Friday, January 18, 2019

Lunch with Mary Oliver

Spent the day reading through the many books of Mary Oliver poetry I have, looking for choice poems to read at my workshop tomorrow. Seems like the appropriate way to honor the passing of this fine poet. Found myself surprised by how long I've been a fan and then remembered writing a poem in 2006 that included her. Here it is:


                      © 2006 Doug Goodkin

Two hours of cycling through the fog,
Winding through the hills of Marin
Just at the Larkspur border,
The sun emerged.
Perfect for my sidewalk lunch at the Left Bank café.

I quickly ordered my meal
and browsed through a new book of poems
by Mary Oliver.
How happy I was, edging to the state of gratitude that Ms. Oliver
sings so constantly and eloquently.
And it was just at that moment of euphoria, just as I was nodding in
agreement with her praise of the world,
that my ear caught the voice
of the woman at the table next to mine
dining with her two friends.

She was telling them about her Pilates workout
And her friend who sailed to Costa Rica
And the new insulation in her house.
And on she went,
and on,
and on,
 like an out-of-tune oboe
circular breathing through a themeless melody.

My iced tea arrived and she had yet to take even an 8th note rest in her Symphony of
Small Talk.

Then came my hearty whole wheat bread appetizer
and her friends had still not gotten a word in edgewise,
sideways or
through the back door.

The waiter brought my Jacques Pépin roasted eggplant sandwich and the
Vapid Wagnerian Opera about Nothing droned on with nary a change in chord.
My French Fries served vertically in a coned napkin were powerless to stop her
And by the iced tea refill,
 still not a hint of a cadence.

How I wanted to shout, “NOBODY CARES ABOUT
like a thunderous timpani
announcing the final chords
           of a concert that never should have been.

But instead, I just finished the last leaf of arugula on my plate
and stared at the empty chair opposite me,
wondering what it would be like
             if Mary Oliver was sitting there having lunch with me.
what kind of conversation we would have.
And how she would react to this radio tuned to the wrong frequency.
I pictured her eating thoughtfully and then looking up with a wide grin and announcing,

“Just listen to the rustle of those eucalyptus leaves in the wind.”

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