Wednesday, October 16, 2013

For the Unknown Self - a poem by John O'Donohue

"Origins Unknown" (Stacy Wills, 2013)
alcohol ink on yupo + sacred altering

For the Unknown Self

So much of what delights and troubles you
Happens on a surface
You take for ground.
Your mind thinks your life alone,
Your eyes consider air your nearest neighbor,
Yet it seems that a little below your heart
There houses in you an unknown self
Who prefers the patterns of the dark
And is not persuaded by the eye's affection
Or caught by the flash of thought.

It is a self that enjoys contemplative patience
With all your unfolding expression,
Is never drawn to break into light
Though you entangle yourself in unworthiness
And misjudge what you do and who you are.

It presides within like an evening freedom
That will often see you enchanted by twilight
Without ever recognizing the falling night,
It resembles the under-earth of your visible life:
All you do and say and think is fostered
Deep in its opaque and prevenient clay.

It dwells in a strange, yet rhythmic ease
That is not ruffled by disappointment;
It presides in a deeper current of time
Free from the force of cause and sequence
That otherwise shapes your life.

Were it to break forth into day,
Its dark light might quench your mind,
For it knows how your primeval heart
Sisters every cell of your life
To all your known mind would avoid,

Thus it knows to dwell in you gently,
Offering you only discrete glimpses
Of how you construct your life.

At times, it will lead you strangely,
Magnetized by some resonance
That ambushes your vigilance.

It works most resolutely at night
As the poet who draws your dreams,
Creating for you many secret doors,
Decorated with pictures of your hunger;

It has the dignity of the angelic
That knows you to your roots,
Always awaiting your deeper befriending
To take you beyond the threshold of want,
Where all your diverse strainings
Can come to wholesome ease.

                     -John O'Donohue (1956-2008)


  1. I love this, Stacy! Both the poem, which is absolutely profound, *and* your painting - which is incredible. It is such a wonderful contemplative piece. It reminds me of many windows, or "openings" into the unknown - magical! :)

  2. Thank you, Christine! Yes, O'Donohue is one of my go-to poets for sure. I've been doing a lot of experimental art lately, and there was just something about the way this one turned out that I found arresting - though I can't fully articulate why...but I like it. :-)

  3. BEautiful Stacy… I love John O'Donohue's work… he was an amazing human being. Please consider yourself officially invited to participate this year's 5th Annual Gratitude (word) Quilt. Instructions (it is very simple) and a link that explains the origin of the word quilt can be found at the top of my blog. In past years there have been participants from every continent except Antarctica.It wouldn't be the same without you:-)

  4. Thank you, Laura! I look forward to contributing to the Gratitude Quilt this year.

  5. It's the colours, but not just the colours which hold my attention; and it's more too than the inner circle, the roundel which calls out to me to look, and look again (maybe I am seeing my Original Face); and it's all those interconnecting lines too which seem to beckon to me to come follow with an open heart and open mind. It's beautiful!

  6. Thank you, Edith, dear...I love hearing how a piece speaks and impacts the expands my own understanding. I am fascinated by what you said about seeing your "Original Face." That gave me goose bumps!