How This Works

comments 27
Course Ideas

Why am I carrying
this barbed piece of steel
around with me?

Because it hurt
when it was dropped
into my open palms?
And now I want
to repay the favor
should the world
present me with
such an opportunity?

There’s no such thing
as even-steven
in this world,
but there is holiness.
There are rivers
wide as ball fields
that dredge bald tires
and old box springs
off the bottom
and carry them off
to the deep end,
just because it’s awesome
to watch stuff disappear
out there.

I dug a hole
to get the adrenaline out,
and then I set
that bloody steel urchin
of bitterness
into the ground–
next to my own.

Hafiz offered a few words,
then I covered them up.
They were good words,
and for a moment
I was damn near jealous
of those pointy jobbers.
Because after words like those,
they were probably
down there in the dark
getting high on silence
and their wheezing laughs
while they wrote jokes
about us crazy people.

By the time I had
the dirt mounded up,
they were just
subterranean obstacle courses
for curious earthworms,
emptied out altogether
of everyone else’s

As we turned to leave,
I noticed
a puddle of water
resting on a stone walk
that was pretending
to be the sky.

I was grateful
in the end
that the bitterness
had found me,
and that my own
had stepped forward
for the class reunion.
I was glad it had all come out.

We got rid of a shackle today.
The mangled grip
we have on the world
We planted something
into the ground,
Hafiz and I,
and one day,
after the oceans
migrate a few more times
and their bottoms
fill up with bones,
swollen timbers,
and brass rings,
and then move on yet again,
a shrub will grow there.

One holy shrub
where there used to be
a deep end–
waving happily
as a clam.


  1. Dear Michael,

    A gorgeous and rich poem, loved reading this.

    This struck me deep:

    “I dug a hole
    to get the adrenaline out”

    Made me think of how we use our energy – to bury, to move, to feel. To fix.

    Thank you for your words and thoughts and skill.

    Blessings and peace, always,


    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Allison,

      Thank you very much…

      Yes, I dug a hole. I had to do something… 🙂 Reflecting on how we invest our energy seems a very worthy pursuit. Here a moment of frustration became an opportunity to discover a deepening pool of grace. We catch ourselves reacting to things– suddenly clutching a hot potato in our fist… What to do? I think Hafiz had a good idea… 🙂

      Blessings and Love,


  2. This poem grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It reminded me in the end of the poem by Carl Sandburg about grass covering things up, but there is so much more here to ponder, like pointy jobbers down there in the dark.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi JoAnna,

      This one really came from an earnest place– right in the moment of its writing. Those pointy jobbers can be a little difficult to carry around, but sometimes the temptation to be right trumps the quiet of giving them away to places where they can be safely renewed. It’s a choice, but it plays out in time, as the emotions swirl and sputter… I looked up the poem by Sandburg and see the similarity and realize I’ve read it before somewhere… Thank you for that linking-up.



  3. Planting bitterness so it can grow into a tree. The love that runs through this is palpable. I have a few pointy jobbers that could use burying. What a freedom it brings. Thank you.
    Alison ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • My pleasure, Alison! We all have a few pointy jobbers we’d benefit from blessing and throwing over the side into the deepest ocean we can find! I’m glad you felt the sacred thread running through it. We’re stitching together a nice, warm blanket for the earth to rest within… 🙂


      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful poem with wonderful metaphors, Michael.

    “I was glad it had all come out.”
    Ahh, I can sooo relate to this during this week. I had sort of a showdown this week about an untolerable situation about which I held frustration and anger for years by now.
    But this week it has all come out, and I resolved to step away from the situation. What a relief!
    Again , it amazes me how the same subjects come up in a certain period for different people. We are all connected and pulsed by the same Source.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Karin,

      I love it when that happens! And I’ve seen it, too– the way themes seem to bubble up to the surface for many of us around the same time. It is indeed heartening, and as you say, reminds me of our underlying unity.

      I’m glad you were able to forgive and release your own difficulty– whatever it was– and walk away with a lighter step and a fuller heart. Each time we can wade through the difficulties, the spaces within us open up so much wider than ever before… Mine was pretty trivial actually, but as you know from ACIM, they are all the same. There is no level or scale or order of magnitude to the reactions and emotions of separation… So, something that may seem small in the telling, is really tickling the deepest possible points of pain…


      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the idea of the oceans again moving and covering things up, old bones and such but one thought occurs, question really, I always love tags people use and was curious as to why you chose unlearning? We learn so much from your words, often more than we like to admit but there is a piece of all in your woven tapestry…and my do we learn, an amazing thing😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Kim,

      Unlearning is actually a term used in A Course of Love, and it refers to the idea that our views of the world and of ourselves are “learned”. We taught them to ourselves largely, by repeatedly interpreting experiences in ways that build up systems of thought. Though we like to think of ourselves as these human beings we are today, in truth we are participants to a field of thought– a system as it were– that has “learned” separation consciousness over millions of years. There are the tangible aspects of this, such as culture, and our worldviews— which would be the sum total of our beliefs about how things really work and what is possible, and then there are the spiritual aspects of this, which are kind of like the sea of consciousness to which we have contributed over a very long time by interpreting our experiences in a particular way. In A Course of Love, the suggestion is made that we can experience unity and sustain it even, but only if we are willing to unlearn what we have taught ourselves– e.g. what we have decided our past experiences mean and connote. To unlearn, we must experience things differently… By experiencing them differently we can correct misinterpretations, and false conclusions, and as our deep/ancient “learning” of what this world is softens, we make the space for a new one to emerge. The new one cannot emerge while we’re convinced it cannot be so, and thus unlearning is necessary. This unlearning is the most basic form of what A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love would call a miracle— because we can’t do this on our own… But we must be willing… We must be open to experiencing this world around us without our “old” interpretations, so that we can unlearn what never was… The unlearning is that moment of grace we couldn’t achieve on our own, that moment when the thought system we’ve carried and lived within for so long wobbles, or shatters, and experience validates it was only an incorrect idea… A simple misperception…

