go by yourself
The Poet With His Face in His Hands
by Mary Oliver
You want to cry aloud for your
mistakes. But to tell the truth the world
doesn’t need any more of that sound.
So if you’re going to do it and can’t
stop yourself, if your pretty mouth can’t
hold it in, at least go by yourself across
the forty fields and the forty dark inclines
of rocks and water to the place where
the falls are flinging out their white sheets
like crazy, and there is a cave behind all that
jubilation and water-fun and you can
stand there, under it, and roar all you
want and nothing will be disturbed; you can
drip with despair all afternoon and still,
on a green branch, its wings just lightly touched
by the passing foil of the water, the thrush,
puffing out its spotted breast, will sing
of the perfect, stone-hard beauty of everything.
From New and Selected Poems, Volume Two, by Mary Oliver.
* * *
Today was a choppy, irregular sort of day, as we had to go to Esme’s school earlier than usual in the morning to see her class do a presentation they have been preparing on apple trees, and then I had to drop Jeff off at the train station (he usually rides his bike), and finally get Elsa to her preschool. Then Elsa had an afternoon doctor’s appointment and I had to carry her still-sleeping to her carseat, and then go pluck Esme out of school early since the appointment would not allow me to be back in time to pick her up at the end of the regular school day.
We all got on the highway and headed into downtown, where we wound or way up to the roof of a huge parking garage, and entered into a rather dated looking medical complex, whose general aesthetic was not helped by the fact that it’s air condition was out due to the strange lightning storm that seemed to go on endlessly through the night last night.
As it turned out, I was in the car a lot today, and that never feels nice. There was an interval of quiet in between all of this, but I was powerfully sleepy during that time and could not even hold my head up, much less organize my thoughts surrounding a poem. I sat staring out at the two gigantic, shaggy evergreens that stand guard in the two far corners of our perfectly square yard, getting lost in a book of poetry by Mary Oliver and imagining how she would really like our back yard, and probably make better use of it than I currently do. She would wander out there barefoot, undeterred by the crickets, dew, humidity, or the intense midwestern sun, insensible to such concerns as premature wrinkles from sun exposure, or the cracks that form on the heel.
Always, every year, fall weather comes in an exhilarating fashion and then is stamped out again by the regrettable but inevitable return of warm, humid days. Today was one. Hopefully we can now check it off the list of requisite non-fall days slated to occur this fall season. I want the crisp air back.
I fed the girls a very make-shift dinner tonight while the sound of a helicopter hovering somewhere just north of our house drifted in through the windows. I sensed the traffic of the city going on somewhere far beyond our range of vision, hemmed in as we are by the evergreens. Someone must have planted them a long time ago, maybe in the 1940s when this house was built.
The girls have been lively today, busy, constantly engaged in some game with each other, with Esme as master of ceremonies, or other make-believe scenario, like playing school with a class full of stuffed animals, or craft project always involving scissors. It has been mostly harmonious except when punctuated at regular intervals with an argument, accompanied by hitting, and crying.
So, for today, just a poem, and nothing more– nothing about the poem itself, although I like it. So please don’t look for any connections there. I have not been dripping with despair behind any waterfalls, but I have been doing a lot of thinking about my life as I always do, only turning my attention to parts of it that I have before neglected. I think that I will soon have a lot to write, because, as usual, I am doing a lot of processing and synthesizing, dot connecting. I started writing an outline several days ago but I think it will sit for an undetermined number of days before it becomes anything. For now, I’m glad that Jeff is putting the girls to bed tonight, that it isn’t over ambitious to think that tonight might hold out the precious gift of REM cycles, and that tomorrow is a fresh start for me, as ever.