Freedom can taste like happiness
When your soul finds a little ledge above the ocean,
And breathes air like wine
To revive muscles exhausted in the struggle
Of holding your head above water.
After a little pause, though,
You realize that your fingers clinging to stone
Are bloody with the effort
And tidal waves leap to clutch your skirt hems
Because the ocean is still alive, still thirsty.
So you think, “This will never be done,”
And freedom is no better than misery
Since behind you the red angry sky lowers
Over ominous, leaden swells
And the wind cries memories of drowning to your ears.
Then a shadow above
Forces you to raise your head and see
A figure standing on the edge of the cliff.
You can’t quite make out who it is,
Only that he or she is dropping pebbles into the surf.
Of course you think, “What an asinine thing to do,”
Since there you are, wishing
For a rope or a strong hand to save you in that instant,
But the figure remains unmoved
And behind your head the pebbles fall and fall.
There you cling, resisting the pull of gravity,
The suck of tides, for an endless time
(It seems in your distress),
Until balance gives way.
You totter from your narrow foothold in the stone.
There is no need to catch yourself, though.
Your foot falls on a soft slope,
Where your own unruly waves have silted
A billion pebbles into place,
Founding a new peace between land and sea.
Like every human person, you live by struggling
For freedom from the abyss, for identity,
Even beyond sanity doing what you must.
So you yourself and they in time
Build happiness together like a gift.
I've been thinking lately about survival. Those who cling to it amaze us, and everyone of us is (in a small way) a survivor - at least of our own internal pains. However, the very word indicates that we've been through something which leaves us with wounds and emotional turmoil which seem to make happiness a real challenge. I was thinking about this on my way to sleep last night, and it occurred to me that the freedom of surviving something is often assumed to be happiness in itself, but actually the happiness comes later, once everything has been laid to rest thanks to our own efforts and others' on our behalf.
So the result of all this reflection was a poem. In perusing blogs over the past few years, I've seen writers and poets refer to their briefest works as 'small stones' because even writing a few words helps them survive in their chosen artistic path. In the end, I think perhaps every kind of success and resulting happiness is built out of such small stones.