Poetry

Poetry

In Advent

Among the drift of lists across my desk,
this one—“call the cemetery for reservations,”
a narrow room for my body at final rest.

I will ask, is there an open space
somewhere near my mother or brother? Room
for two, perhaps, among the roots of cedars

under the sod and the one who now rolls
over it on his mower, mustache damp
in December fog, his headphones full of love songs.

We’re in the time of waiting for our salvation,
that slow movement toward the final night,
when light is nothing but breath inside

a cave, earth hiding its treasure until
we are ready to receive it. That place
we travel toward like the Magi, weary

and expectant, laying our gifts on the straw.









Poems

Heavy

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poets said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled—
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?



Coming to God: First days

Lord, what shall I do that I
can’t quiet myself?
Here is the bread, and
here is the cup, and
I can’t quiet myself.

To enter the language of transformation!
To learn the importance of stillness,
    with one’s hands folded!

When will my eyes of rejoicing turn peaceful?
When will my joyful feet grow still?
When will my heart stop its prancing
    as over the summer grass?

Lord, I would run for you, loving the miles for your sake.
I would climb the highest tree
to be that much closer.

Lord, I will learn also to kneel down
into the world of the invisible,
    the inscrutable and the everlasting.
Then I will move no more than the leaves of a tree
    on a day of no wind,
bathed in light,
like the wanderer who has come home at last
and kneels in peace, done with all unnecessary things;
every motion; even words.



Cormorants

All afternoon the sea was a muddle of birds
black and spiky,
long-necked, slippery.

Down they went
into the waters for the poor
blunt-headed silver
they live on, for a little while.

God, how did it ever come to you to
invent Time?

I dream at night
of the birds, of the beautiful, dark seas
they push through.



These poems are excerpted from Mary Oliver's book Thirst (Houghton Mifflin), used wth permission of the publisher and the author.















































Bedrest in Advent

No nesting. You are the nest.
No wind, no earthquake, no fire;
Only still small stirring within.
More motion, no fledgling—
Only slippery sharp shards
shattered below. Quiet.
Only stillness will bear you
To the fullness of time.



Laughter

When I’m reading a joke out loud
from a new joke book, I hear
my voice start to falter, from laughter,
almost to weep, from laughter,
the way my sister’s voice did as a child
or a woman, especially if somebody
made a bathroom joke; and my father’s
voice did, when he wasn’t just poking
fun at someone, when he found
something really funny; slapstick
got him laughing that way, sometimes.
A laughter beyond words, maybe
beyond grief. As I hear myself
laughing like them, with them,
I say: a laughter beyond death.

Who's who

      But Martha was distracted with much serving (Luke 10:40)

And why do we assume that Martha is the elder of the two?
Maybe she is the younger one, always stuck
with Mary’s chores while Mary practices meditation,

her yoga, her imaging, maybe arranges
crystals on the living-room floor.
Martha has been abandoned

in the kitchen for years, lifting the stone pitchers
of water from off the porch with both hands
day after day, her young back giving way

under the strain, pouring out her youth to provide
her older sister and this latest rabbi of hers
another of her good portions.