October 4, 2010

Mary Oliver

She recited lines of poetry to me that night, although I’m sure she wouldn’t remember.  As we moved through the house, I bore witness to life shattering.  I searched for the poem in the days before the funeral, when the first few weeks of July would no longer ever be just the first few weeks in July.  When I began to realize that I held something I may not ever be able to share, in words, in tears, in tangible form, because I was an accidental tangle of too far removed and too close.  I held her hand.  And that was all and that was everything.


I collected Mary Oliver’s words unintentionally this past year.  Leaves fell last October as easily as my tears.  The sky darkened early in November, but my nights grew longer still, bare and aimless.  A last leaf in November, hanging on to nothing more than a spider’s abandoned silk.  Perhaps I picked up a few of her words among brown leaves blowing over the sandy shores.  The ocean’s wind bites in November. 

I waited for the snow of the year past to return last year.  Quiet and strong reasons to hibernate and burrow and sleep for endless days, curled up in that warm corner.  It never came.  Sometime during the warm December, the wind kissed my cheeks and made me blush; it was unexpected and I was uncertain.  I took off layers of myself and hung them in the back of the closet, instinctively knowing that this winter I would not need this coat, that sweater, these titles, those identities.  Maybe I pulled a few of her words out of the back corner of that closet.  From the spot I wanted to curl up in, but instead stripped down.  To nothing and to everything.  Sometimes they are the same. 

Spring came early.  Spring came late.  I’ll never remember.  I left often, returned far less often.  I’ll remember the waves without the wind or the grained shores.  The moon’s perfect fit in my closet window.  Keeping watch over me.  I wrote down her name after reading a poem on the internet.  I’ll never remember if I thought her syllables sounded familiar.  How quaint to say that I bloomed that season.  I won’t.  I did and I didn’t, I’ll never remember.  I left often.  I let the moon watch over me. 

Summer sun dried the rain of the summer before.  I burned and the sand blazed.  The nights wilted, but I could breath in the dark.  Deep breaths.  The rivers still ran, and I found my footing in soft grass, cool morning dew.  I found her name on a brand new spine, upright on the fourth shelf from the bottom.  Mary Oliver.  She came with me to the ocean side, and I read her in late evening as summer set on the horizon.  Blazing red, promising promises with its departure.  I drank in some of her words, but left most - I thrive on concrete sidewalks, under bright lights, in pedestrian walkways, when horns blare too loudly.  I don’t connect to nature.  Days later, the September butterflies danced.


This rainy afternoon in October, I clicked on a link and her poem was there.  Those lines from that night, unexpectedly standing on the shoulders of Mary Oliver’s name.  “Determined to do the only thing you could do - determined to save the only life you could save.”   And that was all and that was everything.

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