Diversifying My Intake

When Mary Oliver passed, I remember just how much I loved her writing, which spoke to a deep place in me. The first of her offerings that really pulled my breath away and took me inside to a place of old memory was The Summer Day (of course)...

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down --
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

Isn't that the first one to draw many of us in? But it took me immediately to summer at my childhood home, it felt warm and safe, but also full of charge for my life ahead.

It was When Death Comes though that brought me back with her passing to the wonder not just of her poetry, but poetry in general.

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

This was the one that sent me scurrying to buy, not only one of her books (with the complete intention of marking it and dogearing it with abandon and no remorse), but also more books of poetry and stories of that form in general. But I wanted to be intentional here, I wanted to bring not just voices that felt familiar to my own, but ones that spoke of experiences I never had and cultures that aren't my own.

I ended up with an absolutely inspiring collection of amazing writings. Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, and Junk by Tommy Pico.

Keep an eye out in the weeks ahead as I share more of my favorites. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do!

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