— for John Miller


This was the great surprise. There was a forest of emotional, imaginal life that modern men were just waiting to enter.

— Michael Meade


We’ve been together two days
and it shows.
Nudged inward, helped
to descend to this strange territory,
we’re not the same group that came
             Friday night
with our sleeping bags, drums,
and trepidation to be among so many
unknown men.

Now I see my colleague Amnon
struggling with his tears.
He’s not the only one.
Men attending to their lives!
Layers of the hearts glow and tremble.
Long withheld, grief rises and subsides,
then unexpectedly engulfs us.

The first night a grim-faced man
brought his huge medieval broadsword
to our group altar.
He told us he’d been a “destructive

Tonight, in a choked whisper,
he stood before the group again
and offered that sword
to the one man in the room
he had feared all weekend —
      a slender, gentle,
      long-haired singer,
      almost a boy —
who received the sword with tears,
as astonished as the rest of us.

The shocking innocence
of what we fear!
Men’s discovered feeling —
not archaeology, but the living tribe.

I’ve been asked to read a few poems.
It’s time. I open my book
and choose a poem I wrote long ago
about a jazz clarinetist:
he was so poor his teeth crumbled,
his instrument broke, for years he couldn’t
but then, with help, he started again
startling and vital.

And suddenly I realize
I’m talking about myself, my own grief.
I look out and see Amnon in the second row,
tears on his cheeks,
and I cannot read another line.

In the presence of my brothers
I stop and lower my head.
I feel their affection,
and I weep.