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Scott Hightower reads three poems from his upcoming Sutra


“One of the marvels of the world is the sight of a soul in prison holding the keys in its hand.” Rumi

The poet Scott Hightower learned that Life goes on after his partner of forty-one years suddenly died of a heart attack in his arms on the sidewalk in front of their building. As death hovered and wrapped itself around him like a consoling friend, mourning poems began to pour out of him in torrents of grief.

Grief never leaves, but it does change. After a year, Scott ventured out and began to play pool at a bar in Chelsea where he lives. Forty years before, gay bars were for hooking up. Now, there are apps for that. His local pub had become a sports club where men met after a game of softball or soccer. But for Scott, relationships did form at the pool table and the poems continued to come, not from grief now, but from meditations on new adventures.

Scott reads three of these poems on the Vimeo below. They will be in a new book that he will call Sutra. They do remind me of scripture. With a concise philosophical energy they catch my attention and make me listen up like an essay by Montaigne would, contemplations and reflections about what the meaning of friendship is. Enjoy.



There is a rail that overlooks
a space. Should I choose
to step off into the fall.
It takes pluck
to believe. Honestly,
it takes determination
to say, “World,
I am worthy, and you 
are loving me back.”
It does not take bravery
to step off into the fall. 
It takes grit
to keep putting one step
in front of the other,
to open one’s enterprise,
oneself. Each time
I look around, listen around,
my mantra is “Do not
interfere.” At first, I thought
a clean, clearly focused,
commitment of the cue stick
was like an archer’s shot,
each a balanced
stroke of bravery. 
But there are some
who––even while capable
of the most successful,
graceful shot––heed a phantom
voice that tells them
who they can and cannot have,
what they can and cannot do,
who they can and cannot
be. There are prisoners,

beautiful creatures, sitting
with their own cell keys
in their hands. Sadly,
kindness and honesty
has required me, more than
once, to lay down the stick. 
One must choose to build a life
from which one does not spend
one’s time trying to escape.
One has to choose
 to be brave… One has to
choose to be free.

They send my sister and brother to school. 
Not me, yet. Perhaps it is because I can already read.
And have my own horse, collie, and goat. 
My mother stays inside with polio. My father
lives outside with his own 
horse, cows, and sheep. 
He has a tractor, and a combine. 
And a barn to keep hay and feed 
and sometimes animals. 
A solitary cat lives there
with Marcelle, my goat.
Soon, ahead, would be the years 
of being worked like a dog.
My mother is out of Huguenot stock.
My father, out of Quaker.
At seventeen, I will leave this place.
I will sit in the catbird seat 
and not look back;
sit pretty, like a batter 
with three balls and no strikes.



……….To be able to say how much you love 
……….is to love but little.
……….–Petrarch, scholar and poet (1304-1374)

One’s own journey of learning.
sojourning: conversation;
accord and tasting 
a tone with one other. 
Learning to serve
through journeying with another.
Whether to eat one’s own cooking,
to eat another’s,
or to share one’s own with another.



You know I already know your body,
long and delirious in its uncertainty,
ever seeking order
in the past, for the future,
seeking rest beside me, near
me, finding relief in the pool.
Your turning my presence aside
in your mind—“Noli me tangere”––
is more a “not yet”
than a “never” cling to me.
“Attached to nothing.
Connected to everything.”
High principles, work and duty:
carriage of heroism, fiery energy


(the sun is a golden horse), resolve,
skill, refusal to retreat in battle,
charity (you readily offer others
food and drink), and majesty
in conduct”–a bit of machismo.
(I learned to see through cowboy drag
a long time ago.) I will not be
trapped. I will not take one step
toward a life from which I
have to seek to escape.
I can live without a mirror in my home.
I have learned to live without an actual horse.
I have even—or oddly—learned
to live without many,
someone taken by Death.
I do not choose solitude
in the forest. I choose
you. I know the price
of my remote freedom. If you want me
to stand with you, to be
yours, I will be yours,
but you must be mine.
It only need be clear to you,
but it must be clear to you
(hammer strike anvil)
that I am—communicating with me,
together, extracting the ineffable
is––the price
of your freedom.
You join in,
but you are no joiner.
But all we have are public
and private
The permanence of impermanence.
Moksha. 18. 33. 



Saint Peter in Prison, Rembrandt, 1631

One Comment

  1. Charli Eaton

    I read this and wept…for you, for Jose, for all of us who love and grieve and love again. And for the beauty and depth of your poetry that nourishes my soul.

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