Reflections on Mary Oliver

Today is a sad day, Mary Oliver has died. I only recently discovered her poetry in the past couple of years, I admired the way she could evoke a feeling in the way she used words. For her poetry was in everything, even in the smallest of creatures she could see a poem. I am not even a blip on the screen of poetry writing compared to Mary Oliver, my poems struggle to break free from the confines of my heart and to see the light of day. I try, I really try, to write something, anything that tells the truth of what I see and feel. Mary’s poetry, did just that, when I read one of her poems I cannot help but get a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat. Maybe because whatever I write cannot hold a candle up to what she has said and done. I know that I shouldn’t compare myself to her, after all, she was a poet long before I even knew what poetry was all about, but when you’ve sat at the feet of greatness and tried with everything you had to learn and absorb, you soon discover that isn’t enough. To write a poem is to enter into the world at a slant, to see in even the smallest grain of sand on a wide beach, a poem. That single blade of grass, that defies the concrete and darkness imposed upon it, breaks forth through even the tiniest crack to stretch itself out to the sun. No matter what happens, no matter how often it is cut back, poisoned, or pulled, it still somehow, defies all of those efforts and breaks through the layers of earth and concrete, as if to say to the world, “Here I am, here I will show the world that life is the final answer, not death”. That is the poets world, their vocation, to show the world that whatever darkness there is that seeks to bury the poetry, it still springs anew in the hearts of those who are broken. Our world, our society, our families, we need the poets, all of the poets, even those of us who struggle with our own poetry. Mary Oliver gave me hope, even in my darkest of days when I couldn’t even find that crack in the pavement, her words were my light and my life. Like her, I don’t simply want to end up just having visited this world, I want to end up having lived and experienced this world. I want to have seen the great oak as it bends in the summer breeze, and watch the flight of geese in perfect order, fly to the horizon, to know that even I, a small grain of sand on a long stretch of beach, am able to find the words to write and the poem to sing

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As Fall Ends

Fall leans into winter

a reminder that we

need to lie fallow

to rest and prepare

our hearts and souls

for the coming of a child

who brings peace

into our conflicted world

time of sabbath

embracing the silence

as nature renews

frost coating empty fields

denuded trees stretch limbs

into cold gray skies

a scent of snow

on the breeze

mixes with wood fire

from darkened homes

as people give thanks

resting in that peace

of knowing God’s presence

in the deep silence

that calls us to be still.

The Wait

Now we wait

in the midst of the noise

we wait

the anticipation grows

the need for light intensifies

our hearts are not filled

with the goods being hawked

so we get more

thinking to fill the emptiness

that will never be filled

so the soul waits

knowing what we do not

knowing that the true light

is so near, yet, so far

it knows our needs

even as we run

from the love reaching out

touching us deeply

and in the silent watches

we stand still

hearing the whispers of life

of peace on earth for all

The Wait

I come to this place

to find myself imagining

where is my God

in the wildness of the wind,

where do I go to listen

for that voice so dear,

to once again hear that call

and feel the spirit within,

the wilderness is cold

the heart is broken

and now I stand here

in supplication and prayer

seeking the divine Logos

to speak to my darkened self

calling me from my tomb

into the light of the living One.

Heaven or Hell

The church sign asks

where will we spend eternity

heaven or hell

and I wonder

if that is what God is

a judge sentencing me

to a place of pleasure

or to one of torment

I wonder where,

where is the God of love

where is the God who cares

the world weeps

and I ask

where is grace

in this sign

or do I have to choose

curtain one

curtain two

both a dead end

so I choose to ride by

to love, not hate

to care, not ignore

to stand for life

and not for death

in the midst of confusion

where we don’t know our way

choosing love over hate

choosing heaven on earth

not the hell we created

The Dream

Hair of spun gold

eyes as blue as the sea

her skin alabaster

she walks softly

along the narrow paths

in the early morning

footfalls silent

as she draws near

I see her standing

beckoning me with a look

silence fills the woodlands

my eyes are only for her

I’m a prisoner

caught in her web

as she vanishes

mist rising from the ground

What is the Story?

What is the story that I want to tell, to write about here on the pages of this blog? Do I have the courage to tell that story and all that comes with the telling? So much is locked up in memory, various pictures, feelings, textures, that engages all of the senses making up that story. I have struggled trying to tell my story and not get bogged down in the telling. There is so much that needs to be sifted and examined for truth, not only truth of the story itself but the truth of how that story has made me who I am and continues to remake me each day. There is that deeper story of love and loss, of success and failure, of being a child and passing into the adult life. Memories hang along the rafters, I look above me and I don’t know which one to choose, which one do I dare to open. I write to find myself in these memories, that child waking up from a nightmare, that teen being bullied, a young soldier in a foreign land, a newly minted husband unsure of himself while trying to be strong, a dad now responsible for another human life, a priest seeking to discover where God is leading, now I sit here retired, picking through those various pieces of my life and trying to put it together. It is a great jig-saw puzzle, thousands of pieces all scattered along the table and I am looking at it all utterly daunted by the undertaking. Like with any jig-saw, it is best to start with the borders, get the edge right before moving on into the interior. Yet, even the border is hard to define, the borders of life are not static but dynamic, they’re ebb and flow through the mind, clear one minute and haze the next. Nothing is solid in memory, and so like some explorer crossing a vast ocean I must make my own way, with little or no navigation aids. What is that story? What makes mine worth the telling? Fear robs me of that courage I need to tell what I know and what I feel, yet, I can’t let that fear hold me back. Maybe, just maybe, it is in those moments of fear that I will find who I truly am and that in and by itself might just be the story I need to tell.