Mary Oliver Sept 10 1935 – Jan 17 2019

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass
by Mary Oliver

1.
Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say–behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings of this gritty earth gift.

2.
Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs.

3.
The witchery of living
is my whole conversation
with you my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life—just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe still another.

4.
Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
the dancer, the potter,
to make me a begging bowl
which I believe
my soul needs.

And if I come to you,
to the door of your comfortable house
with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.

5.
We do one thing or another; we stay the same or we change.
Congratulations if you have changed.

6.
Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some fabulous reason?

And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—your life—
what would do for you?

7.
What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements, though with difficulty

I mean the ones that are thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the ush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world

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Seasonal, We Hope

The world is over me

Not the glazed hills that sit across the river
In the summer when fishing is good

But the sirens on their way to a fatal accident on a dead end street

Heart palpitations and uncertainty are clouds we cannot see our way through

We blame it on too much coffee, not enough rest but it is the world, it is our neighbor we cannot trust

The world is over me like a black bag made large enough for the dead leaves of a city’s lawn

The blue things that come with thoughts of oceans and skies over the Rockies are darkened and without waves or wild animals

Death tolls from fires and earthquakes rise insurmountable against Walls and false democracies

A sign in my house is painted with flowers and it says Be Still, as if being still will get the world off the ground again

Will turn back my sheets for me

Will correct the wrongs I’ve done, that you, a stranger I have never seen before have done

The world is a January with no warm days or compassion or arms for loving

I’ve hated January my whole life for her brutal strength revealing my weakness but she is a truth teller

She is a a hand covering the lies we tell ourselves so we can sleep at night

Midnight

Beneath the fireworks
On a dark windowsill a bird
With no intentions chirping
Like a clavary marching
Without a purpose but marching
Because it is a calvary follows
Command because it follows orders
The bird chirping sings because it was born
To make the sounds that travel through darkened windowsills beneath fireworks on the last night of a blackened year or the first night of a better one

The Last Day of What We Have Before It Is Taken

You’ve silenced me, Time.
Taught me the patient lessons:
To be still in a crowd,
To turn the cheek,
To swallow blood.

You’ve silenced me, Time.
Taught me to curve a smile
Upward when hate tries me,
To turn the other cheek,
To sleep on nails without dreaming.

You’ve silenced the world, Time.
Smothered the mouths of childhood.
In teaching us, you yearn for your youth
And steal our young faces, leaving us everything you don’t need to appear new.

The Title Isn’t Important

Grief changes a face the way that
A long turbulant life changes faith

The mirror on my dresser isn’t anchored to the wall but leans back in the weight of oak

If that mirror were human its neck would be broken from the strain

Is God in the business of breaking
Mirrors to put a thousand pieces back together?

When you know a man, how he loves trees, how he loves birds, and you created him and all of those things,  would you lean him against a wall to break him?

A Letter to Marina, December 16, 2018

Jessamayann

( More of me loving and relating to Marina Tsvetaeva.  I am loyal.  I cannot help that.)

Tonight I feel I need the harsh wind of Russia to crack and bleed my hands.  I need your words to sleep my mind, Marina.

What a little childhood you had flitting about the seas like a whistling of weather.   You know, I never thought to kill myself as a child.  There are children now who do, Marina.

Once, as a child, my long and secure hair was tangled and matted down by the kids on the playground.  When I got home I was spanked and my hair was cut off with dull scissors so that it looked like it had been ripped from the spine of a book.   For many years after that people asked me why I hated my beautiful mother.

But who goes on about childhood?  Who goes…

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Michael Simms: The Happiness of Animals

This stuff is good. Check out Michael Simms poetry.

Vox Populi

When the soul-sickness takes me

And my mind is in an ugly place

And I resent other writers their success, I retire to my attic room

To look out the octagonal window at the gray street dead leaves carried by the wind I hear a storm coming

 

And I am no longer the ruler of my invisible kingdom

And incomparable ecstasy is no longer at my beckoning

And the honey of praise for my children is no longer on my lips

And I am not the man I planned to be nor is this the life I wanted

And my feet have forgotten the music and my hands have forgotten the smooth arcs

And the gift I once had is a black wand that goads me into self-loathing

And the small cruelties I’ve practiced seem large and the large irreparable

And even the innocence of William Blake cannot console…

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A Letter to Marina, December 16, 2018

( More of me loving and relating to Marina Tsvetaeva.  I am loyal.  I cannot help that.)

