Poetry month would be incomplete without the incomparable Mary Oliver. For me, her work is a meditation. I am transported to the woods near her home in Provincetown, and I feel connected, but not in a self conscious way. Recently Maria Shriver interviewed her (she is known as a bit of a recluse) which revealed so much about her view on the world, poetry and the woman behind the beautiful words.
She told Shriver, “I consider myself kind of a reporter—one who uses words that are more like music and that have a choreography. I never think of myself as a poet; I just get up and write…I acknowledge my feeling and gratitude for life by praising the world and whoever made all these things.”
It is so hard for me to pick just one to share, so I hope you don’t mind I’m including a few of my favorites as a special birthday wish for my friend in San Diego whose birthday is today. I also hope that they will make you think about your “one wild and precious life.”
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mornings at Blackwater
For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.
And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.
What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night (Percy Three)
He puts his cheek against mine
and makes small, expressive sounds.
And when I’m awake, or awake enough
he turns upside down, his four paws
in the air
and his eyes dark and fervent.
Tell me you love me, he says.
Tell me again.
Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over
he gets to ask it.
I get to tell.