Inside Compassion’s Golden-Crystal Cottage (a poem)


“And especially the young people were coming. And were asking me -- the young people were saying, ‘What can we do? What can we do to change things?’"
––Karen Armstrong upon accepting the TED Prize February 28, 2008.



The forgotten mystery of compassion’s golden-crystal cottage

is how its sacred capacity for empowering beauty

keeps singing the world back from barbed edges of chaos…

into rolling fields of sugared sonnets and verdure laughter.



Outside it looks no bigger than a music player. Or a shoe box.

Inside are too many doors to try counting. One, shining the colors

of Van Gogh’s hunger for mercy, leads to where poems jump up

like fish dancing to rhythms of the ocean’s jazz-snapping fingers.



Walk through another door and look. Look! There they are­­––

the Nameless Miracle and Jesus, the Unseen Friend and Muhammad,

Mary, Rumi, Hilda, Martin, Malcolm, Nelson, Buddha

writing soul-letters scented with eternity’s smile.



Covering the walls–– more stories than anyone knew to tell:

histories of moments when joy became bearable,

prophecies of destruction giving way to visions of elation,

dozens of hands huddled in darkness to light one broken candle.



There they are––fingernails of starlight and moonfire

tracing upon epistles names of the very careful workers

Karen, Toni, Cornel, Jimmy, Coleman, Michelle…

And all those toilers of days and small hours rarely recognized.



On the ceiling sparkling bursts of amazement reflect

and echo gnosis humming grace down through the ages.

Across the floors stretch swirls of pulsing galaxies…

A ring of silver gardens where shattered lives blossom anew.



There they are––those midnight prayers we bleed so profusely,

shedding their scabs and dead skins of useless hypocrisy.

Up from mud and ashes of broken-hearted faith

winged blessings light the night like dawn caressing dusk.



Billions of windows, too, bright inside this cottage.

Look through any single one and you can see

conflict, terror, and grief, asleep in resolution’s scarred arms,

waking up every other hour, arising, exalting, hopelessly in love.

February/March 2018

*Presented in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Karen Armstrong’s call for a Charter for Compassion upon receiving the TED Prize February 28, 2008, the subsequent unveiling of the Charter on November 12, 2009. Also: in celebration of Golden Rule Day, April 5, 2018, and World Poetry Day and National Poetry Month 2018.


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  • charter brand transp blue mediumCharter for Compassion provides an umbrella for people to engage in collaborative partnerships worldwide. Our mission is to bring to life the principles articulated in the Charter for Compassion through concrete, practical action in a myriad of sectors.


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