Yesterday in an email, I learned that my friend Larry Robinson had just posted to his worldwide poem-a-day mailing list a poem I wrote a month or so ago, am especially fond of, and shared with him soon after its composition. I felt a river of significance flood my body as I drove afterward. That one small voice can share perceptions, arrived at in silent contemplation, with a man in Hong Kong, a woman in Argentina--how empowering! (The poem, titled "Childhood Prayers", appears at the end of this blog.)


The experience set me thinking about the faith of an artist. An artist acts—lives, on faith in two concrete ways that I can think of. The first is the faith that there will be, at some point, another poem, story, painting or song.


As a person whose sense of well-being often depends upon a feeling of access to a Creative Well, I've wondered nearly every time a piece springs into life, whether it might be the last. This is so even though I've been doing this for decades. It's not an exact science! It depends on a Muse, on Grace, on opening beyond the small self.

Inspiration, of course, is followed by the "craft" phase. In a way each reader creates his/her own poem. Yet there is a particular experience the poet is attemping to share! Craft helps to actually get this essence to the reader.


Faith again comes into play that the completed work will find its audience of people who are simpatico and feel enriched by it. I think we sometimes underestimate the intimacy of the artistic exchange. Compelling life-impressions inside one person, end up inside others! A vicarious experience is still an experience. 

Although there is much to be said for the artistic process as exploration, and certainly not everything a person writes is meant to be shared (I’ve heard of a poet who burned all his poems, of another who literally sent them floating down a river),
it seems to me that after one has been writing for a number of years, then the process of creation is often not complete until a work is shared. It‘s one thing to say “It doesn’t matter if anyone responds to this poem.” But think of a fine restaurant where no one comes to imbibe the dishes. After the chef has honed his skill at culinary school and in an apprenticeship, he wants his original concoctions to be eaten!


Though we've all heard of artists and poets who were not appreciated until long after they died, it's sublime when, as I experienced yesterday, the circuit of communication is completed, the vested faith validated in concrete ways.



Yes, as a child I prayed,

because the nights in bed

were long and dark

and the days


had already shattered my mind

into gleaming fragments

moving quickly upon

a flame of fear.


Yes, I prayed

into the darkness,

for there were holes

in the safe world

and even my parents

were not always

the people I knew.


I tried to hold our family

safely in my arms

so that it would not shatter too,

along the fault lines I knew,

and leave me all alone.


I prayed and never thought

these prayers trying to find

their way upward through thick

layers of tangled, textured shadow


were answered, but it may be

the prayers themselves were

the answer needed then.
Note: If you'd like to subscribe to Larry Robinson's wonderful, heart-centered poem-a-day email, write, with a short note to that effect

Write a comment

Comments: 7
  • #1

    Dee Dee Kirwan (Sunday, 30 March 2014 13:11)

    Dear Max ~

    I am So happy your beautiful and deeply moving poem above, was shared in such a magnificent way! Around the World!!...and to know it is going to touch many hearts you will probably never know, nor meet, nor hear from. But the poem now, is resting in their heart as it is, in yours.

    This is exactly what happens for me when i read your poetry. It rests in my heart...its' always there...and i can go back to it anytime i want or need; so in my own little world, you and your words have Blessed it.

    Wishing you more and more and more of the same, Max!!

    Dee Dee

  • #2

    Erica (Monday, 31 March 2014 02:22)

    Two things you said in this entry spoke to me especially.. you mentioned the worry that each piece will be your last, and I've had that worry before, after I've had writer's block for maybe even a month or two at a time. I also know what you mean about a piece not being complete until it's shared (after you've been writing for some time). A few years ago, I used to never show anyone my fiction stories, but now I don't feel completely satisfied until they've been posted/published *somewhere.* Btw, I still have that poem on file for potential use in the next digi-mag issue (which probably won't be out until mid-May)!

  • #3

    publishedwritingsofmaxreif (Monday, 31 March 2014 10:08)

    Erica, even to know something is "published", "out there" can be for me a cold feeling sometimes. This may be because of my own propensity, indeed, need, to comment on something that moves me, to communicate to the author, painter, etc that I am moved, and how. One of Meher Baba's best-known sayings is "Things that are real are given and received in silence", and yet I confess to being "deaf", often. The intimate bond between artist and "appreciator" is often for me at its richest when thoughts and feelings are given the wings of shared words. It just seems so RICH to me, the possibilities that exist in such a community (of two or more)! It's almost, to me, an analogy to the famous "teaching story" about the difference between Heaven and Hell...where each realm is like a paradise with glorious buffets of sumptuous food, but in "Hell", the denizens have spoons so long they cannot get the stuff to their mouths; whereas in Heaven, "they have learned to feed each other!" :-)

  • #4

    Paul Birchard (Monday, 31 March 2014 15:44)

    Hello Max !

