Thursday, December 02, 2010

Lilies by Mary Oliver

From her book HOUSE OF LIGHT


I have been thinking
about living
like the lilies
that blow in the fields.

They rise and fall
in the wedge of the wind,
and have no shelter
from the tongues of cattle,

and have no closets or cupboards
and have no legs.
Still I would like to be
as wonderful

as that idea.
But if I were a lily
I think I would wait all day
for the green face

of the hummingbird
to touch me.
What I mean is,
could I forget myself

even in those feathery fields?
When Van Gogh
preached to the poor
of course he wanted to save someone-

most of all himself.
He wasn't a lily,

and wandering through the bright fields
only gave him more ideas

it would take his life to solve.
I think I will always be lonely
in this world, where the cattle
graze like a black and white river -

where the ravishing lilies
melt, without protest, on their tongues-
where the hummingbird, whenever there is a fuss,
just rises and floats away.

by Mary Oliver

This poem is one of the many reasons I am in love with Mary Oliver. She writes simply, without pretension, and packs the world and all of it's complexity in just a few words. "I think I would wait all day for the green face of the hummingbird to touch me." That lines strikes me now as I am in wait for a new life, in this strange in-between world. And "there is no shelter from the tongues of cattle."

Across the road from my parents house cattle grazed and one day, I stood on the fence face-to-face with a cow. I was studying the length of her eye lash, when she licked my cheek. Her tongue was the size of my kid arm and the intensity, the strength of her tongue was like someone slapping you in the face while screaming "I LOVE YOU!" It wasn't sandpaper it was like a sandblaster exfoliating my face with bovine slime. Her breath was milky, which I never quite understood. And then this big beautiful beast looked at me like, "That's love lady - shocking, painful, wet, milky and kind."

It was such a profound experience and in my fleeting childish devotion, I became a vegetarian for one week. What I love about her poetry is she takes you back to a moment when everything made sense and elegantly simplifies that moment. Life, love, cows. Oh my.


fleetfeet said...

Oh, you are so talented! Thank you for taking me back to that sweet and poignant memory from your childhood!

Lydia Russell said...

Wow, that's beautiful. Cows have pretty eyes, don't they?

iColossus / Monster said...

Take that life and love by the horns, baby!

We miss you. Froggy is getting big and we ain't seeing it happen except in pics so let's get together soon!