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Excerpt from "Reduced to Joy"

by Mark Nepo


Poem excerpted from the section “Till We Know Each Other”

The Industry of No

He was born in the river of yes

but looking for love wandered into

the industry of no, where the no-police

left warnings of don’t and the no-ministers

preached their morals of can’t. And soon,

he couldn’t help himself, he wanted to

try on no. So when his dog pawed his

shirt, he scolded her no, and when

two kids ran a shopping cart into his

parked car, he cuffed them no. And

when someone he liked started to come

close, he let her near but said he wasn’t

ready. Now he discovered there were

other ways to say no. When he was hired

as a no-engineer, he was sadly happy to work

alone. Steadily, he designed signs that said

stop and electronic guns that fired bullets

with a muffled no. The work of no kept

him very busy. If you called, you heard, “I

am the engineer of no and I am not here.

If you like, leave a no-message and I will

gladly send a no-reply.” He was flooded with

calls. The industry of no was so successful, it

had to hide its money from the government,

lest they say no. When he was promoted to

find other avenues of no, he rode no-planes

to no-cafes where inventors of no pleaded

for new no-funding. Soon, there were movies

that glorified no, and books that pondered

why the no-God was so insistent on no. And

seminars arose where no-scholars came vast

distances to say, “Yes, it has always been a

world of no.” And those specially invited

stroked their worried chins, whispering

to each other, “It is so. It is so,” as a no-

anthropologist traced the beginnings

of no. But they all went home and

dreamt of white geese flapping,

their wings parting

the ancient air.

Poem excerpted from the section “Behind the Thunder”

Lost in Our Ways

I can still taste lying with you

in the afternoon during the storm,

lost in your eyes. After all we know

about each other, I’m stopped by how

our fingers Braille each other’s face.

A few days ago, I held a friend

as he cried, could feel his pain

in my chest.

Some thirty years ago, I held my

brother when his best friend died

from spinal meningitis. I don’t think

he’s ever been the same. And last night

I dreamt about the death of my parents;

my father longing to hold me, my

mother turning away. None of us

able to find each other.

Poem excerpted from the section “From Now to Now”

One More Time

When willful, we think

that truth moves from

our head to our heart

to our hands.

But bent by life,

it becomes clear that

love moves the other way:

from our hands to our

heart to our head.

Ask the burn survivor

with no hands who dreams

of chopping peppers and

onions on a spring day.

Or the eighty-year-old jazz

man who loses his hands

in a fog. He can feel them

but no longer entice them

to their magic.

Or the thousand-year-old

Buddha with no arms

whose empty eyes will

not stop bowing to the

unseeable center.

Truth flows from us,

or so we think, only

to be thrown back

as a surf of love.

Ask the aging painter

with a brush taped to his

crippled hand—wanting,

needing to praise it all

one more time.

Beloved as a poet, teacher, and storyteller, Mark Nepo, the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Awakening, has been called “one of the finest spiritual guides of our time,” “a consummate storyteller,” and “an eloquent spiritual teacher.” His many books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Mark has appeared with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday program on OWN TV, and has been interviewed by Oprah as part of her SIRIUS XM Radio show, Soul Series. A highly popular workshop leader, Nepo travels internationally. He lives and writes in southwest Michigan.

Reduced to Joy

By Mark Nepo

Foreword by Wayne Muller, author of A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough

ISBN: 978-1-936740-57-4

Trade paper, $15.95

5 ½” x 7 ¼”, 184 pages


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