the meaning of life

     by patti smith

[from More Reflections on The Meaning of Life, edited by David Friend and the Editors of Life Magazine, Little Brown and Company, 1992.]

My first sense of life was that of motion, of being lifted, and the beating of my mother's heart. Then, as consciousness pressed, I turned in the radiance of my father's mind. When I closed my eyes I could feel the world spin. When I reached out I could feel the breath of care. Bound, within my blood, was their love, their burning and their discordant prayers.

Yet time makes ravens of us all and swiftly, it seemed, I fled from their grasp. The sea was a glass. The sky an immeasurable path.

Guided by the knowledge of them I journeyed fettered, free. And as all before me, I have questioned, grateful for the privilege of being able to ask: What is my task? Why do we exist? All answers produce the pain of recognition, emptiness and joy.

To prey upon stillness, to suffer dawn
To bow before God, to administer grace
To unveil space, to be spirited away
To lift a child
   into the reigning air
   where the voice of heaven
   chirps like a bird

Copyright © Patti Smith 1992

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