Monday, May 10, 2021

Poem Du Jour


“It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet people die every day from the lack of what is found there.”     - William Carlos Williams


Every day, an old friend sends me a poem by Mary Oliver. Before I read it, I’ve already sat in meditation, stretched, had breakfast and played solitaire. After the poem, I’m ready to get to work and face the day, to note the AOL news headlines as I check e-mail and decide which, if any story, is worth pondering. “To be informed” about the news is my responsibility as a citizen, but to be informed about the soul’s possibilities and the world’s delights is my responsibility as a person. There’s a different kind of news one gets from the wisteria blooming one bloom further, the breath dissolving the borders of self, the Mary Oliver poem reminding us of the simple glories of sunshine and the admonition to savor its warmth and beware of going crazy for power, for things.


My daughter complained about listening to her podcasts first thing in the morning and already feeling depressed and beaten down before arriving to teach at school. I suggested she replace that routine with the “poem du jour.” Plenty of online possibilities, both aural and written, to ease you into each day with the news that poetry delivers. Or —imagine that!— actual books of poetry that invite you to open their pages. Try it! You may discover, as I have, that the sub-text of most every news item is a report about people who have “gone crazy for power, for things,” people who have died from the lack of poetic sensibility in their wounded soul and are determined to drag the rest of the world down with them into that soul-less abyss. 


Resist!! Arm yourself with the artillery of hope and attention and gratitude and wonder before meeting the beast to find out what mischief it’s causing now. And if you start to feel yourself dragged down, turn off the damn news and fortify yourself with a few more poems. Or play with some children. Or listen to Bach or Blossom Dearie. Paint. Garden. Walk in the woods or in the bustling city streets. Reclaim the life that awaits when we refuse to be brought yet lower by the Cretans hurting the world with their heavy shoulders of power. Stand in the sunshine and be warmed before entering the dark to be warned. 


So here’s Mary Oliver’s Poem Du Jour, The Sun,  to kick off your new morning ritual: 

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it slides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance–
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world–

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?

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