For the 5th annual Brigid Poetry Festival, some Mary Oliver:
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
– Mary Oliver
I originally wanted to do the one about the wild geese, because that one is really helpful to me right now, but I feel like everyone already knows that one and I should do something a little different. One thing I love about the annual Imbolc poetry blogging is that I get to read lots of poetry I wouldn’t have seen before, so while Mary Oliver’s swan isn’t exactly obscure, it’s a little less well-worn than her geese. But I still like the geese, so here they are as well:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
My grandmother gave me a book of Mary Oliver poems, so these always make me think of her. This is the same grandmother that gae me The Secret Garden for my 4th birthday and The Golden Bough for my 10th. I think I was 12 or so when she gave me Mary Oliver. Thanks, grandmother, for consciously shaping my sense of the sacred. I miss you.