Thursday, October 18, 2012



Early in the morning we crossed the ghat,

where fires were still smoldering,

and gazed, with our Western minds, into the Ganges.

A woman was standing in the river up to her waist;

she was lifting handfuls of water and spilling it

over her body, slowly and many times,

as if until there came some moment

of inner satisfaction between her own life and the river's.

Then she dipped a vessel she had brought with her

and carried it filled with water back across the ghat,

no doubt to refresh some shrine near where she lives,

for this is the holy city of Shiva, maker

of the world, and this is his river.

I can't say much more, except that it all happened

in silence and peaceful simplicity, and something that felt

like that bliss of a certainty and a life lived

in accordance with that certainty.

I must remember this, I thought, as we fly back

to America.

Pray God I remember this.


Mary Oliver
A Thousand Mornings
(Penguin, 2012)

Mary Oliver with Maria Shriver

No, not every poem Mary Oliver publishes is grand, some are blah, just like some days are blah. Mary Oliver, of any of our poets, lives by and with and for the day. But I can tell you many — and many are women — seek her poetry, and for good reason. She is peerless with a pen at getting under, with gentle strokes, tragedy and a possible healing all at once. I watched how her poems worked bringing them into an all girl's school for twenty winters and my visits back then. Yes, "girls", because women are first girls and girls can be harmed, have been harmed, and also have been loved, can show love. They remain one of the true delights left on earth. Mary Oliver is a woman who has kept her girl, struggling with her and loving her all the way. Many books. Awards. Citations. Readings. Somehow she has been able to live quietly and produce good work on one more tip of America (Provincetown). May it continue.

Be warned — there are many blank pages in A Thousand Mornings. My guess is it isn't a poet or publisher padding a book, and more an insistence by the poet for ease, taking a breath, asking for some quiet. There is also a humility at work with the poet perhaps saying: I'll bow out here instead of offering one more poem so you can rest your eyes and self. 
Traveler take solace.