Two Mary Oliver Poems on a day that I need them both
This morning I found out that someone who I've known for many, many years passed away quite suddenly. I had found out within the last few weeks that he had cancer, and then two days ago that he was going on hospice. My history with him was somewhat complicated and closely connected to my history with my dad. I've known him since I was 12 years old, and he was someone I went to when my relationship with my dad was unraveling to get wisdom, direction and support. The past few months I had been processing how to contact and reconcile with him. I don't know that he knew the grief and need for reconciliation on my part. Maybe he did, or perhaps not. He added me as a friend on facebook this summer, and I left it be & didn't respond. He was on my mind so much, and the fact that he'd moved to Oakland & that I would see him every so often forced me to think through if and when I wanted to talk to him. On Thursday when I found out he was untreatable I sobbed in my studio for a couple of hours. It was a combination of many feelings: loss, grief, regret, anger, sadness. And today, at the news of his passing from this life into the next, I am incredibly sad. He was a really good man who loved and was loved by so many. I think he loved my dad so deeply and when my dad, for once, wasn't very loveable he still supported him. That had consequences for me, but at the heart of it I know he was doing what he thought was best. His life is a great loss, and I regret so much that I wasn't ready sooner to seek resolution. And so I turn to poetry, because like painting and music, I find God there.
Therefore, dark past,
I’m about to do it. I’m about to forgive you
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world