Friday, January 28, 2011

Worshipping Mary Oliver's god of dirt

I'm back to an older habit of reading one Mary Oliver poem a day.  This one-a-day regimen allows me to truly savor just one group of words before moving on.  I'm nibbling my way through "Dream Work" (1986) and thinking about how my life might have been different had I heard these words at the time that they were published.  So very long ago, so many ages ago.

Yesterday I was running late so grabbed the book and took it in the car with me.  At a red light, I found myself with Mary Oliver in my left hand, my phone in my right.  And a big surge of happiness in the middle when yesterday's selection, "One or Two Things," made its way in through my eyes.

One or Two Things

Don’t bother me.
I’ve just
been born.

The butterfly’s loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves
delicately, and well enough to get it
where it wants to go, wherever that is, stopping
here and there to fuzzle the damp throats
of flowers and the black mud; up
and down it swings, frenzied and aimless; and sometimes

for long delicious moments it is perfectly
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower.

The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,

and never once mentioned forever,

which has nevertheless always been,
like a sharp iron hoof,
at the center of my mind.

One or two things are all you need
to travel over the blue pond, over the deep
roughage of the trees and through the stiff
flowers of lightning — some deep
memory of pleasure, some cutting
knowledge of pain.

But to lift the hoof!
For that you need
an idea.

For years and years I struggled
just to love my life. And then

the butterfly
rose, weightless, in the wind.
“Don’t love your life
too much,” it said,

and vanished
into the world.

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