The Carver's Hands

Carvers Hands.001.jpeg

An incredible piece of work by David Whyte. Let it breathe you...

The Faces at Braga

In monastery darkness

by the light of one flashlight,

the old shrine room waits in silence.


While beside the door

we see the terrible figure,

fierce eyes demanding, “Will you step through?”


And the old monk leads us,

bent back nudging blackness

prayer beads in the hand that beckons.


We light the butter lamps

and bow, eyes blinking in the

pungent smoke, look up without a word,


see faces in meditation,

a hundred faces carved above,

eye lines wrinkled in the handheld light.


Such love in solid wood—

taken from the hillsides and carved in silence,

they have the vibrant stillness of those who made them.


Engulfed by the past

they have been neglected, but through

smoke and darkness they are like the flowers


we have seen growing

through the dust of eroded slopes,

their slowly opening faces turned toward the mountain.


Carved in devotion

their eyes have softened through age

and their mouths curve through delight of the carver’s hand.


If only our own faces

would allow the invisible carver’s hand

to bring the deep grain of love to the surface.


If only we knew

as the carver knew, how the flaws

in the wood led his searching chisel to the very core,


we would smile too

and not need faces immobilised

by fear and the weight of things undone.


When we fight with our failing

we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself

and wrestle with the guardian, fierce figure on the side of good.


And as we fight

our eyes are hooded with grief

and our mouths are dry with pain.


If only we could give ourselves

to the blows of the carver’s hands,

the lines in our faces would be the trace lines of rivers


feeding the sea

where voices meet, praising the features

of the mountain and the cloud and the sky.


Our faces would fall away

until we, growing younger toward death

everyday, would gather all our flaws in celebration


to merge with them perfectly,

impossibly, wedded to our essence,

full of silence from the carver’s hands.

Cole Clayton