Without Knowing

04/28/2014 01:26 pm ET Updated Jun 28, 2014

Our first encounters with love shape us and have a lasting impact on how we meet the world. Triggered by a young couple in a cafᅢᄅ, this poem helped me look back and understand the gift we give each other as we're just beginning to form both inwardly and outwardly.

Without Knowing

Lifting my second coffee to my lips,
I see a young couple near the window.
They're falling in love. I can tell by the
way he brushes her hair aside, so he can
see her face. Before I can sip, there you
are, across from me, more than forty
years ago. I did the same thing. Parting
your auburn hair, I fell into your eyes.
It undid me, which meant I could no
longer follow the path others had set
for me. Isn't this the purpose of love?
We only had a few years of opening
what we could in each other, before
you fell into another. You broke my
heart. It took a decade of poking at the
ashes to accept that we sent each other
on our way. Now, in my sixties, after
losing and finding what matters, enough
times to realize that the losing and find-
ing comes and goes like surf that shapes
the sand of our heart, I know I fell through
your eyes, so many years ago, into the sweet,
resilient place only opened by love, where
we get to see our own worth, unformed
like raw material. It takes years of ham-
mering and being hammered to see
what we can shape from what we're
given. Strange to pick up this conver-
sation now. I take another sip, and
through the steam, can see the young
woman glimpse her worth briefly in her
jittery, young man. I sip and feel the gift
you were without your even knowing. I
don't even know if you're still alive. But
in this cafᅢᄅ, from another continent
of time, I can softly thank you.

A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of an early love or friendship that allowed you to see your own potential.

For more poetry for the soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.