Tuesday, February 8, 2011

At the River Clarion


I don't know who God is exactly.
But I'll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a
water splashed stone
and all afternoon I listened to the voices
of the river talking....

And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me
what they were saying.
Said the river I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered
the moss beneath the water.

I'd been to the river before, a few times.
Don't blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don't hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don't hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it's difficult to hear anything anyway, through
all the traffic, the ambition.


If God exists he isn't just butter and good luck. 
He's also the tick that killed my wonderful dog Luke… 

If God exists he isn't just churches and mathematics. 
He's the forest, He's the desert. 
He's the ice caps, that are dying. 

He's the ghetto and the Museum of Fine Arts. 
He's van Gogh and Allen Ginsberg and Robert Motherwell. 
He's the many desperate hands, cleaning and preparing their weapons. 
He's every one of us, potentially. 
The leaf of grass, the genius, the politician, the poet. 
And if this is true, isn't it something very important?

Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and
each of you too, or at least
of his intention and his hope....


Of course for each of us, there is the daily life.
Let us live it, gesture by gesture.
When we cut the ripe melon, should we not give it thanks?
And should we not thank the knife also?
We do not live in a simple world.


There was someone I loved who grew old and ill
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do

except to remember
that we receive
then we give back...


I pray for the desperate earth.
I pray for the desperate world.
I do the little each person can do, it isn't much.
Sometimes the river murmurs, sometimes it raves....


And trees, and birds that have wings to uphold them,
for heaven's sakes-
the lucky ones: they have such deep natures,
they are so happily obedient.
While I sit here in a house filled with books,
ideas, doubts, hesitations.


And still, pressed deep into  my mind, the river
keeps coming, touching me, passing by on its
long journey, its pale, infallible voice

A quick review on the internet shows this to be one of Mary's more popular later poems.  For me, I enjoy it so very much because it speaks of an answer to old age, death, loss, and suffering.  What can we do but to remember that we receive, and that our response is to give back? For God is in my arthritic knees, my mother's dementia, my sister's cancer, and in the extinction of the parrots and the people.  I'm going to have to listen very, very hard to hear the singing in such times as these.

Is your house full of ideas? Doubts?  Hesitations? Prayer? Singing?


  1. My house most certainly IS filled with ideas, doubts, hesitations, prayer and, yes, singing!

  2. I just came upon your blog and as a huge admirer of Mary Oliver's poems I'm so happy to find you here. Are you still up and running? I would love to join the conversation. Denise

  3. Hello Denise,

    I'm glad you found Mary Oliver! This blog conversation isn't active in that I have done the daily reflections and am not writing new ones at this point. However folks occasionally contact me and I am happy to reply.