Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Poetry | The Invitation by Oriah

Warning - This post is a huge leap from our post on graphic novels. But then thats why you keep coming back to out little cafe is it not? This post is about inspirational poetry. Yes, I am in that cheesy frame of mind that we often associate with those 'No Fear' posters and views of beautiful mountain landscapes that motivate you to climb every mountain and cross every sea.

However sometimes a piece of poetry comes along, somehow evading your junk folder and falls into your lap. You read it, keep it to yourself and repeat it, almost like a prayer and never share it for fear of being sneered at or worse, put in that bucket of people that hang those 'No Fear' posters. Oh well, I have personally crossed my very own rubicon and wanted to share with you one such poem that ranks up there for me with The Desiderata and The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. It is called The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. This poem caused a rage about ten years ago when it went viral on email. It apparently imparted the wisdom of the native americans passed down over hundreds of years by a Chieftain called Oriah Mountain Dreamer while he sat telling stories around an open fire. Only, I recently found out the author was no hundred and twenty year old hefty white haired axe wielder but a slight caucasian woman from Ontario who majored in philosophy. I was gutted. A seminal work on relationships for me was written by a white woman who dreamt it up. I remember feeling something similar when I found out that The Desiderata written in the same century, was not as rumors had it, found in St Paul's cathedral. So I read The Invitation again. It was still the same poem but it was hard for me to see past the author. I started to find some cheesiness and evangelism.  Why are we so wedded to the past that we find it hard to notice brilliance of our own time especially when it comes to works of a spiritual nature. I am more likely to appreciate Rilke than Deepak Chopra or Osho, Khalil Gibran rather than Max Ehrmann. We read 'If' at school but why are we not reading Maya Angelo's Rise. Then there is that dreaded self help genre. Many of us scoff at The Secret by Rhonda ByrneConversations with God, or The Celestial Prophesy. All books were a phenomena and sell significantly more than the most sucessful paperbacks. Now they are self-help and so untouchable despite possibly inspiring millions of people. The same has happened to Oriah. Once it was known she was white, that poem lost its luster and her books can now be found in the self-help section and not in the poetry, which it where this book belongs.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer


  1. sort of irrelevant but it somehow made me thing of You Bring Out The Mexican in Me. catch it here. http://www.theunapologeticmexican.org/elgrito/2006/08/you_bring_out_the_mexican_in_m.html

  2. Thank you thank you! That was so good. Doesn't good poetry make you break out into goosebumps!

  3. Yeah.. we are biased about the brilliance of the past aren't we!!:).. Was a beautiful poem. and so was the one suggested by "ru". Have you read "On His Blindness" by John Milton.. It is one of the most amazing pieces of poetry ... Not familiar with present day poets unfortunately as i too suffer from the bias that you pointed out... Would be great if you could point some out to me.! And twas an amazing time at Kerala!..



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