It was the birthday of Mary Oliver two days ago. Oliver passed in 2019. I am just now discovering the wealth of poetry she left for us.
This meditation on beauty, the natural world, and the wonder of the human mind and body is a gift; a respite from our current ‘meme world.’
Where do I live? If I had no address, as many people do not, I could nevertheless say that I lived in the same town as the lilies of the field, and the still waters.
Spring, and all through the neighborhood now there are strong men tending flowers.
Beauty without purpose is beauty without virtue. But all beautiful things, inherently, have this function – to excite the viewers toward sublime thought. Glory to the world, that good teacher.
Among the swans there is none called the least, or the greatest.
I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed.
As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious and full of detail; it wants to polish itself; it wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in the world that can hold, in a mix of power and sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas, ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.
Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.
There are many ways to perish, or to flourish.
How old pain, for example, can stall us at the threshold of function….
Still friends, consider stone, that is without the fret of gravity, and water that is without anxiety. And the pine trees that never forget their recipe for renewal.
And the female wood duck who is looking this way and that way for her children. And the snapping turtle who is looking this way and that way also. This is the world.
And consider, always, every day, the determination of the grass to grow despite the unending obstacles.
I ask you again: if you have not been enchanted by this adventure—your life—what would do for you?
And, where are you, with your ears bagged down as if with packets of sand? Listen. We all have much more listening to do. Tear the sand away. And listen. The river is singing. …
For myself, I have walked in these woods for More than forty years, and I am the only thing, it seems, that is about to be used up. Or, to be less extravagant, will, in the Foreseeable future, be used up.
First, though, I want to step out into some fresh morning and look around and hear myself crying out: “The house of money is falling! The house of money is falling! The weeds are rising! The weeds are rising!”
To give mind to machines, they are calling it out of the world, out of the neighborhood, out of the body. They have bound it in the brain, in the hard shell of the skull, in order to bind it in a machine. From the heron flying home at dusk, from the misty hollows at sunrise, from the stories told at the row’s end, they are calling the mind into exile in the dry circuits of machines.
I’ve mentioned Nanao Sakaki before and I continue to enjoy reading his work.
This collection of poems is one I’ve been looking for for a while. I finally found a reasonably priced new copy on AbeBooks.com.
“I love you” feels the darkening window dummy’s rough powder-snow mixed with a white wink, passing under seven-waterfalled-breast with—in the night—the spreading sound of all-or-nothing rapids, following charred rockskin scarring fingertips, Mary’s lover leads a suffering ass and opening tobacco-reeking fly YAHOO!
—from Bellyfulls, Part 1, How to Live on the Planet Earth, Nanao Sakaki
We mourn the broken things, chair legs wrenched from their seats, chipped plates, the threadbare clothes. We work the magic of glue, drive the nails, mend the holes. We save what we can, melt small pieces of soap, gather fallen
The poems date from 1966 and they are translated into English by the author.
Some people like their books to be in pristine condition but I have become less picky over the years. There is an inscription in this book that puts a smile on my face.
“To Another World Citizen…”
—Chris Iverson, Clara Dugan, Shannon & Meghan
I posted the untitled first poem from this collection the other day. I repeat it again here.
If you have time to chatter Read books If you have time to read Walk into mountain, desert and ocean If you have time to walk sing songs and dance If you have time to dance Sit quietly, you Happy Lucky Idiot
And a random selection:
Sharpening a Knife
Nanao, keep your knife clean Nanao, keep your mind clean
Sea breeze is bad for a knife they say Sea breeze is good for a m mind they say
Sea Breeze not bad for a knife Sharpen your knife, that’s all
Sea breeze neither bad nor good The ocean a whetstone for mind
A clean knife mind A clean mind ocean Nanao, sleep well tonight Blossoming crinum lily as a shelter The coral sand beach as a bed The Southern Cross as a pillow.
—Iriomote, Japan, Under the Tropic of Cancer, February 1976
Line three of Sharpening a Knife is typed here as it appears in the print version but I suspect a possible editing mistake. Perhaps it should read “Sea breeze is good for the mind they say.”
By the way, I ordered this book from AbeBooks which I recommend if you are looking for something out of print.
You wander in and out of rain. The city encloses you. You feel the darkening of its metals, above ground and below. Every night you touch a boundary you don’t understand. Even asleep you crave sleep, you
A dear friend of mine and I were recently discussing some of the surprising educational blessings we received in high school in Hutchinson, Kansas. The music program was exceptional, with some truly dedicated teachers. (Thank you Jim Swiggart and Mike … the rest “Reciting The Hollow Men”