We have stolen our eyes to admire the passing clouds,
And sold our fingers to seamstresses to sew our shrouds.
Every ill thought, ill act, has a stubborn defender;
Unless love gives us courage we cannot surrender.
Strange that water seeks the lowest place, and we cannot—
For water and we were by the same Error begot.
Philosophy will get us nowhere—that’s why the Mills were set up.
But it’s a long process to dust—and once started, there’s no let up.
If we can fall in love with the Grinder, the grinding’s a pleasure.
Know one thing: a sieve cannot hold water, nor a man his own treasure.
That life should hand us a dish of sweet fruit we take for granted—
Yet we ourselves, in the Beginning, the knowledge-tree planted.
But don’t worry. If no go now, seven hundred years will soon pass.
All one has to be sure of is that by then one has an empty glass.
A rather surreal opening making use of the power of imagery to both baffle and reveal, make us actually see things rather than respond to stale words. We have acted as if we owned our eyes to employ them on the ephemeral and illusory. We have enjoyed pleasures of touch in indulgences that are only leading us to death. This reduces the impact to prose. We need to return to the poem’s images to savour their impact.
We are full of inherent tendencies; but then in stanza 2 that wonderful line – ‘Unless…
But this surrender is hard, and Francis makes a whimsical comparison between us and water. Water too was the product of the ‘Error’ of creation but does not need to be ground in the cosmic mill to learn submission. It is just not possible for us to preserve an autonomy. We ourselves as souls were part of the planting of the knowledge tree, the imperative to live to know Self rather than for the sweet fruit of pleasure.
And then a wry ending to the poem; lest it grow sententious and too serious Francis ends with a bit of pseudo comfort. The empty glass is a heart vacant enough of selfhood to receive Baba’s love.