Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Three Poems by Mary Oliver

Mary and Percy
Mary Oliver is, well, a rock star among poets. I'm not kidding! When she holds a public reading, hundreds of devotees turn out. They clap, they hoot, they hold up lighters and sway back and forth as she reads her poetry. Okay, I'm kidding about the lighters, but the rest is true. And how cool is that? I love Mary Oliver too. Like Kenneth Brewer, she writes luminously about nature, and the nature of nature. She explores the dark side of human nature and things like death and apathy and cruelty. But by far, everyone's favorite poems of Ms Oliver's are what are known as her "Percy Poems," a cycle of poems inspired by her little, white rescued Bichon. Oliver has said part of what she loves so much about dogs is that, unlike the poet, they live the "unexamined life" with great joy and no guilt.  What a gift!

Percy and Books

Percy does not like it when I read a book.
He puts his face over the top of it, and moans.
He rolls his eyes, sometimes he sneezes.
The sun is up, he says, and the wind is down.
The tide is out, and the neighbor's dogs are playing.
But Percy, I say, Ideas! The elegance of language!
The insights, the funniness, the beautiful stories
that rise and fall and turn into strength, or courage.
Books? says Percy. I ate one once, and it was not enough. Let's go.

The Storm

Now through the white orchard my little dog
romps, breaking new snow
with wild feet.
Running here, running there, excited, hardly able to stop, he leaps, he spins
until the white snow is written upon
in large, exuberant letters,
a long sentence, expressing 
the pleasures of the body in this world.
Oh, I couldn't have said it better

I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life

Love, love, love, says Percy.
And hurry as fast as you can
along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust.
Then, go to sleep.
Give up your body heat, your beating heart.
Then, trust.

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