In Singapore, in the airport,
a darkness was ripped from my eyes.
In the women's restroom, one compartment stood open.
A woman knelt there, washing something
in the white bowl.
Disgust argued in my stomach...
A poem should always have birds in it...
Rivers are pleasant, and of course trees...
A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
When the woman turned I could not answer her face.
Her beauty and her embarrassment struggled together, and
neither could win...
Yes, a person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem.
But first we must watch her as shares down at her labor,
which is dull enough...
She does not work slowly , nor quickly, but like a river.
Her dark hair is like the wing of a bird.
I don't doubt for a moment that she loves her life
And I want her to rise up from the crust and the slop
and fly down to the river.
This probably won't happen.
But maybe it will.
If the world were only pain and logic, who would want it?
Of course, it isn't.
Neither do I mean anything miraculous, but only
the light that can shine out of a life. I mean
the way she unfolded and refolded the blue cloth,
the way her smile was only for my sake: I mean
the way this poem is filled with trees, and birds.
Just as I was thinking of how Mary's poems are all saying the same thing and asking the same question (and of course they are, aren't they, just as the sun asks and answers the same thing in startlingly new ways every morning?), here she does something different, answers a different question in my mind, heals another part of my life, leads me to the broader resonance that her poems affirm. My soul breathes, "Finally!" My question is, like her one question, how do we love the world? An important corollary question for me, that has been feeling neglected in this book of poems to date, is how do we love the humans in our world? How do we love all that we are and including our expression in society that leaves beauty scrubbing ashtrays in public toilet bowls? How do we see light in war, in poverty, in gang leaders and in drug lords? This is the work of my life, to love the world of nature, including human nature. This driving passion is no more noble than the sharp tang of cigarettes and urine mixing in polluted rivers, or the refolding of a dirty cloth in the hands of others on any street, either in Singapore or Mexico City. The light that can shine out of our lives is in all our hands.
When have you been surprised by beauty in humans?