Below is a poem by American poet Mary Oliver, which is, of course, copyright to her. This morning, after our Wednesday Eucharist, I had coffee with Wes who talked to me about the Vacuum: the thing that most of the universe is made of. Wes is a physicist, and I can usually just keep up if he talks slowly enough and repeats himself a lot. He described the nothingness which is not, and never can be nothing. Later, in the afternoon, I had more coffee with Kathy and Murray, in order to continue a conversation we began on Sunday night. We looked at Murray's laboratory, where he makes very small holes for a living. A lovely woman sat at a desk making titanium needles so small they can't be seen, even with a microscope. Then I had a soy latte to Kathy's evident disgust but despite my phillistinism, she gave me some information on labyrinths and the poem. I liked it a lot. The poem, I mean, not the latte though that wasn't bad either and I haven't read the stuff on labyrinths yet. Labyrinths, nanotechnology, and a nothingness from which all things come. Talk about your Daliesque days!

In trying to figure out the big stuff, more and more I am finding the poets and the artists and mystics more helpful than anybody else, although admittedly the physicists and technologists are sounding increasingly like poets and mystics themselves, these days. Anyway, Mary Oliver seemed to catch the essence of the day. So here's the poem:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
or a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


Anonymous said…
... so what is it that you DO need to be?
True, aware, in love with the essence of all that exists?
I like the way Mary Oliver's poetry makes me think - it almost feels like meditation
-thankyou for introducing us Kelvin.
VenDr said…
I think so, although I am always a bit suspicious of the phrase "in love with". No, make that VERY suspicious.
Mary Oliver reminds me of Emily Dickinson, but also of one of my favourite authors, Annie Dillard. Dillard is not a poet but has a similar modus operandi to Mary Oliver: she haunts the woods and creeks and lakes around her home seeing in them the deepest secrets of the universe. She writes in the most exquisitely crafted prose of perhaps any living author.
Kathryn said…
Magically beautiful poem Kelvin.
Anonymous, I think "in love" and "loving" are two completely different things. Mary has a wonderful way with words, very gentle and beautiful. I can picture those soaring geese and hear their calls.
Love all of God's creation, all the beauty of life, nature, flora, fauna, call it what you will. That's what He wants us to do. Love it all like He does.