innumerable labors, causes, conditions
have brought us this dancing prayer of
a man, a monk, sometime hermit
that some have called a priest
now, he is sure to deny the latter,
ever quick to point out — not a priest,
a monk instead, and the differences are great
yet, i have seen him give communion
__as it was meant to be given
__a priest of the wild
_______the rebels
__________the half forgotten edges
breathing aliveness into dead and dying traditions
hearing confessions of pain caused — pain felt
a listening heart that mops up despair

on one summer evening near the full moon
i saw him turn himself into a coyote
he ran the grassy hills of the Big Sur
causing mischief — as only coyotes can do

perhaps it was Spring
and i saw him as a frog in Basho’s haiku
calling everyone to attention with a single
waters’ sound… asculta, asculta

once, i am quite sure
i saw him as a small church mouse
in the great jeweled temples
chewing holes in the robes of the high priest
making room for no-thing-ness
then leaving small warm droppings on
the cold marble floor

i was there when he became a jungle lion
his passionate roars encouraged the
hearts of the frightened
striking fear in those that pretended strength

as a spider
he spins word webs
weaving fabric soft and strong
as good for baby blankets as for work pants

reading poems
the words roll thick with accent
off his Austrian born tongue in perfect timing
finding their way like arrows to the heart

no, he has never walked on water
(besides, that has already been done)
for i have seen him as very human
___naked and exposed
___the pain of personal struggle; anger; grief; loneliness
serving only to lend greater confidence
in the I-have-been-there-too truths
he often speaks

no matter what projection
___devil or saint
no matter that I am still not sure
whether I am seeing him, or the reflection of my self
shapeshift as he might
___his heart is always felt

gratefulness has new meaning

___an original drunk monk
______with cup after cup of

Listen to/watch Steven Harper read his poem here.

Br. David Steindl-Rast