“The Journey,” 2 Poems by Mary Oliver and David Whyte

“The Journey”

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.


“The Journey”

by David Whyte

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

This Wounded Geometry

A poem which attempts to evoke the utterly incomprehensible mystery of living in a world of horror and tragedy that simultaneously gives us tenderness and shared moments of unity and love.


What is this wounded geometry circumscribing the earth?

This scarred ecology?

This shattered geography?

This grieving anthropology?

 

This biology of barrenness, encircled by easy, shimmering life,

Hollowed out and pitted by these hallowed, pious monuments to ghosts never-born,

who still whisper in their perfect natality, crying to be protected

from the always oncoming storm.

These ghosts stay with us for a long time. Maybe always.

 

What is that crack in the surface where beauty escapes, gasping for air?

What is that breach in the wall where love stumbles out, bruising its knees?

 

Heavy heads and hands bearing the weight of crumbling mountains,

Lacerated by the cracks, fissures, and clefts that birth the visions

that put us on our feet before they bring us to our knees.

 

This love, this beauty, this gratitude are too heavy to bear.

They have been flung, screaming and weeping, from the depths of the earth.

They have been formed in violent protest, against our wills,

softening our hearts on this field of death,

stilling and quieting us before the end, inspiring us into resigned submissiveness.

The brimming heart, the welling eye, the trembling hand;

They owe their existence to a groaning world heaving beyond its borders,

Gasping itself into purple sunsets;

Spasming into green fields and shimmering rivers;

Hemorrhaging into warm blankets on cold nights and children playing in yards;

Shuddering, quivering into Brahms and Ellington and Rodin.

 

Out of the shrieking lamentations of a convulsing earth–

Cherry Blossoms, cool breezes, newborn babies, eternal love.

Our mourning has taken us into the cracks and fissures where we were made.

But coming home is little comfort;

Perspective only sharpens the knife, anticipates its origins.

We live inside the quakes and groans of a world asunder.

We know from whence those blossoms and breezes.

 

What is this marred and blighted chemistry?

This bruised and battered physics?

This disfigured astronomy?

This neurology of sorrow?

We live inside a wound so long and deep– 

There are stars.

Reason and Violence

I recently overheard some co-workers talking about the violence in Baltimore:

“If you act like a thug, you should be called a thug.”

“This is just typical of those people. Instead of working in the system you start looting and hurting people. No wonder nothing ever changes for them.”

“What do I do if a cop harasses me? I sue him. I talk to his superiors. I use the law. What do they do? Steal and burn and pillage.”

“It’s just an excuse to get a flat-screen TV for free. Most of them don’t even have jobs anyway, and they’re used to demanding everything without paying for it.”

“I get that racism still exists for some people, but how could it not with this kind of behavior? You burn down or loot a pharmacy and hurt your own people by eliminating a place to get medicine. They’re completely self-destructive.” Continue reading