PZI Teacher Archives

John Tarrant Reads His Poem, Healing Paths


John Tarrant reads his poem, Healing Paths, composed spontaneously in response to a training exercise with a group of Integrative Medicine doctors. Each practitioner was asked to describe healing, and this “is what came out of me.” Excerpt from Zen & Poetry, a Sunday Talk on May 1st, 2022.


Healing Paths

Oh yes let’s sleep when we’re tired

and eat when we’re hungry—

and lay down a path in the empty land

for those who wade through sorrow and have need of a path,

and we’ll walk together, talking,

talking about the red flowers on the cholla,

the owl’s nest in the crook of the saguaro’s arm,

and drink tea after, sitting in silence,

and not notice we are healed now.

May we touch each other and the children yet to come,

touch inside the skin and even inside the bones

where the thought begins,

may I fall like summer rain into the first dream,

into the smell of wet dust, of creosote bush, into

the whir of hummingbird wings, and may the woman

who lives inside the plumes of rain

put her arms around my neck, and her lips at my ear,

chanting the song I remember now from childhood,

“Yes,” she sings, “When the time comes,

you will ride the black horse into the sky, ride, ride

all the way through the turbulent night

into dawn.”

—John Tarrant

This poem was written at a workshop for doctors when we were asked to describe healing.

I was working at the University of Arizona at Tucson teaching meditation and poetry for the brand-new program in Integrative Medicine. Andrew Weil and Tracy Gaudet ran the program. We took people out into the Sonoran desert.

One time, we invited Naomi Remen, who taught in the medical school at UCSF, to lead a class, and I sat in. She asked us to describe healing and this is what came out of me.

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