The Gardener

Have I lived enough?
Have I loved enough?
Have I considered Right Action enough, have I come to any conclusion?
Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?
Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.
Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,
where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man, 
is tending his children, the roses.

– Mary Oliver

Blue Rotunda


I am tired of having hands
she said
I want wings—

But what will you do without your hands
to be human?

I am tired of human
she said
I want to live on the sun—

Pointing to herself:

Not here.
There is not enough
warmth in this place.
Blue sky, blue ice

the blue rotunda
lifted over
the flat street—

and then, after a silence:

I want
my heart back
I want to feel everything again—

That’s what
the sun meant: it meant
scorched—

It is not finally
interesting to remember.
The damage

is not interesting.
No one who knew me then
is still alive.

My mother
was a beautiful woman—
they all said so.

I have to imagine
everything
she said

I have to act
as though there is actually
a map to that place:

when you were a child—

And then:

I’m here
because it wasn’t true; I

distorted it—

I want she said
a theory that explains
everything

in the mother’s eye
the invisible
splinter of foil

the blue ice
locked in the iris—

Then:

I want it
to be my fault
she said
so I can fix it—

Blue sky, blue ice,
street like a frozen river

you’re talking
about my life
she said

except
she said
you have to fix it

in the right order
not touching the father
until you solve the mother

a black space
showing
where the word ends

like a crossword saying
you should take a breath now

the black space meaning
when you were a child—

And then:

the ice
was there for your own protection

to teach you
not to feel—

the truth
she said

I thought it would be like
a target, you would see

the center—

Cold light filling the room.

I know where we are
she said
that’s the window
when I was a child

That’s my first home, she said
that square box—
go ahead and laugh.

Like the inside of my head:
you can see out
but you can’t go out—

Just think
the sun was there, in that bare place

the winter sun
not close enough to reach
the children’s hearts

the light saying
you can see out
but you can’t go out

Here, it says,
here is where everything belongs

– Louise Glück

The Stars Are Words

Thinking of the stars night after night I begin to realize

“The stars are words”

and all the innumerable worlds in the Milky Way are words,
and so is this world too.

And I realize that no matter where I am,
whether in a little room full of thought,

or in this endless universe of stars and mountains,
it’s all in my mind.

– Jack Kerouac

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvellous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

– Mary Oliver

Antidotes to Fear of Death

Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.

Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Til they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.

Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:

No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
Already there
But unconstrained by form.

And sometime it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:

To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.

– Rebecca Elson

For R

I want to see you
I cannot wait to hold you, and to feel
your body against mine, that tingling
feeling when we are near.
I want to be cold with you.
I want you to put your hands between mine to warm them,
and we can hold them,
as we always do.
I want to press my chest onto your shoulder blades,
and leave tiny kisses on your back.

I am full of tears.
All day they roll out of my eyes
and fizz to nothing by my feet.
They splash my chest and for a second it is dark there,
then no. I am dry. I am a pillar of salt.

My body is warmed from the inside out.
My stomach is molten inside my body,
my lungs bubble from the heat of it,
my heart in your hand would be like
taking a potato straight from the oven,
my bones are the wood of a campfire,
my skin is bed sheets slept in for a day and night.

Everything, everything I love is out to sea
Without you
I love you.

The Instant When Love Begins

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

– from Don’t Hesitate by Mary Oliver

I Don’t Want To Lose

I don’t want to lose a single thread
from the intricate brocade of who you are.
I want to remember and adore all that is you.
Which is why I am lying awake, sleepy
but not sleepy enough to give it up.
Just now, a moment years from now, I hope:
the early morning light, the deft, sweet
gesture of your hand
reaching for me.

– Based on a poem by Mary Oliver

A Voice From I Don’t Know Where

It seems you love this world very much.
“Yes, I said. “This beautiful world.”

And you don’t mind the mind, that keeps you
busy all the time with its dark and bright wonderings?
“No, I’m quite used to it. Busy, busy,
all the time.”

And you don’t mind living with those questions,
I mean the hard ones, that no one can answer?
“Actually, they’re the most interesting.”

And you have a person in your life whose hand
you like to hold?
“Yes, I do.”

It must surely, then, be very happy down there
in your heart.
“Yes,” I said. “It is.”

– Mary Oliver

(I ache to hold your hand again…)