Mary Oliver | Three Poems for 2023
How are we doing today? Not just as individuals, but as citizens in a world screaming with pain. Mary Oliver’s three short poems below, one after another, ask us to turn our attention inward. Whether we like it or not, we’re in this together. My brief comments follow.
The Morning Paper
Read one newspaper daily (the morning edition
is the best
for by evening you know that you at least
have lived through another day)
and let the disasters, the unbelievable
yet approved decisions,
I don’t need to name the countries,
ours among them.
What keeps us from falling down, our faces
to the ground, ashamed, ashamed?
The Poet Compares Human Nature
To The Ocean From Which We Came
The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth,
it can lie down like silk breathing
or toss havoc shoreward; it can give
gifts or withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth
like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can
sweet-talk entirely. As I can too,
and so, no doubt, can you, and you.
On Traveling To Beautiful Places
Every day I’m still looking for God
and I’m still finding him everywhere,
in the dust, in the flowerbeds.
Certainly in the oceans,
in the islands that lay in the distance
continents of ice, countries of sand
each with its own set of creatures
and God, by whatever name.
How perfect to be aboard a ship with
maybe a hundred years still in my pocket.
But it’s late, for all of us,
and in truth the only ship there is
is the ship we are all on
burning the world as we go.
Published by Penguin Books in A Thousand Mornings/Mary Oliver, pp. 65-69
Copyright © 2012 by NW Orchard LL.C
I love poems about beauty and truth. I’m not sure, however, how to mix beauty and truth when we seem to be falling apart. Ignoring what can’t be ignored. Making ‘exceptions’ for those who seem to hold the most power of any kind.
Mary Oliver invites and even dares us to see the world as it is. Not the world as we wish it were, or the world we think we can ignore. She also invites us to repent. To turn around. To see and live whatever truth we can with at least one other person. One day, one problem, one fleeting moment at a time, regardless of what others may think about us.
Praying we’ll find renewed life with each other in the coming year, regardless of our country, religion, politics, gender, or age. And . . . I wish each of you a truly happy new year in which you find courage you never thought possible.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 December 2022
Photo found at phys.org/news/2022-23