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To the FedEx Kinko’s lady,

Thank you for the walk down memory lane. Those days of IBM Selectric typewriters are so distant now (that backspace correcting key – a Godsend!) and yet, my memory of typing dozens of papers in front of the Duraflame logs on the floor of that apartment on Beacon Street are as vivid as if it were yesterday. Armed with White-Out and the weird eraser brush thingy (pictured below, but whose name we couldn’t recall). Retyping entire pages if I missed a line. Technology is not like that today, and I think I’m grateful. And thanks for sharing your memories about Seattle. You made my day brighter.

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Seattle, Washington.

And in honor of one of my favorite poets, who passed away today, I’d like to share the following poem. Reminiscent of my Weekly Wednesday Poems on this blog — I know some of those were Mary Oliver’s. Rest well, Mary, and swirl in the beauty of words and other worlds.

White Night by Mary Oliver
All night
I float
in the shallow ponds
while the moon wanders
burning,
bone white,
among the milky stems.
Once
I saw her hand reach
to touch the muskrat’s
small sleek head
and it was lovely, oh,
I don’t want to argue anymore
about all the things
I thought I could not
live without! Soon
the muskrat
will glide with another
into their castle
of weeds, morning
will rise from the east
tangled and brazen,
and before that
difficult
and beautiful
hurricane of light
I want to flow out
across the mother
of all waters,
I want to lose myself
on the black
and silky currents,
yawning,
gathering
the tall lilies
of sleep.
#yearoflove

Today’s guest poet: Mary Oliver

Where Does The Dance Begin, Where Does It End?

Don’t call this world adorable, or useful, that’s not it.
It’s frisky, and a  theater for more than fair winds.
The eyelash of lightning is neither good nor evil.
The struck tree burns like a pillar of gold.
But the blue rain sinks, straight to the white
feet of the trees
whose mouths open.
Doesn’t the wind, turning in circles, invent the dance?
Haven’t the flowers moved, slowly, across Asia, then Europe,
until at last, now, they shine
in your own yard?
Don’t call this world an explanation, or even an education.
When the Sufi poet whirled, was he looking
outward, to the mountains so solidly there
in a white-capped ring, or was he looking
to the center of everything: the seed, the egg, the idea
that was also there,
beautiful as a thumb
curved and touching the finger, tenderly,
little love-ring,
as he whirled,
oh jug of breath,
in the garden of dust?

Note: I dedicate today’s poem to a blog friend Mary Julia Oliver, who was diagnosed with cancer in March. She expected to have 1-2 years of life left, but passed away after only three months. She was a teacher, mother, poet, and beautiful soul, and I’m sorry we didn’t have more time to come to know one another. I hope we do in the next go-round.

Today’s guest poet: Mary Oliver

An Afternoon In The Stacks

Closing the book, I find I have left my head
inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters open
their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound,
words adjusting themselves to their meaning.
Long passages open at successive pages. An echo,
continuous from the title onward, hums
behind me. From in here, the world looms,
a jungle redeemed by these linked sentences
carved out when an author traveled and a reader
kept the way open. When this book ends
I will pull it inside-out like a sock
and throw it back in the library. But the rumor
of it will haunt all that follows in my life.
A candleflame in Tibet leans when I move.

Today’s guest poet  —  Mary Oliver

Dogfish

Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman’s boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don’t you?

*

I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,

whoever I was, I was

alive
for a little while.

*

It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don’t know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.

*

Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don’t we?

Slowly

*

the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.

*

You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it’s the same old story – – –
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.

*

And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.

*

And probably,
if they don’t waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.

Today’s guest poet  —  Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you about mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting,
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Today’s poet  —  Mary Oliver

The Journey 

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice – – –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations – – –
though their melancholy
was terrible.  It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do – – – determined to save
the only life you could save.

August 2019
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