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  • Bethany Lee

Not by Sight



What now feels like several decades ago, I sent off the draft of the next book of poetry. Much of it was written in the aftermath of a time of personal difficulties and enormous uncertainty and I wrote, for myself, the encouragement and hope I needed to hear. I told a friend this week, "This was supposed to be history, not prophecy!"


But here we are in this uncertain place, with terrible and beautiful possibilities all around. This is always true, we know, but it's sure hard to hold our minds steady in the awareness of such uncertainty every moment, so we usually allow ourselves varying levels of illusion about it. 


Today is the apocalypse, the revealing, and we are blinded by the light of how much we love each other, how much we love this place we live and life itself. And we are wide awake to the ways we have not loved each other well and also frightened of what the coming change may require of us. 

But I know you. You have already been practicing. You have already been becoming who it is you need to be in this moment. You have already been doing justly and loving mercy and walking humbly and you will keep on finding ways to do that in this changing landscape. 


Last fall, I went to a workshop with the singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer. She led us in a collaborative songwriting process and offered so much inspiration. During one of our independent writing times, I wrote the seed of this piece.


It was slyly autobiographical, written as "she" in third person. "She is looking for the way to walk." It was a way for me to say what was true without looking too hard at what I didn't want to be true about me.I took it home and listened to it for a while, and as I got braver, considered changing the voice to the first person--"I am looking for the way to walk." 


I finally realized the courageous move would be "we," a way of letting you into this story, too. Because I believe we must all look for the way together. 


Not By Sight


We are looking for the way to walk

Some of the ones we had thought we could follow

Have already gone away


Perhaps they learned to walk on water

Because they left no track

We’re beginning to suspect

They may have done this on purpose


Why can it not be just a little easier?

Why not a set of stepping stones left in the mud?

Why not a trail broken through the crust of snow?


We are looking for the way to walk

Not yet stepping into the wilderness

No matter how long we wait

There appears no clear course


Here in the dark, viewpoints offer no assistance

This road will not be built by sight

This is how we will live now

By feel, by scent

By the wind on the side of our faces


We are looking for the way to walk

We give up wishing for a path

We lift one foot

Begin to set it down when the other lifts too

We were not given steps to follow

We were given wings

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© 2019 Bethany Lee