Thursday, November 15, 2007


It isn't April.

But C. found a website that has poets reading their works (specifically, poets in response to Emily Dickinson). And he is currently playing a reading by Mary Oliver, who used to be my favorite poet in the whole world and whose poetry in fact was the subject of my undergraduate honor's thesis. At the time, no one else had done a critical study of her work. I was the first!

I didn't know then that such things as summer writing workshops existed. But one of my professors told me Mary Oliver would be at one in Washington, and I determined to go. How amazing, I thought, to be able to go where a poet is. What an amazing, unbelievable idea.

Turns out the Honors Program had money for travel and research expenses. Who knew! I think I was the first person to ever use it. I got on a plane for the first time ever in my life (I was 21) and flew to Seattle, sat in a bus station for several hours, took a bus (which got on a ferry) to Port Townsend, up in the Olympic Peninsula. It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. Fog hung low every morning. It was July, but every night I got cold as I tried to sleep in the dorms. Finally, a nice woman loaned me her sweats to wear.

One afternoon, I walked by a field where Mary Oliver was flying a kite.

It was all magical. Completely magical.

And when Mary Oliver read her poetry one evening, I snuck in a recorder. On the tape, when she says she's going to read "Blossom," you can hear me gasp. It was my favorite poem. And she just read it now on the recording C. is playing, and when she said she was going to read it, I gasped again.

It's more of a memory of loving it now. If you're curious, you can read it below the fold. (Blogger, however, takes away the indentation. It's in quatrains, with each line in the quatrain indented from the margin of the previous line.)


In April
the ponds
like black blossoms,
the moon
swims in every one;
there's fire
everywhere: frogs shouting
their desire,
their satisfaction. What
we know: that time
chops at us all like an iron
hoe, that death
is a state of paralysis. What
we long for: joy
before death, nights
in the swale-everything else
can wait but not
this thrust
from the root
of the body. What
we know: we are more
than blood-we are more
than our hunger and yet
we belong
to the moon and when the ponds
open, when the burning
begins the most
thoughtful among us dreams
of hurrying down
into the black petals,
into the fire,
into the night where time lies shattered,
into the body of another.

Mary Oliver


chris said...



This story feels really nice.

Fairy tailish...

anne said...

The poem and your travel to hear it fold into each other to warm this snowy evening.

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