Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Mary Oliver's Birthday

(I accidentally posted this on the wrong blog - it doesn't belong with the seminars! So while not a new post, it's new for here...)

In honor of the birthday of poet Mary Oliver, the Milkweed Mercantile is giving a free beer to anyone who brings a copy of one of her poems, and reads it for those who happen to be here, especially the Proprietor.

Fortunately for our budget, most of you reading this are far, far away and can only dream of that free brew, dripping down your throat and quenching your insatiable thirst.

Fortunately for me, the humble proprietor, three folks so far have taken me up on my offer. Oddly enough, none wanted beer. Two asked for (and received) Santa Cruz Orange Mango Organic soda, and one requested Earl Grey tea. Perhaps the poetically-inclined are delicate sorts, but I don't really think so.

Meadow, our beloved tea drinker, brought a really lovely poem, which is her favorite poem of all poems, not just Mary Oliver. However, it is now raining cats and dogs ("don't step in a poodle!") and so I cannot run back to the Mercantile to retrieve it.

Among the poems recited was Wild Geese

And then there are these:

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

© Mary Oliver.

The Swan

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. From The Paris Review # 124, Fall, 1992

Sending love to Tamar, Sharon, Amos and Eva today and always