For Joel at 94

10/01/2013 02:50 pm ET | Updated Dec 01, 2013

My new book of poems, Reduced to Joy, has just been published. The book contains 73 poems, retrieved and shaped over the last 13 years, about the nature of working with what we're given till it wears us through to joy. For the next few months, I'd like to share poems from the new book with you.

I wrote this poem a few years ago to honor a friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Joel Elkes, who will be 100 years old this November. He is one of the most wholehearted people I know.

For Joel at 94

They say that miners in South America
strap small lamps around their chest, that
this works better than the light coming
from the center of your head.

They say the head can be fooled,
but the heart can't turn without
the body. This makes me think of you
digging your way through your long life,
lighting everything with your heart.

It's a good way to live. And when we
sit at the end of the day, our hearts
illumine the day and we see each other
in its radiance. I can tell, it reminds you
of many circles you've been a part of.
It's a good way to measure time.

To make our way on Earth
by the light coming from our heart --
This is what you've taught us.

Is it any wonder that what you
touch, including us, glows.

A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of an elder you admire and why. If they are still alive, tell them of the impact they have had one you. Either way, tell their story to someone else to keep the character of their spirit alive.

For more Poetry for the Soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.