Dapper and dressed
in feathers, or fire
Lifeless birds awake,
and what falls steaming through
their vision: an amputated dream -
(who bites off the crust and
leaves only the gooey middle)
Lack of dream is the new soul / wade
into the darkness holding / green moss /
kiss unbelievers / as if / our fates were tied
by the wrists (closed-eye forceful patriot
full of deep skirmishes)
Lounge on the water / with plagiarized food
and imagine the beauty parlor / full of ancient
keys (and all the locks reside within their lips and
all the locks tore loose)
He who put them there / lay
sleeping /within his own person
was an eventual, approximate birth
that came after what I was
in the morning
How cold is it when I drink
coffee cold - when lights surround
my arms like (hang from them dreams -
no, apparitions - no, memories) memories?
Clear as light, spilling from orchard, no
drought except when the law forgets
no cleaning of the irises until
belief is set (clues while you wait /
clues while you wait)
Enjambed fingers playing fool’s flute coming
up the delicious staircase - need no robin,
need no spring
All horse-culture brings is rain; which
deepens the meadows until flat
across the forehead (long lines, long lines
of earth and time and where everything
will somehow stop)
And everything that continues breathing? (everything
knows death is purple violet and streams under-
ground and upward again like the physics that
hold apart / the earth / and the sun)
lifebloodanimalhome / lay sleeping /
call mother / call home
an overflowing of eventual wisdom (what
is wisdom is when matter breathes life
into through) when when arctic love
becomes thoroughbred fire
When when seafood spoons at last
march, falling like dimes out of the eyes
of saints, clear liquid pours
on their heads like egg whites (sinners become
holy because they read / like dust / waiting
to be animated)
Watch when seashells cut at my eyes, calling
me a quarrel (indisputable / lame excuse for
not-knowing / trophy of metamorphosis /
Chew all you want with the skies in your mind,
clever clever old onion, grey with the socks
on backwards, grey with the sound all high,
grey with the new chaperones, digging
their teeth in the mud, the grit, the fallow
entity sleeping, one eye open
Is there no great love, only tenderness?
Does the sea
Remember the walker upon it?
Meaning leaks from the molecules.
The chimneys of the city breathe, the window sweats,
The children leap in their cots.
The sun blooms, it is a geranium.
The heart has not stopped.
—Sylvia Plath, from “Mystic”
LOST - NOTHING. STRAYED FROM NOWHERE. NO REWARD.
Everything happens so often, that speaking of it makes no sense
And what is it to be young in years and suddenly wakened to the anguish, the urgency of life?
Six Recognitions of the Lord
I lounge on the grass, that’s all. So
simple. Then I lie back until I am
inside the cloud that is just above me
but very high, and shaped like a fish.
Or, perhaps not. Then I enter the place
of not-thinking, not-remembering, not-
wanting. When the blue jay cries out his
riddle, in his carping voice, I return.
But I go back, the threshold is always
near. Over and back, over and back. Then
I rise. Maybe I rub my face as though I
have been asleep. But I have not been
asleep. I have been, as I say, inside
the cloud, or, perhaps, the lily floating
on the water. Then I go back to town,
to my own house, my own life, which has
now become brighter and simpler, some-
where I have never been before.
—Mary Oliver, from her collection Thirst.
True myth may serve for thousands of years as an inexhaustible source of intellectual speculation, religious joy, ethical inquiry, and artistic renewal. The real mystery is not destroyed by reason. The fake one is. You look at it and it vanishes. You look at the Blond Hero — really look — and he turns into a gerbil. But you look at Apollo, and he looks back at you. The poet Rilke looked at a statue of Apollo about fifty years ago, and Apollo spoke to him. “You must change your life,” he said. When true myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life.
Even the most desperate theology does not shed easily, and having just turned thirty, the age of my mother’s death, I still find myself often trying to unravel religion from reality. A co-worker unexpectedly asks if I believe in the Apocalypse, and after so many years, I can’t think of what to say. Religion is a language I no longer know how to speak; all of my creeds run backwards like a river trying to return to its source. I do not believe that my mother was saved by death. I do not believe there are sinners burning alive at the center of the earth. I do not believe this world is not my home. Sometimes I try to imagine what Heaven might be if not simply a place to escape to. I have so recently begun to know the earth, to feel its rhythms in my bloodstream; I can’t help but hope that Heaven is not elsewhere. I want more time to learn how to love these landscapes that have held me. My soul has been too small and the sky is still growing.
―Renée Thorne: ESCAPE FROM HELL: Growing up in fire and brimstone from the new summer issue of Parabola: Heaven and Hell.
Photograph: Girls exploring rock pools - Cameron Bay by State Library of Victoria Collections, 1909
Poetry is sane because it floats so easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion…To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.
Because it thinks by music and image, by story and passion and voice, poetry can do what other forms of thinking cannot: approximate the actual flavor of life, in which subjective and objective become one, in which conceptual mind and the inexpressible presence of things become one.
When I Met My Muse
I glanced at her and took my glasses
off - they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.