Many thanks to Flighty’s plot for bringing this photograph–and, of course, the luminescent poem within–to WordPress. Thanks, too, for letting me use it here!
Bustle and caw. Recall the green heat
rising from the new minted earth, granite
and basalt, proto-continents shuffling
and stacking the deck, first shadows flung
from the ultraviolet haze. A fern
uncurls from the swamp, the microscopic furnace
of replication warms the world, one
becoming two, two four: exponential blossom.
Lush with collision, the teacup balance
of x and y, cells like balloons
escaping into the sky—then the dumbstruck
hour, unmoored by a river,
a first fish creeps to the land to marvel
at the monstrous buds of its toes. And stars
grow feet and walk across the years, into these dozing,
ordinary days, climbing the spine’s winding
stair, where crickets yawn and history spins.
What birds plunge through is not the intimate space
—Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Stephen Mitchell)
What birds plunge through is not the intimate space
in which you see all forms intensified.
(Out in the Open, you would be denied
your self, would disappear into that vastness.)
Space reaches from us and construes the world:
to know a tree, in its true element,
throw inner space around it, from that pure
abundance in you. Surround it with restraint.
It has no limits. Not till it is held
in your renouncing is it truly there.
Two poems by Mary Oliver.
White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field
Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —
as soft as feathers —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.
Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard
His beak could open a bottle,
and his eyes – when he lifts their soft lids –
go on reading something
just beyond your shoulder –
or the Book of Revelation.
Never mind that he eats only
the black-smocked crickets,
and the dragonflies if they happen
to be out late over the ponds, and of course
the occasional festal mouse.
Never mind that he is only a memo
from the offices of fear –
it’s not size but surge that tells us
when we’re in touch with something real,
and when I hear him in the orchard
down the little aluminum
ladder of his scream –
when I see his wings open, like two black ferns,
a flurry of palpitations
as cold as sleet
rackets across the marshlands
of my heart
like a wild spring day.
Somewhere in the universe,
in the gallery of important things,
the babyish owl, ruffled and rakish,
sits on its pedestal.
Dear, dark dapple of plush!
A message, reads the label,
from that mysterious conglomerate:
Oblivion and Co.
The hooked head stares
from its house of dark, feathery lace.
It could be a valentine.
— Richard Kell
They paddle with staccato feet
In powder-pools of sunlight,
Small blue busybodies
Strutting like fat gentlemen
With hands clasped
Under their swallowtail coats;
And, as they stump about,
Their heads like tiny hammers
Tap at imaginary nails
In non-existent walls.
Elusive ghosts of sunshine
Slither down the green gloss
Of their necks in an instant, and are gone.
Summer hangs drugged from sky to earth
In limpid fathoms of silence:
Only warm dark dimples of sound
Slide like slow bubbles
From the contented throats.
Raise a casual hand –
With one quick gust
They fountain into air.
Why I Need the Birds
When I hear them call
in the morning, before
I am quite awake,
my bed is already traveling
the daily rainbow,
the arc toward evening;
and the birds, leading
their own discreet lives
of hunger and watchfulness,
are with me all the way,
always a little ahead of me
in the long-practiced manner
of unobtrusive guides.
By the time I arrive at evening,
they have just settled down to rest;
already invisible, they are turning
into the dreamwork of trees;
and all of us together —
myself and the purple finches,
the rusty blackbirds,
the ruby cardinals,
and the white-throated sparrows
with their liquid voices —
ride the dark curve of the earth
toward daylight, which they announce
from their high lookouts
before dawn has quite broken for me.
Spring is like a perhaps hand
—E. E. Cummings
Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and
changing everything carefully
spring is like a perhaps
Hand in a window
and fro moving New and
people stare carefully
moving a perhaps
fraction of flower here placing
an inch of air there)and
without breaking anything.
High in the April barn
the swallows are worshiping
dry straw, the gold motes
ascending, so many
dusty wings. If there is
milk cooling like moonlight
in brimfull tins, if
flies circle in the shadow
of Hereford drool, if sprigs
of henbit and sage cloister
in the corner, the birds
still swirl like the very
essence of vigor. Backlit
to dazzlement by afternoon
sunlight, they embroider
the air. Here in the steeple
beneath the weathercock’s
windblown ache and swing,
the dark angels create
order, the choral rush and
flutter of wings. Their
eyes are smooth as a thumbed
rosary, and where mortals’
bones would channel marrow,
they have only the buoyant
and holy air. Nevertheless,
the blasphemous farm cat
hungry for sacrament slinks
up the ladder’s rungs — his
sepal eyes, thorns for claws,
a rose petal for his pagan
and ravenous tongue.
(In case you didn’t guess I’m trying to catch up on the MudSongs before March’s end!)
A Multitude of Birds
—by Ron McFarland
Sing now the desperate dance of small birds.
Sing where the quail collect after snowfall,
the mud-gutted borders of roads where the last
hard grains of wheat lay heaped with the gravel.
Sing the wren’s last colorless song,
the solitary vireo’s slow cold slur
by the roadside sifting old brown bags
for crusts or breadcrumbs, or perhaps
among the shards of bright green glass
a sip of wine, a claret deep as blood.
Sing then the cunning of sparrows which look
like nothing but dark little rocks,
for they will endure, and the starling
whose song is the echo of anything,
and the waxwing, gregarious feeders.
Sing warblers and blackbirds perched on the edge
of winter with ice clinging fast
to their wings, with plentiful seed
lying deep, with songs frozen hard into words,
sing now the desperate dance of small birds.
Spring is as much a time of pain as of growth. Imagine the egg, the bulb, the bud. All begin contained — all potential, endless promise. There is no strain, no disturbance by passion or power. But when growth begins, things break. Shells and bud casings, those intact perfections, fall away. What is revealed is unprotected tenderness…
– Patricia Monaghan
LOVE POEM XIV
Translated by W. S. Merwin
Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.
You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.
Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.
The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.
You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.
Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.
How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.
My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.