Thursday, June 17, 2010


Here in my head, language

keeps making its tiny noises.

How can I hope to be friends

with the hard white stars

whose flaring and hissing are not speech

but pure radiance?

How can I hope to be friends

with the yawning spaces between them

where nothing, ever is spoken?

Tonight, at the edge of the field,

I stood very still, and looked up,

and tried to be empty of words.

What joy was it, that almost found me?

What amiable peace?...

Once, deep in the woods,

I found the white skull of a bear

and it was utterly silent-

and once a river otter, in a steel trap,

and it too was utterly silent.

What can we do

but keep on breathing in and out,

modest and wiling, and in our places?

Listen, listen, I'm forever saying.

Listen to the river, to the hawk, to the hoof,

to the mockingbird, to the jack-in-the-pulpit-

then I come up with a few words, like a gift.

Even as now

Even as the darkness has remains the pure, deep darkness.

Even as the stars have twirled a little, while I stood here,

looking up,

one hot sentence after another.

Mary, the great translator. She takes the lives of animals and puts them into words. Even the dead bear and otter speak to us in that we are to listen to life while we live, and not to death. So now, in the Gulf of Mexico, the dying animals are fleeing from the outer waters to die in the marshes, alone. Or so says the morning paper. Why is it that we as a people are waking up to life by listening to death? What if we listened, really listened, and put into words the beauty of the non-oiled habitats and splashed them all over our media, and not just in isolated books of prayers and poetry? What if every word spoken or written was a prayer of hope that we might listen and love while we may, and be grateful for this gift.

What words come to you when you look up at the stars?


  1. Hi! This is such fascinating poem and I am amazed by your comments, too! Is it possible if you can tell me the mood and technique used in this poem? I would like to understand more about this even if I'm not a good poem understander... Thank you!

  2. Hello Anonymous,

    I look back on this poem and your comments refresh it for me - thank you! I don't know what Mary had in mind with this poem - like you I don't think I have any special knack for "understanding poems." There is something though in what Mary does that calls to me and connects me so easily to her poems and the larger world. That is why she is my favorite poet. One thing I do is I go where she is in my imagination - is she at a creek bed? Near a tree, beach, field, or cemetery? Then I think of what comes up for me when I "am her." Does this help at all?



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