October 03, 2008

Poetry Friday: Breathing Through Change


It's as if someone flipped a switch: autumn. Leaves are suddenly transfixed in livid red, and if we haven't had frost by the end of the next week, it'll only be that the mercurial northern winds turn to come suddenly from the East. If not, it will freeze by tonight. Running errands this morning was brutal; the temperature is 43° and windy.

At times, the weather seems to reflect our state of mind. Knife-edged breezes spin leaves along the sidewalk, and push us into traffic. We hunch into our coats and wonder vaguely if the malevolence is imagined or real. It feels like we're at the cusp of doom. In so many areas of our lives, so much feels to be at stake, and the approaching clouds seem to signify that we are in for hard times.

We teeter on a precipice, balanced precariously in a season of change. So much is at stake it seems, that we can only grit our teeth and hold on, until the season passes.
But pass it will.
It always does.

Cold Poem
by Mary Oliver

Cold now.
Close to the edge. Almost
unbearable. Clouds
bunch up and boil down
from the north of the white bear.
This tree-splitting morning
I dream of his fat tracks,
the lifesaving suet.

I think of summer with its luminous fruit,
blossoms rounding to berries, leaves,
handsful of grain.

Maybe what cold is, is the time
we measure the love we have always had, secretly
for our own bones, the hard knife-edged love
for the warm river of the I, beyond all else; maybe

(read the rest of the poem here.)

I love the phrase "the warm river of the I." The poet captures how easy it is to be in love with ourselves and only ourselves, to solely cherish our cold singular souls in a time when everyone is freezing, everyone is broke, everyone is worried, everyone is scared. But even in this season that feels so chancy and perilous and fraught and lonely, may we hold onto the sliver of light that connects us. If we support each other up through the bitter season, we can all make it through.

Yes, we can.

Poetry Friday today is held at the blog of Two Writing Teachers.

11 comments:

Jules at 7-Imp said...

Thank you thank you for that. Mary Oliver always improves the quality of my day.

Elaine Magliaro said...

I heard Oliver read from her work at a writers' conference back in the 1980s. Ever since then, I've read her poetry. I love the way she connects nature, the changes in seasons to life...our human condition.

P.S. I really liked the autumn acrostic you wrote for Tricia's Monday Poetry Stretch.

janet said...

Well said... It does feel a bit like "the cusp of doom" these days. Thanks for the reminder that this, too, shall pass.

divatobe said...

Ms. Oliver says it well, again.

Cloudscome said...

Amen! Love that photo. How'd you get friend bird to do that?

a. fortis said...

Fabulous photo. And I love "the warm river of the I"--makes me think of Whitman just a bit, but the tone is very different.

Sara said...

Most of the Oliver that I've read is very warm...so it's bracing to read this. Every season teaches us why we're alone and why we're not alone. Her poems remind me.

Mary Lee said...

First of all, the photo! WOW! I'd like to see a redwing blackbird's breath in the air with my very own eyes (but this will do for now). I once saw a goldfinch singing away with it's mouth full of thistle seeds.

But I digress.

Mary Oliver. Thank you.

And your sly ending: Yes, we can.

A vision, a poem, and words of hope: You've made my day.

Vivian said...

My sister introduced me to Mary Oliver's poems a few years ago. Now I seek them out when I need comfort. Lovely poem.

cuileann said...

First of all, what a weird, cool photo!

That switch has definitely been flipped here as well. I know just what you're talking about, and what a perfect time to read that poem....I'll have to revisit it come deep winter.

TadMack said...

Cloudscome -- my dear, I *wish* I'd taken this! Don't know how the photographer did it, but it's an AP photo -- unfortunately the photographer credit was snipped.