Poem- Thank You, Mary Oliver

I've been wanting to share a number of "older" poems from the last few years.  This one, in response to the poetry of Mary Oliver, was finished a few months ago, but started in late 2012.

I like Mary Oliver, but I'm not a "fan" or anything.  I've read her work, and own a book.  Her words are worth reading and giving your time to.  But a year or so ago, she spoke in SF at the Arts Center.  They broadcast it on NPR.  I hadn't written much for over a year at the time, and felt very dry creatively.  I was driving home in the dark, I'm not sure why or from where, but you could hear her coming on stage.  Her voice was old but steady.  She read some poems and spoke, and she gave, in speaking, each word the kind of respect that's heartening to hear.  And something sort of woke up in me.  I sat in the driveway in the car,  in the dark, and listened and listened until my throat was full.

Thank you, Mary Oliver

Those words were dead
when I found them in your dark pond.
I listened to you
pull them from the water.  They glistened
like seal skin or trout
in the moonlight, as you lay their bodies
on the sand.

Thank you Mary Oliver.
You did not bow to the twig,
but embraced it.  Americans
don’t like bowing, but are game for a good conversation.
You conversed with the twig
as it hatched the morning
from its calloused spindles.

Mary Oliver, you
had a kind of cadence
I agreed with. 
Where words have hands
and are used for lifting.
You weren’t afraid of silence,
or that the smooth gun metal chain might break.

You laid your hands upon the fish, no fuss,
and words began to slap against the peppered sand.
Eager for the baptism, you barely had to help them
scootch from the shore.  I liked that— no fuss
about the word laid sideways
in the service of life.  So thank you, Mary Oliver,
for the smell of tadpoles and the rippled ink.


Poem- Folding Clothes

I wrote a new poem last and thought I'd share it.  It was a quiet afternoon and I had chores to do. Kat was out with Tasha.  So I sat down to fold.  I could hear a neighbor working on something with a hammer.  There was someone else listening to a Spanish pop-song on a radio.  Everything felt sort of pleasantly peaceful and not-too-close.  I like some of Emily Dickinson's poems, where she's engaged in trivial, day to day activities and observations.  I like that sort of attentiveness.  I like to imagine someone far away or in the future reading it and wondering "What was daily life like in the early 21st century in the US?  Were they just like us?"  I've written a poem about cooking muffins before, to give an example, and have often thought a sort of Ode to the Ladle would be fun and informative to write.  Anyways, here's this one.

Folding Clothes

I like folding clothes
when the house is quiet
and the windows open.

I tuck the pockets in first, for the pants.
Then I fold them in quarters, tugging at the seams.
The towels I fold in thirds
like my father taught me,
the shorts in half .  The bras
I fold cup into cup, with the straps bundled inside
like a bowl of noodles.  The socks—
I separate them and match at the end, like my mother.

I match
 seam to seam.
I tuck the arms in.
I drape them properly on my lap.
I fold them in half, then half again,
            so they’ll fit in the drawers.
I pull the folds tight, and I place them in their pile.

You can get into a rhythm,

if you’re careful and quiet,
            much like the drapes,
                                                billowing and receding,
that sigh now
against the wood like waves.


Poetry- Weight

I wrote this last month and wanted to share it.  It's been a long quite winter in regards to poetry, after such a flurry in the summer and early fall.  Lots of painting though.  :)


I know you want to do something true, honest.
That you want to make beautiful things, as real as a boot
falling from a chair,
or a bullet of resin embracing a pinecone, or a vase being filled with water,
but I would ask you
to wait, to not try and be
a vase filling up with water, to not
try and be resin sticking to a finger, to not
try and make a boot be supple.
To float a bit, to be at ease
with not-waiting.
Don’t worry.  The words will come.
And the words will give you weight.

Poetry- Boots


I wanted to wear the boots,
but I did not want them to be
a fashion statement.  I wanted to earn them, to be the kind of person
that wore those boots.

So I tried them on.  To see how they felt.
My mother liked men who wore boots like that.
And I liked my mother.  I felt
useful—  I thought
“A person who wears boots like these ought
to feel at ease with a hammer.”
So I got the boots.  And I got a hammer.
I wanted to be the kind of useful person
who would need a hammer.

I wore the boots
to do
true things—  clean gardens,
and plant seedlings,
and water young shrubs.  To build things.  I remembered my father
with his new boots.  He polished them.  Gave them oil.
He was very proud of those boots!
And I wanted to be proud of my boots too.
I wore those boots
until there were holes in them.
There was a kind of pride in wearing used up boots. 
I was given
the blessing of nature, of necessity,
of use
to buy new ones.

Now, I know I’m going to work
when I pull my boots out. 
And those who pay me
a certain kind of shoe to be worn.  I told my wife,
“It’s like a uniform you have to wear.”
Then I recognized
that I did not want to where these boots every day.  I wanted to be free
from having to wear boots.  That there was a pleasure
in air
playing with your feet.  But, by then it felt strange
not to wear them.