Sunday, February 7, 2010

Every Life Is A Story

Writers sometimes read others' work and think, "I wish I had written that," or "If only I could write like that."
Blue Iris, the title poem of a book of poetry and essays by Mary Oliver, is an example of one of those wishful moments of mine. It begins rather simply and, if it were a story, we might say it has a surprise ending. But, as I think about it a moment, poems are stories.  Our lives are stories. And if every life is a story, perhaps every life can be a poem.

Blue Iris
by Mary Oliver

Now that I'm free to be myself, who am I?

Can't fly, can't run, and see how slowly I walk.

Well, I think, I can read books.

     "What's that you're doing?"
the green-headed fly shouts as it buzzes past.

I close the book.

Well, I can write down words, like these, softly.

"What's that you're doing?" whispers the wind, pausing
in a heap just outside the window.

Give me a little time, I say back to its staring, silver face.
It doesn't happen all of a sudden, you know.

"Doesn't it?" says the wind, and breaks open, releasing
distillation of blue iris.

And my heart panics not to be, as I long to be,
the empty, waiting, pure, speechless receptacle.

Blue Iris: Poems and Essays

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