Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: National and Global Conditions

The Teachers | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver, like the mockingbird above, wants our attention. My comments follow her poem.

The Teachers

Owl in the black morning,
mockingbird in the burning
slants of the sunny afternoon
declare so simply

to the world
everything I have tried but still
haven’t been able
to put into words,

so I do not go
far from that school
with its star-bright
or blue ceiling,

and I listen to those teachers,
and others too–
the wind in the trees
and the water waves–

for they are what lead me
from the dryness of self
where I labor
with the mind-steps of language–

lonely, as we all are
in the singular,
I listen hard
to the exuberances

of the mockingbird and the owl,
the waves and the wind.
And then, like peace after perfect speech,
such stillness.

© 2008 by Mary Oliver
Published by Beacon Press in Red Bird: Poems by Mary Oliver, pp. 27-28

Yesterday I did nothing but what I felt like doing. This wasn’t about luxuriating. It was about sanity, clarity, and an airing of my restless need to DO something about everything going wrong in this world.

The list of possibilities seems endless because realities now facing us seem endless. If we have eyes to see and ears to hear, every agony of the last centuries is now haunting us. Our day of reckoning? It remains to be seen how we’ll end up as a nation.

Nonetheless, I can’t afford to ignore the sight or exuberant sounds of mockingbird and owl, waves and wind, and stillness.

Listening to other people and to nature are learned skills. Mary Oliver’s poem suggests a connection, perhaps even a dance between listening to human voices and listening to nature. Not so we can defend ourselves, but so we, too, can be led

…from the dryness of self
where I labor
with the mind-steps of language–

lonely, as we all are
in the singular….

Thanks for visiting and reading.
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 June 2020
Singing Mockingbird found on YouTube
Recording belongs to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Sunday morning silence

Small floor heater hums
Smudge rearranges himself
Next to radiator pipes
Refrigerator labors to maintain chill
Table clock whispers each tiny tick
Silence seeps through my bones

Outside my kitchen window
Neighborly trees stand at attention
Calm surveyors from above
Testing winds of change
And chance encounters
A dog barks in the near distance

All things considered, I stayed home this Sunday. What will happen next? The question is on my mind in more ways than one.

As for today, I’m grateful to be alive, awake and able to write.

As a writer, I’m turning a corner. Though I’m not sure what to call it, I know what it isn’t about.

It isn’t about feeling good. Nor is it about highlighting lovely side roads without acknowledging exactly where we find ourselves today.

It isn’t about making myself or you happy, or trying to keep myself out of trouble when trouble is spelled t-r-u-t-h.

Not just truth about what’s on the surface, but truth hidden at the heart of what feels normal but is not.

Easier said than done, I know. Yet that’s part of the tug. Trance is a tricky subject, with tentacles that reach everywhere.

The future of our neighbors, our country and this globe is worth our best efforts. Beginning with Sunday morning silence.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2020
Photo taken by me this morning, 8 March 2020

A Conceit | Maya Angelou

This short poem from Maya Angelou resonates today. Especially in light of undeclared and declared wars raging in the USA and around the globe. Note that a conceit is an image or metaphor as often found in poetry. So use your imagination as you read! Maya Angelou is painting a picture in poetic language. My comments follow.

Give me your hand.

Make room for me
to lead and follow
you
beyond this rage of poetry.

Let others have
the privacy of
touching words
and love of loss
of love.

For me
Give me your hand.

Maya Angelou, in Poetry for Young People
Edited by Edwin Graves Wilson, PhD
Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue
Published in 2013 by Sterling Children’s Books

In this short poem I hear Maya Angelou saying two things about life and poetry.

  • Poetry can be emotionally moving while remaining a private indulgence.
  • This poem asks for more than this. Will you come with me?

Her phrase “beyond this rage of poetry” gives us a clue. This rage isn’t about anger. It’s the raging emotions of literary writing. This includes poems that convey deeply felt, sometimes prophetic emotions.

Maya Angelou’s poem demands more than our feelings, our sentimentality. It invites action. Not simply alone, but also together.

It may sound trite to say we need each other. Of course we do. Yet this poem is about more than that.

On its own, poetry can’t bring about change. It doesn’t matter how persuasively a poem describes our agony or our ecstasy, our losses or our love. What matters most is what we do or don’t do about it.

And so Maya Angelou’s poem offers an alternative to living in the private world of poetry. The alternative moves me into public worlds in which I am not yet present just as I am. Vulnerable, a beginner, falling down and getting up to begin again. Hanging onto Maya Angelou’s hand for dear life. Sometimes leading the way.

This first step doesn’t absolve me of responsibility for the direction we take. Yet if I don’t take Maya Angelou’s hand and follow her lead, I won’t discover what we may need to do next.

My gender, color, family background, or other markers of my so-called ‘identity’ won’t help me solve a problem I don’t yet understand.

Where are we going? We’ll find out together, ‘beyond this rage of poetry.’ Beyond its private intensity and enthusiasm of words.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 October 2018
Image found at wikia.com

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