“Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing”

– Pema Chodron


on the ledge

too narrow to

turn around too

narrow for me

to crouch sit


on my left

straight up

a cliff rises


on my right

straight down



i am here



the narrow ledge


around a sharp



what if i live



Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash


In the early months of the pandemic lockdown, my wife, Alice, and I took turns each morning reading to each other sections of When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun and teacher. Given the circumstances, it made sense to go deeply within rather than longing to “go out.” We were hoping for some “Heart Advice for Difficult Times” (the subtitle of the book). We found  much to contemplate and consider. After we finished reading, I decided to go back through the teachings and look for especially meaningful quotes that could be use as prompts for poems.

The result was published in March 2021 by Turkey Buzzard Press. I’m especially proud to have turned the horrors, anxieties and isolation of the pandemic into something beautiful: a collection of poems. The poems are published in the order they were written and the order of the quotations in Ani Pema’s book. This poem, nowhere, appears early in Sacred Chill. It serves to open wide the spaces I explore and contemplate in the rest of the rest of the book.

Sacred Chill is about Parkinson’s Disease, too, and the constant existential improvisations required as symptoms shift and progress while we hold our life and our self together in a tentative but tenacious unity.

Used by permission of the author.

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Wayne A. Gilbert

Wayne A. Gilbert is a retired teacher and teacher of teachers. He has written three books of poems although he ...more