Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Poet With His Face in His Hands

You want to cry aloud for your mistakes. But to tell the truth the world doesn't need any more of that sound.

So if you're going to do it and can't stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can't hold it in, at least go by yourself across

the forty fields and the forty dark inclines of rocks and water to the place where the falls are flinging out their white sheets

like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that jubilation and water-fun and you can stand there, under it, and roar all you

want and nothing will be disturbed; you can drip with despair all afternoon and still, on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched

by the passing foil of the water, the thrush, puffing out its spotted breast, will sing of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.

I am reminded by this poem of a goodly number of years which I spent with my face in hands, sobbing with regrets and loss. I tried to stifle the sound, for indeed, who wants to hear any more of that sound? I had seen such senseless tragedy in Guatemala when I lived there - forests burned, people murdered, children abandoned to disease and ignorance, parrot nests felled, and birds poached to approaching extinction. Some days it seemed that if I even heard the word Guatemala, conservation, or parrot my throat would get tight and I would be altered in a downward decline for the rest of the day. Part of what brought me out of that dark time was to go ahead and let the despair take me to where it would, however, I would remind myself that I was going through such pain because of the beautiful song of the people and the Yellow-naped Amazon parrots of Central America. It was that perfect, stone-hard beauty which allowed me to hold the tragic as well.

What helps you hold the tragic?


  1. I finished reading this poem a little bit ago for my poetry class and was glad it brought me here. Your tragedy was a lot to take in I'm sure of, but despair is something that alludes me. I wish to feel something some of the time when it comes to a tragic event or tragedy from a Shakespearean play, but instead I let my words do that for me. I'm glad to come across your blog, keep up the good work.

  2. Thank you for the connection Casey. It sounds as if you'd like to feel that despair, so should I wish that for you? More than that, continued beauty to you!

  3. I am spending a lot of time on this site due to a course I am taking. Apparently, I am not going to be a Mary Oliver fan like so many others because her sensibility and mine do not seem to jive for the most part. However, I must say, I do enjoy reading your responses. To be they are as good--for me better--than the poems to which you are responding. Thank you. Juliana