Buck Moon—From the Field Guide to Insects, by Mary Oliver

Eighty-eight thousand six-hundred
different species in North America. In the trees, the grasses
around us. Maybe more, maybe
several million on each acre of earth. This one
as well as any other. Where you are standing
at dusk. Where the moon
appears to be climbing the eastern sky. Where the wind
seems to be traveling through the trees, and the frogs
are content in their black ponds or else
why do they sing? Where you feel
a power that is not you but flows
into you like a river. Where you lie down and breathe
the sweet honey of the grass and count
the stars; where you fall asleep listening
to the simple chords repeated, repeated.
Where, resting, you feel
the perfection, the rising, the happiness
of their dark wings.

***

Found this in a book of poems by Mary Oliver that I took out of the library last week when I was feeling blue. The volume is called Twelve Moons, which I liked for its witchy sound. And the poems are as witchy as Mary Oliver’s poems ever are, which is to say–fairly witchy, in the most earthy, natural sense of the word.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table as I write this little blog post. It’s my favorite place to sit in the whole house, in any house. We have a small kitchen but it’s big enough, with two huge windows and a back door onto the yard. The windows have deep sills that I have crammed with houseplants in pots: a snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), with its sharp, shapely long leaves; a sprig of the huge begonia, stuck into black dirt, that broke off when I repotted it the other day; an African violet with tiny white flowers, a housewarming gift from my mother-in-law that I potted in a polished-ceramic pot that a former tenant left behind in the basement when they moved out. I have two cactuses and several cuttings from a rich purple Setcreasea pallida plant (Purple Heart) that I’ve had for years. I remember seeing it growing wild in Mexico last summer and feeling the thrill of recognition: I never knew where it came from! There’s a paddle plant too, and a palm of some kind that I bought when it was only about 8 inches high and is now so tall and full it has to sit on the floor in a great big pot.

We have a small yard, also big enough. Through the windows, behind my houseplants, I can see the herb garden I’m growing in pots. Short and bushy oregano, tall and bouncy basil, fluffy dill stalks that were temporarily tamped down by last night’s freak hail storm. As I looked out just now to describe it, I saw the lady cardinal on the fence, her beak bright orange as ever. She’s one half of the cardinal couple that lives in the back of our yard somewhere. Joe identified them as a couple and as permanent residents, and now we love to spot them, probably because we’re a couple too, recently married and still new to setting up a household this way.

Dozens of tiny praying mantises were born out back a few weeks ago, and now one of them lives in this kitchen. Yesterday in the morning it was standing upside down on the ceiling, next to a ladybug–both good-luck insects. Later, I found a penny on the street, heads-up.

I get restless this time of year, as well as at any other time that I feel sad. I’m not sad right this moment though, just full of squirmy energy (and good luck, I guess). I want to go swimming in the secret swimming hole in the creek near here, but I hear it’s too polluted to go in anymore. I want to put on my old sneakers and tramp through the woods or, like I did yesterday, walk five miles through the city, over broken sidewalks and ducking under kudzu and pricker bushes that no one’s cut back. It’s wild everywhere in July, even in the city. Especially in the city, because it’s people-wild here too. Everyone is restless and no one wants to work. I think I’ll try to finish my chores/jobs/tasks by early afternoon so I can go roaming around again, and see what I can see.

Tonight it’s the full moon, the full buck moon–lowest full moon of the calendar year. I need to get drunk on wine, play my music loud, prowl around the streets. Break something, climb something, make something. There’s a good place to swim in a state park outside of Philly; if I can wait till Friday, Joe will take me there, and we can pretend to be ten years old again, the age I return to every summer. I can let the power that is not me, flow into me like a river.

Nothing on Earth is Big Enough to Crush My Beautiful Heart

That’s right. Nothing.

heartI made this pretty little poetry book last year, and I would like to share it with you. It’s a collection of poems I’d written over the last several years that, for the most part, hadn’t really seen the light of day; my hubby J laid the book out and together we designed the rad cover, and by designed it together I mean I sat and looked over his shoulder and pointed at the computer screen while he made it, but truly, some of the better design details are ALL ME.

I woke up this morning thinking about poetry, and how important it can be at certain times. There are things in life that are too hard to talk about using a normal string of words. You need the weird grammar of poetry instead, the way it bends and buckles and opens into sinkholes, so you can find another way in. Yesterday I felt incredibly lousy, as I had for the last several days, but I forced myself to get out of the house anyway, to take the bus to the library and look at poetry books. I’m planning a reading that will take place one day soon, and sometimes when I do those I also like to share a poem that someone else wrote. Poems are made to be shared and I think reading them aloud is probably the best way to do that. So I went to the library and poked around and see if I could find a good poem to share.

I went to the huge main branch of Philly’s public library downtown, which is housed in an old Beaux Arts building that’s so preposterously gorgeous it occasionally makes me feel weird, like: I just took the bus through North Philly. Why am I in the Paris Opera House all of a sudden? I went to the literature room and marched to the back, where the sign said POETRY AND POETS or whatever, but i was odd, the only things they had were old, like Shakespeare and Spenser and Yeats. The poets were old and the books themselves were old, too. They weren’t what I wanted, but I looked anyway, in case I found something that would be useful to me. I gave up after a while and was on my way out of the room when I spotted the other poetry shelves, which were crammed with contemporary poetry. Yippee! Kay Ryan, Mary Oliver, W.S. Merwin, Eileen Myles. I took a few of those books home with me and read through them, and woke up this morning thinking about a poem called “Writing” from Skies, a book Myles published with Black Sparrow about 15 years ago. I read it and something stirred in my chest and I smiled to myself, which was what I needed—the stirring and the smiling—and what I couldn’t get any other way. Do yourself a favor and find and read the fucking thing. She is incredible.

I am much, much less of a poet than Eileen Myles is, but I’m not terrible, either. Would you like a copy of my little zine-book? Leave a comment below within the next week, and on June 3rd a robot will choose a winner at random, and then I’ll contact that person privately to get their mailing address. Sound good? Good.