Monday morning and, as I sit with the first coffee in hand, I read, by chance, from an “older” book of poems from Mary Oliver and not her latest. ‘West Wind’ was published in 1997, possibly now out-of-print. Yet, within the dog-eared pages are words as powerful today as they were when I first read them seventeen years ago.
What I’m trying to say is that, if there are books in your house sitting lonely and gathering dust, re-open them and re-discover some magic once held.
Read this poem slowly. Read it more than once. Read it out loud.
What stanzas speak to you? What images come forth? What feelings?
Am I Not Among the Early Risers
Am I not among the early risers
and the long-distance walkers?
Have I not stood, amazed, as I consider
the perfection of the morning star
above the peaks of the houses, and the crowns of the trees,
blue in the first light?
Do I not see how the trees tremble, as though
sheets of water flowed over them
though it is only wind, that common thing,
free to everyone, and everything?
Have I not thought, for years, what it would be
worthy to do, and then gone off, barefoot and with a silver pail,
to gather blueberries,
thus coming, as I think, upon a right answer?
What will ambition do for me that the fox, appearing suddenly
at the top of the field,
her eyes sharp and confident as she stared into mine,
has not already done?
What countries, what visitations,
would satishy me as thoroughly as [Windgrove]
on a sun-filled morning, or, equally, in the rain?
Here is an amazement — once I was twenty years old and in
every motion of my body there was a delicious ease,
and in every motion of the green earth there was
a hint of paradise,
and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.
Above the modest house and the palace — the same darkness.
Above the evil man and the just, the same stars.
Above the child who will recover and the child who will
not recover, the same energies roll forward,
from one tragedy to the next and from one foolishness to the next.
I bow down.
Have I not loved as though the beloved could vanishing at any moment,
or become preoccupied, or whisper a name other than mine
in the stretched curvatures of lust, or over the dinner table?
Have I ever taken good fortune for granted?
Have I not, every spring, befriended the swarm that pours forth?
Have I not summoned the honey-man to come, to hurry,
to bring with him the white and comfortable hive?
And, while I waited, have I not leaned close, to see everything?
Have I not been stung as I watched their milling and gleaming,
and stung hard?
Have I not been ready always at the iron door,
not knowing to what country it opens — to death or to more life?
Have I ever said that the day was too hot or too cold
or the night too long and as black as oil anyway,
or the morning, washed blue and emptied entirely
of the second-rate, less that happiness
as I stepped down from the porch and set out along
the green paths of the world?