Most years since 2010 I have hosted a poetry salon during April which hath thirty days and was designated National Poetry Month in 1996. At the salon, a small group of mostly poetry enthusiasts gather and recite poems to one another. A few of the poems are originals, others are classics, some are childhood favorites, and one or two are memorized.
At this year’s gathering, several folks read or recited Mary Oliver poems. Oliver’s observations, shared through her unadorned language, resonate with many. You may relate to this Mary Oliver poem or you may recognize that you’re not there yet:
When I moved from one house to another there were many things I had no room for. What does one do? I rented a storage space. And filled it. Years passed. Occasionally I went there and looked in, but nothing happened, not a single twinge of the heart.
As I grew older the things I cared
about grew fewer, but were more
important. So one day I undid the lock
and called the trash man. He took
I felt like the little donkey when
his burden is finally lifted. Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing–the reason they can fly.
Although the next Oliver poem is about violets, it brings up memories of picking dandelions as a young girl and giving them to my mother:
Children, It’s Spring
And this is the lady
Whom everyone loves,
in her purple gown
Or, on special occasions,
A dress the color
Of sunlight. She sits
In the mossy weeds and waits
To be noticed.
She loves dampness.
She loves attention.
She loves especially
To be picked by careful fingers,
Young fingers, entranced
By what has happened
To the world.
We, the older ones,
Call it Spring,
And we have been through it
But there is still nothing
Like the children bringing home
In their small hands.
It is easy to fall into a pattern of life as mundane, routine, familiar. In the next poem, Oliver breaks away from the uninteresting; expressing a desire to keep company with those who see beauty in the smallest of wonders.
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
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.
It is special when someone offers an original verse, or one written by a friend. Rosemary shared this poem, written by her friend Ann Hochscheid. It has a ring of familiarity for more and more of us as we age:
Living alone is one.
One coffee mug in the morning,
One “Sleepy Time” tea bag at night.
One — not two — recliners; a newspaper, just for me.
No cat, no dog, no litter box or walks on rainy days.
I arise at my leisure, not at a creature’s need.
A single pair of slippers beside my bed,
One terry robe on a golden brass hook,
Atop my night stand, one book.
A solitary toothbrush in a bathroom glass,
Toothpaste, mine alone, uncapped if I wish.
Living alone is one.
I am not lonely.
Charley also shared a poem written by a long-time friend. J. Harry Jones wrote this while thinking of his wife:
She was almost always there ahead of him,
but when he finally crawled into bed at night,
the first thing he would do was reach for her right hand.
Sometimes it was there within easy reach.
other times, if it wasn’t,
and if she were even half awake
she would reach down
so he could take that hand
and gently squeeze it,
and she would squeeze his hand in return.
That, what they had laughingly agreed
at the age of 91, was their “old people’s sex. ”
As in their younger days,
it was enough.
And he softly squeezed those sweet fingers,
and drifted off to sleep
Feeling so very much in love
with that precious wife who
had lain beside him for
for so many years.
Poetry speaks to us on all sorts of levels. If none of these have touched you, perhaps something shorter will agree with you. This poem, with an anonymous author, was read by Debbie at the poetry salon:
in my hand, a tree
walks with me.
You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address,
© 2023 Sarah Donohoe
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