START CLOSE IN by David Whyte

Start close in
don't take 
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don't want to take.
Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.
Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
To hear
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes an
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.
Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.
in River Flow
New & Selected Poems
Many Rivers Press © David Whyte
This piece was inspired by the first lines of Dante's Comedia written in despair in the midst of exile from his beloved Florence. It reflects the difficult act we all experience, of trying to make a home in the world again when everything has been taken away; the necessity of stepping bravely again, into what looks now like a dark wood, when the outer world as we know it has disappeared, when the world has to be met and in some ways made again from no outer ground but from the very center of our being. The temptation is to take the second or third step, not the first, to ignore the invitation into the center of our own body, into our grief, to attempt to finesse the raw vulnerability and the absolutely necessary understanding at the core of the pattern, to forgo the radical and almost miraculous simplification into which we are being invited. Start close in.
Woman Walking
Yorkshire Dales
Photo © David Whyte
December 2015