01/23/2013 05:02 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2013

Meeting My Selves

We are all blessed to live more than one life within our one life. All of us challenged to grow out of one self and into another. I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, nor was that self the same as the one I inhabited 20 years ago. We blossom and outgrow selves the way butterflies emerge from cocoons. Except that being human, we have the chance to emerge from many cocoons. This poem tries to look back at the many selves I've lived in.

Meeting My Selves

I came upon a younger me. He was pressing
against everything. Seeing what would hold
and what would give way. What gave way he
thought weaker. What resisted he thought
oppressive. I was embarrassed at how little
I knew. Then I stumbled on an artist obsess-
sed with the fire of creation. He thought it a
sacred obligation. He threw everything into the
flames. Those close thought him an arsonist. I
felt guilty for those I burned against their will.
Midway I found a fish-like man whose chest was
pried open like a ragged shell. This was me tossed
ashore by cancer. I felt grateful for the cracking of
my stubbornness with time enough to be. Along
the way I dreamt of the old holy man. I can't say
he was me but I have met him many times. He
stays in the world though he faces the interior.
Whatever the difficulty, he stops to bless what-
ever is near. When I was near death, he stopped
to bless me. I have searched for him ever since.
When I close my fear, I feel his hands entering
my hands. When I close my worry, I feel his
eyes parting the curtain of my eyes.

A Question to Walk With: Describe at least one former self and how you have grown from that into the self you are right now.

For more Poetry for the Soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.