Thursday, June 01, 2006

Poetry Thursday - Right Between the Eyes

I knew exactly what I was going to write about this week. I had the poem, the poet, the story all picked out. I had a plan. And then, yesterday while reading a few poems from Mary Oliver's American Primitive all my plans came to a swift halt. Isn't that the way life is. There sitting in the sunlight, lounging at a picnic table, enjoying my lunch hour--which I usually always keep to myself for the sacred acts of reading poetry and writing in my journal--I was unexpectedly hit right between the eyes. It was a bowl of words, stirred together, to give us a glimpse into the life of the fabled Johnny Appleseed. But then, right in the middle of the mix, I found a message written just for me. And of course I knew this is what I had to share tonight. I had to share because this is what I love about poetry. I love those "Aha" moments. I love those times when, in the middle of reading a line, a verse, a stanza, you feel the ground beneath your feet shift just a little bit. I love when, at the end of the poem, you look up and realize the details of the world have changed colors. Yes, that's what I love about poetry. And isn't that why Liz created this adventure, to encourage us to have more of those moments, to give us a safe and love-filled place to share those moments.

You see friends, there are things in my life that I don't tell you about, personal things that weigh heavy on me, breaking my spirit, crushing my heart. I can't share these happenings because there are others involved who don't really want to be blogged about and I want to honor that. This poem was a message to me in the midst of these heavy moments. I'm not expecting the words to speak to you in the same way they spoke to me. You and I are in different places in our lives and the life message I need right now is not the life message you need. But I choose to share my message with you because when you get hit right between the eyes you can't help but talk about it, share it with a group of kindred spirits who can look into a pool of words and see your reflection staring back at them.

I think you can easily find the words that spoke to me but I highlighted them for emphasis all the same.

John Chapman

by Mary Oliver

He wore a tin pot for a hat, in which
he cooked his supper
toward evening
in the Ohio forests. He wore
a sackcloth shirt and walked
barefoot on feet crooked as roots. And everywhere he went
the apple trees sprang up behind him lovely
as young girls.

No Indian or settler or wild beast
ever harmed him, and he for his part honored
everything, all God's creatures! thought little,
on a rainy night,
of sharing the shelter of a hollow log touching
flesh with any creatures there: snakes,
racoon possibly, or some great slab of bear.

Mrs. Price, late of Richland County,
at whose parents' house he sometimes lingered,
recalled: he spoke
only once of women and his gray eyes
brittled into ice. "Some
are deceivers," he whispered, and she felt
the pain of it, remembered it
into her old age.

Well, the trees he planted or gave away
prospered, and he became
the good legend, you do
what you can if you can; whatever

the secret, and the pain,

there's a decision: to die,
or to live, to go on
caring about something. In spring, in Ohio,
in the forests that are left you can still find
sign of him: patches
of cold white fire.


Blogger snowsparkle said...

the hard brick, the endless stairs and the poem highlights... wow! powerful! thanks!

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am right there with die, or to live, to go on caring about much humanity, too much reality...

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

Once again...your words and the poet's inspire and touch and connect. Thank you.

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Jeannine said...

Mary Oliver's poetry has a way of catching you unawares ... her poems often take my breath away. Thank you for sharing.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Visual-Voice said...

so. despite our painful past. because of our unspeakable mistakes and problems. could it be, our wounds empower us to become legends?

I think of how those apple trees sprang up like women, and he couln't connect with real women. he touched them the only way he was capable of touching them... as trees. metaphors?

My god, this poem is profoundly deep and moving. One can read it on so many levels. it's a masterpiece.

Makes me think of my own terrible blunders and how they have shaped me. How the instruments of wounding can become instruments of healing. I'm so inspired by this paradox.

7:18 PM  
Blogger acumamakiki said...

I love Mary Oliver, her words speak to me even when I'm not sure what I've just read.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Deb R said...

