I've been wanting to share a number of "older" poems from the last few years. This one, in response to the poetry of Mary Oliver, was finished a few months ago, but started in late 2012.
I like Mary Oliver, but I'm not a "fan" or anything. I've read her work, and own a book. Her words are worth reading and giving your time to. But a year or so ago, she spoke in SF at the Arts Center. They broadcast it on NPR. I hadn't written much for over a year at the time, and felt very dry creatively. I was driving home in the dark, I'm not sure why or from where, but you could hear her coming on stage. Her voice was old but steady. She read some poems and spoke, and she gave, in speaking, each word the kind of respect that's heartening to hear. And something sort of woke up in me. I sat in the driveway in the car, in the dark, and listened and listened until my throat was full.
Thank you, Mary Oliver
Those words were dead
when I found them in your dark pond.
I listened to you
pull them from the water. They glistened
like seal skin or trout
in the moonlight, as you lay their bodies
on the sand.
Thank you Mary Oliver.
You did not bow to the twig,
but embraced it. Americans
don’t like bowing, but are game for a good conversation.
You conversed with the twig
as it hatched the morning
from its calloused spindles.
Mary Oliver, you
had a kind of cadence
I agreed with.
Where words have hands
and are used for lifting.
You weren’t afraid of silence,
or that the smooth gun metal chain might break.
You laid your hands upon the fish, no fuss,
and words began to slap against the peppered sand.
Eager for the baptism, you barely had to help them
scootch from the shore. I liked that— no fuss
about the word laid sideways
in the service of life. So thank you, Mary Oliver,
for the smell of tadpoles and the rippled ink.