      I hope this is clear! Sometimes it can be difficult to put this into a short paragraph…

      Much Love

      Liked by 1 person

      • Now it all makes sense. I have the book….big -huge book the course of miracles that I started years ago…I really need to revisit as it made so much sense then and even more so now. That was a short paragraph/comment 😊 just kidding but thank you for taking the time to answer, for turning on the bulb dangling in the dark and for turning the key to the portal😊 peace and blessings…oh my I have so much unlearning to do….or at least continue doing😊 thanks Michael, you are a wise one….they said I would find one when needed….tag, you’re it😊

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Kim,

          We’ve all got a bit of unlearning to walk through. I think it’s actually a process accelerated by our willingness to relinquish our grip on things, and to be shown we may not have been correct in all of our past interpretations… And of course, when we find ourselves in a familiar position, to experience it differently, we may have to respond differently… 🙂 Uh-oh… 🙂


          Liked by 1 person

  6. Does everyone experience bitterness at certain points? I really am unsure on this. Does bitterness have a cathartic side to it? I think I would be wary of coming to such a conclusion. I suppose it is an emotion, a thought-feeling combination, propelled by neurotic memory repetition. A disease. Great work as always Michael – you set me thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Hariod,

      A very fine question. I’d like to share a passage from A Course of Love that I found, which is partly the cause of my choice in using the word bitterness to express this particular moment of transformation. In my waking life, this piece began with the actual event of being called to task for a decision made some months ago on best available information, and in best intentions for the client, that didn’t prove out in their eyes. Despite explaining how I felt we had acted at the time with reasonable prudence and the best of intentions, this only inflamed the situation and brought a further dressing down. At that point, I felt the sting of being twice wrong, and I excused myself to walk out into the field with Hafiz to mull it over. But that sting– that immediate desire to respond defensively, perhaps self-righteously– is part of what is meant by bitterness. It’s that bitter pill this world sometimes forces us to swallow, and the desire to fight back that accompanies it… I didn’t respond directly. I wrote a poem instead… Ha! I am happy to say we met again today, on very favorable terms, and I was grateful to have placed this behind me… But here is the passage:

      “While the untrue cannot exist with the true, what I am calling here bitterness is all that you have forced, through sheer strength of will, to pierce the holiness of your hearts. Bitterness and the idea of vengeance go hand-in-hand. This is the idea of ‘an eye for an eye’ or the exact opposite of the idea of ‘turning the other cheek.’ While this may seem like the very idea of evil which I have denied the existence of, it is not evil but bitterness. You may believe that bitterness is just another word, another label for the evil you have always been convinced existed in the hearts of some, but even being that it is just another word, it is one chosen to introduce an idea of such fallacy that it rivals only the ego in its destructive potential. Bitterness is to your heart what the ego has been to your mind. It is the one false idea that has entered this holiest of places, this abode of Christ, this bridge between the human and the divine. It exists not in some but in all, as the ego has existed not in some but in all. Like the ego, it has not caused you to be unlovable or unrecognizable. But it has become, like the ego, so much a part of your reality that it must, like the ego, be consciously left behind.”

      Much Love and Gratitude,

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Genie says

    I love your wide range of images and metaphors, very refreshing.
    It’s not boringly linear, no soap box to preach from disguised as poetry, this is the real thing, poetry with a message, yet not losing the poetic element, not an easy task, but then, Hafiz, what else would I expect from you?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Genie. Having felt a tad uncertain about whether I may have mis-stepped a time or two recently in our exchanges, this brought with it the very same feeling of healing and relief that carried me through this poem. A moment of grace has come, twice served…



  8. Michael, this is just downright lyrical, beautiful and touching. I’m printing this one and putting it in my back pocket for when I need one of those moments that your so generously provide me with. Peace, Harlon

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Harlon. It really does work this way, you know… 🙂 Keep it handy, man! I’ll be needing it again one day soon myself!

      Peace to you also,

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my dear friend …your opening verse and ending one with ” one holy shrub ” moved my mind to whisper to my heart , you have that effect on me and it is wondrous to experience and so generous of you just like Harlon states above ..I remain always grateful …also , I especially loved ” a puddle of water pretending to be sky ” ….now I want to go back and read again only out loud this time , no whispering ! …it is love that I so joyously send back to you …megxxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Julie! Yes, that was quite a happy specimen… all but ready to burst into flame at the next passers-by… 🙂



    • Hi David,

      Pain is amazing like that– the way it blossoms into something altogether different as it heals. Glad you felt the crux of this piece. Thank you for the lovely and honest reflection…



    • Yes, you’re not far off Kutukamus. This poem began in a moment of annoyance– let’s just call it anger– and then softened with the help of Hafiz into that holy shrub! You’re exactly right about the way we both do and undo, in searching for the real who… 🙂 Good stuff, my friend!



  10. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    Hey Michael,
    I come back to this poem often, and suddenly I noticed I never commented or even “liked” it, which is odd because it is one of my very favorites. I’ve buried a few of those barbed pieces of metal and I like to think that maybe one day something will grow there. Thank you so much for always touching our hearts in such imaginative ways.
    Much love,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Mary,

      I remember you saying that once. I’m glad you’ve circled back. Burying our hatchets is one of the most rewarding experiences we can have, when that moment sneaks upon us and we realize just how good the choice for peace really is… I’m fortunate to be sharing these experience with like-minded companions like yourself…

      And something will grow. For sure. Where on this planet has something not grown when given half a chance…!?

      Much love to you also–


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.