.

Don’t let them fool you—
pain is a part of things.

But remember, dear Ellie,
the compost down in the field:
if the rank and dank and dark
are handled well, not merely discarded,
but turned and known and honored,
they one day come to beds of rich earth
home even to the most delicate rose.

God comes to you disguised as your life.
Blessings often arrive as trouble.

In French, the word blesser means to wound
and relates to the Old English bletsian

to sprinkle with blood.

And in Sanskrit there is a phrase,
a phrase to carry with you
wherever you go:

sarvam annam:

everything is food.

Every last thing.

The Navajo people,
it is said,
intentionally wove

obvious flaws into their sacred quilts …


It is there, they say,
in the “mistake,”
in the imperfection,

through which the Great Spirit moves.

Life is easy, yes.
And life is hard.
Life is simple, yes.
And life is complex.
We are tough, yes. But we are also fragile.
Everything’s eternally perfect
but help out if you can.

Work on becoming a native of mind, a native of heart.
No thought, no feeling, could ever be “bad.”

It’s just another creature
in the bestiary of Buddha,
the bestiary of Christ.

Knowing this,
knowing this down to the marrow,
could save you, dear one,
much needless strife.

Remember that wild and strange animals
paused to drink at the pond
of the Buddha’s mind
even after he saw
the morning star.

No matter what you do, no matter what happens,
it is impossible to leave the path.

Let me say that one more time:
No matter what you do, no matter what happens,
it is impossible to leave the path.

Believe it or not, dear Ellie,
some folks carefully imagine
hideous gods tearing at flesh,
clawing at faces,
eating human hearts,
and drinking cups of blood …


To shake hands with the Whole Catastrophe,
to cultivate the Noble Idiot Yes.

According to their tradition,
there are 84,000 “skillful means,"
84,000 tactics of wakefulness,
84,000 ways to become spaciously alive,
84,000 ways to be at home in your life and in this world.

And many of those skillful means are like this one:

enlightenment through endarkment.

Life appears to be fundamentally ambiguous.

Wily, everycolored, unpindownable.

For evidence of this, spend time with trees.

Over and over they say,

There is no final word.

And big decisions—
decisions concerning
relationships, concerning children,
concerning death—
are rarely made cleanly.

In general, be wary—
even if just a little—
of talk of purity,
of goodness,
of light.

To love everything, not just parts …
To love all of yourself, not just certain traits …
To rest in not knowing …

To carry the cross
and to lay your burden down …

To savor the medicine blue of moon,
the fierce sugar of tangerine …

To be a Christ unto others,
a Christ unto one’s self …

To laugh …

To be shameless, wild, and silly …

To know—fully, headlong,
without compunction—the ordinary magic
of our beautiful human bodies …

these seem worthwhile pursuits, life-long tasks.

By way of valediction, dear Ellie,
I pass along some words
from our many gracious teachers:

Eden is.

The imperfect is our paradise.

All is grace.

"A Poem for My Daughter" by Teddy Macker. Text as published in This World (White Cloud Press, 2015). © Teddy Macker. Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.

Curator's note: Another long poem for you to savor into the new year and beyond. Only six days left until the conclusion of A Year of Being Here. Please be sure to complete my survey regarding a possible anthology of mindfulness poetry.



  1. OH my. What a pa to say such things to daughter.
    Thank you, Phyllis, I had no idea of this gem.

  2. Perfection in its imperfection and in engaging my mind.

    1. This is such a heart opening, tender poem. I plan to learn this one by heart for my Granddaughters...since I am a mother of sons.

    2. What a huge heart opening poem this is. I plan to learn it by heart for my Granddaughters since I am a mother of sons. Gracias! ISH

  3. Perfect! Thanks to the poet and to the poster!

  4. Wow! Thank you for this one, Phyllis. Weirdly, I've just found your blog after you closed it. No matter -- it's here. Thanks for making it. :)

    1. Glad you found the site, Ann. Enjoy! Some readers were planning to start back at the beginning of the archives and read one a day. Perhaps that might interest you? :)

  5. Please don't do this to such lovely poems. A good poem needs nothing more than a good typeface and clean background. Your design was so distracting I couldn't read the poem. I feel you are defeating the purpose with unnecessary design. Let the poem stand on its own, please.

    1. I'm sorry that you disapprove of the design, Nancy. I encourage you to print out the poem and enjoy it as a plain text. Deep peace....


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