    Your lovely poem kindles in me the vision of the timid child, timid now though grown - or wan? - and looking back:

    "...but it may be
    the prayers themselves were
    the answer needed then."

    Maybe indeed. But I also *feel* somehow - perhaps because I *need* to feel it - that our fervent prayers *are* answered - or heard, at least.

    I mostly feel this is so because of my experience of Meher Baba.

    My parents' fights - though not a regular occurrence - were terrifying to the boy me. I couldn't even think of trying "to hold my family safely in my arms, so that it would not shatter too..."

    But as a man in a discordant marriage of my own, I did try "to hold my family safely in my arms" - in my heart and in my thoughts - even and especially after I left the immediate family household - and despite the marriage ending, the family has not only endured but put down deep roots of strong creative endeavor, and loving lively companionship toward all who know them.

    Your poem reminds me of Walt Whitman's poem - I am a huge fan of Walt's - thus:

    " Sometimes With One I Love

    Sometimes with one I love I fill myself with rage for fear I effuse unreturn'd love,
    But now I think there is no unreturn'd love, the pay is certain one way or another,
    (I loved a certain person ardently and my love was not return'd,
    Yet out of that I have written these songs.)"

    Just so - Now I think there are no unreturn'd prayers.

    I have gone YEARS without writing a song - and I love writing and singing songs - but over just the past few years the songs have finally begun to bubble up - regularly - and they're as good as or better than the ones that came from time to time before...

    Answered prayers, indeed.

    Thanks, Max.

  • #5

    Max Reif (Monday, 31 March 2014 16:23)

    Paul, your beautiful reply is just the kind of dialogue I had hoped to inspire! I too have had MANY prayers answered, the important ones. With the childhood ones, I never somehow even thought about "answers"...also, of course, Baba speaks of the best prayer being spontaneous praise of God "gushing out of the heart"...but He also says "the prayer of the heart is the prayer God hears" and surely these prayers uttered in our pain and helplessness are prayers of the heart...(it's not like we're praying for "a pony" or a new car! :-) It may be that my prayers for safety were answered somewhat by my family staying together...and it was the same prayers offered "into the darkness behind which I did not know whether there was Light" which were answered very dramatically, first by Baba's revealing Himself (story is on my Essays page here)...leaving NO DOUBT there is LIGHT, ALL IS ONE. Those post-adolescent prayers were uttered at a nadir of desperation at some of the same forces which had affected me in childhood. So eventually they WERE answered explicitly! Thank you again for writing such a heart-felt response. If/when your songs are available, youtube or CD, please let me know!

  • #6

    David Allen (Monday, 31 March 2014 22:14)

    I loved the poem and the musing on a poet's "faith." I am often amazed by what comes flowing from my pen, wondering what kick-started a particular thought.

  • #7

    publishedwritingsofmaxreif (Wednesday, 02 April 2014 18:26)

    ADDITIONAL COMMENTS THAT APPEARED ON FACEBOOK. I'd like to keep them accessible:

    There are times Max, when i wonder if i will paint another painting - and from Tricia Migdoll: sometimes i wonder if it even matters - and then I find myself compelled to. As to art in general, the Creative needs the Receptive to make the whole. One cannot exist without the other. It is not "art" unless it is shared. I cannot imagine a world without art - storytellers, music, movies, writers, poetry, paintings, sculpture. So thanks for being here - you creators, and you appreciators.
    from Steven Goodman: Loved "childhood prayers". To give a voice to the deeply buried pain is so healing to me ( my Casa is your Casa)
    also Steven Goodman: The title of Inayat Khan's book, now makes sense ( the art of Being and Becoming) because the art of Being is the power behind the becoming!
    from Shelli Pruett: Max, this is excellent! I also really like your comments here on the artistic process- the Muse/inspiration, the craft and then the sharing and marketing. That is exactly what I go through as well as a cartoonist. I used to fear that the Muse would leave me as well. I too have discovered that the well never empties, it is a matter of staying connected to it. There is no limit to creation.
    from Bob Harloff: Well done, Max. The creative process is one of life's wonderful mysteries, but as one old friend once said, "Work is the way of the Muse." She also said, "Whenever I find my well empty, I sit down and work. Somehow, it fills up again." That has always been my experience, as well.