by David Whyte

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel abandoned.
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

SOURCE: “Self Portrait” appears in David Whyte‘s collection Fire in the Earth (Many Rivers Press, 1992), available at Amazon.com.

IMAGE: “Starry Night Over the Rhone” by Vincent van Gogh (1888).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Whyte grew up in Yorkshire, England. He studied Marine Zoology in Wales and trained as a naturalist in the Galapagos Islands. He has also worked as a naturalist guide, leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in various parts of the world.  The author of The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America (1994), his latest poetry collection is Pilgrim (Many Rivers Press, 2013).