Tonight I feel I need the harsh wind of Russia to crack and bleed my hands.  I need your words to sleep my mind, Marina.

What a little childhood you had flitting about the seas like a whistling of weather.   You know, I never thought to kill myself as a child.  There are children now who do, Marina.

Once, as a child, my long and secure hair was tangled and matted down by the kids on the playground.  When I got home I was spanked and my hair was cut off with dull scissors so that it looked like it had been ripped from the spine of a book.   For many years after that people asked me why I hated my beautiful mother.

But who goes on about childhood?  Who goes on about the monsters under the bed?  We all know who the monsters are.   We saw them go free.

Marina,  I don’t know why I keep seeing you vaguely smiling in black and white.  I don’t know why I keep seeing you dying in black and white.  I know your hands were bleeding with color when you penetrated the ice over my childhood with your aging.

I just wanted to visit you to tell you I found your poems on an old bookstore shelf.  I wanted to tell you that there are still warm days.

With Respect, Marina

( This was inspired by Marina Tsvetayeva’s poem,  ” Some Forebear of Mine Was A Violinist”)

 

I dreamt about your uncle,  of how

you stole those apricots and placed the blame on him,

dreamt of his hooked nose and his sharp and darkened

eyes.

 

I think of that face now and I’m sure you don’t favor it.

But I swear, Marina,  in the mirror of winter your opal

eyes look the wild lost of mine.

 

We are all three wanderlusters.  All smell of dirt

and rain,  but I have never buried a sick child,  never been exiled,  and I

have never hanged.

 

Still,  if your forebear stole those apricots through the hands of

you,  then maybe he is my forebear too and with his silent violin

he stirs the dark in me.

Talking The Guns Down

We talked the guns down in a tight quartered waiting room.  The tv was turned off and the young man was sitting there in ripped jeans that were soiled from the deaths of things.

I didn’t know the man when I took my seat but something in the moment was deja vu and I was sure somewhere between the two of us a gun was going to come out and wave and drop.

In the silence of waiting for our loved ones and the terminally ill future of all living things we exchanged our smiles of understanding.  He was anxious and I heard bad news in my head.

I asked if he’d been waiting long?   No, he hadn’t.  Just a waiting on his mother to finish with her mammogram.   She has cancer but they can do a lot for that now a days and I nodded my nurses head that yes they can and I imagined the rich and famous and the wealthy with their yearly checkups or their daily checkups and all of the drugs and cures in their hands and I saw this young truck driver dirty from the road with those  old jeans.

I asked if they caught the cancer early?  No they hadn’t but his mother would have all of the support in the world because he would be there for her just like now but he does have to leave for California tonight to carry a load of useless shit across America.

He tells me he never listens to music when he drives his truck.  When he listens to music while he is driving his grandmother dies, his sister dies,  somebody always dies.  I had to wonder if he was listening to the wrong stuff.

Sometimes when he drives, he take his good friend with him because she has scoliosis like my son.  She has it so bad she won’t go in public because in elementary school she was made fun of.    That’s when he got started with all the suspensions and bad things and fights.  It was because of defending that girl.    So now to get her out of the house he takes her on the road these twenty years later.  She’s had three surgeries but none helped her confidence or pain.  He stops the truck every now and again to make her walk.  When she tires out he picks her up and carries her back.   She needs the exercise.

I had to tell him that he seemed very kind and maybe he should be a nurse himself.   That was when the guns came out.  He said that no ma’am, they’d never letter him be a nurse because he is crazier than all them doctors around here.  I told him I doubted that but his eyes changed from a soft scared brown to black barrels and he stared at me like a crazy man waiting on some fragile prey to run.  News flashes of hospital shootings streamed across my brain and with some strange paranoia I stared back like a crazy mother might do if she was protecting a child and I asked if he didn’t really care so deeply for people after all?  Then his black barrels filled with tears and the guns dropped silent to the ground and for the moment he was just a boy who needed his mother.