Both this poem and the one I posted today illustrate what I'm finding I love about M.O.'s poems - they never go quite where you think they're going to go, but somehow they get where they need to be.

I have to tell you too, Michelle, that before I even read the poem, the photo you posted today started to load and I literally went "ooooh" out loud. That's a great photo!

9:12 PM  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

I don't know what it is my dear, your posts these past days have been rocking me to my core-I feel a soft hum vibrating when I read your words.
And your photos are divine.

I savoured every line of this poem.

Goodnight sweetness.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Yolanda said...

Your posts and these highlighted words are so in tune with what is going on in my life right now.I feel a kinship/sisterhood with you in this journey we call life.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Alexandra S said...

I'm so glad you are letting poetry into your life. Its a healing balm of sorts. This morning I read my heavy heart two poems by Mary Oliver and while the sadness didn't lift, I felt less alone, and like somehow everything would be okay. Hang in there and know your bloggies think the world of you!

9:42 PM  
Blogger Hannelie said...

I've been reading your blog awhile now via Lee's.
Today's post was so true for me aswell. I have personal stuff I don't blog about yet-maybe one day, but as in the poem I've had a time in my life where I had to make a decision, to live or die. I am blessed to have made the right decision althought I had so many telling me I'm/was wrong. Today I look back, remember, feel the hurt, remember the pain but then, turn back and smile! I've made it.
I'm sure you did too!

Hi Michelle, please to meet you, Hannelie - Perth WA.

9:47 PM  
Blogger liz elayne said...

(i know i say this often but...)

yes. yes. yes. this is what poetry is all about. thank you for sharing your experience of reading.
and this poem. how i love the way oliver gets it...the guts of life..she gets it and she reminds you of why you are not alone. she reminds us. yes. yes. yes.

11:20 PM  
Blogger mayseek life said...

poetry and music/lyrics are joys for me also. i thought of john lennons words that "life is what happens when your busy making other plans.." when he sings to his son. the mystery of life is still profound in silences or the words not spoken.

6:05 AM  
Anonymous samantha said...

Yipes - I am stunned by this. In a good way. And loving visual voice's thoughts before me in comments - this is so powerful.

Peace to you, sweetest, fiery Michelle...

6:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that it smacked you right between the eyes. I loved this poem because it put it "life" in percpective you know.

Great choice and by the way, I've been meaning to say that your latest photos have ROCKED! Wow, you photo eye is on fire.

6:07 AM  
Blogger The Whole Self said...

to blog or not to blog...always such an interesting question. love the poem.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I've read 2 mary Oliver poems on blogs this week and like how she was talking about nature in both of them. They are the only Mary Oliver poems I've ever read, I'm sure I'll read more now, thanks for sharing this and what you can about your life.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Josephine said...

Thank you for sharing this shift in your psyche.

These words are so very true.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Alexiev said...

It´s cool...

8:50 AM  
Blogger M said...

This is very real, wow. I love how one can be so touched by poetry in the moment.
I'm loving your posts of late, so deep and meaningful- so brilliant!!
Thank you!

9:23 AM  
Anonymous misha said...

can you be any more lovely? you are my quiet time in the day. you remind me of what i love. thank you.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Star said...

People, books, music, photos..."things" come to us when we need them. They help us make sense of what we're going through -- they speak to our hearts and provide a point of recognition that we can identify with -- they help us feel less alone.

Wishing you smoother waters ahead.

10:24 AM  
Blogger jzr said...

I believe the message in this wonderful poem, the message that you received, is one that everyone can benefit from, regardless of their circumstances. At this time, in this world, this is an important one for me. Thanks.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

beautiful honey.

5:40 PM  
Blogger gkgirl said...

how did i get so late
that i am now three posts behind!

beautiful poem
and i especially loved
how you described
what a poem does for you,
does to you...
that was magically real.

5:02 PM  
Blogger MB said...


2:49 PM  

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