between the wall & the flame


“One of the noble covenants of love is how we take turns lifting each other from the limited vision that arises when we are in pain, how we take turns reminding each other that there is more than our pain, more than our despair, while bearing witness to our pain and despair. This poem comes from such a time.”

Between the Wall and the Flame

You ask, “How can you believe in
anything when there’s pain everywhere?”
And I see the pain in your face. I have no
answer, any more than day can make its case
in the middle of the night. Yes, things are
breaking constantly and people, bent from
their nature, are cruel and our desperation
leads us to an excess that is even too heavy
for the planet to bear. Yet, I am in a wine
bar in Hell’s Kitchen, against a brick wall,
and the small flame from the oil lamp is
letting the wall whisper its long history.
And somehow in the lighted inch of
brick, what matters flickers and I feel
everything. Something between the wall
and the flame flutters like a butterfly
carrying the secret of peace, unseen,
unnoticed. And even seeing it, and
feeling it briefly, I don’t know how to
speak of it. It’s as if under the earthquake
of existence, an infinite hand holds the
ball of fire that is our world. Now some-
one nearby pokes me and asks, “So, are
you talking about God?” This is beyond
anything I have a concept for. We’re like
small urchins churned over in the surf of
time. There’s so much more than we can
know. But you are still hurting. So I’ll
stop talking. Come, put your head
on my shoulder.

~ mark nepo


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