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Posts tagged ‘Poem for Memorial’

Summer musings

The closing line of this poem is one you might have seen before. For example, I have it on my personal email signature. Seeing life as wild and precious is a gift poet Mary Oliver gives us with each of her creations. I love her work, how it emphasizes the natural world and the cycles of life. I find myself including it often into ceremonies I write – either as alternatives for complete readings by a participant  – or just bringing in certain lines as motifs.

Have you heard her read “The Summer Day” before? If not, give yourself this gift and give a listen:

Here is the complete poem, too:

The Summer Day

 

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of

up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

 

~ Mary Oliver

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Kindness and Sorrow

This piece of poetry gives me a very gentle pause. Every single time I read it.

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Thank you, Joyce Kornblatt, for inspiring this post.