Last night I opened to the first page of a fresh black journal. Some years ago, I don’t remember when, I started to inscribe a poem on the inner cover of each new journal. For years I’ve bought the hard-covered ones. A luxury I give myself for it acknowledges the import of writing as a method of discovery and self reflection. Whatever strikes me at the time, whatever I’ve happened to stumble into, I write it there. It will become a relic of a moment in time when later I return to it. Last night as I began to carve out my thoughts onto the wide open spaces, I realized I needed a poem. I needed that thing that only poetry knows how to do; that somehow invites a return to place, an aspect of one’s soul that in the whirl of things, has been forgotten. Only poetry knows how to pierce and soften with a single row of words.
I’ve been finding myself quite anxious the past few weeks. A layering effect of the sadness and loss seen in this past week , the loss I live with and everything it takes to uphold life with an infant. So tight in my body, breath bunched up until I sigh it out in great relief. Only then do I notice how tense and shallow is my breath. In Chinese Medicine, frequent sighing is a signal that the Liver Qi (or vital life force of the Liver meridian) is stagnant. What does this mean? In plain terms, it means that the sigher is quite literally stressed to a maximum. I have tools for this, it’s just that I need to work them and more crucially, to remember to use them. Constantly. Truth is, working the tools never ceases unless I stop doing them out of absent mindedness or more clearly, lack of awareness. This is usually when a poem invites me back to myself.
Mary Oliver’s book Blue Iris called out to me this morning, early while I was playing with my son on the living room floor. I opened it at random and landed on a poem. It was exactly the reminder I needed. I thought you might need it, too. Since it happens to be the first of November (my birthday month!), my intention is to keep up this new ritual of sharing a poem on the first of each new month.
Here it is for you. And for me. With love.
Freshen the Flowers, She Said
So I put them in the sink, for the cool porcelain
and took out the tattered and cut each stem
on a slant,
trimmed the black and raggy leaves, and set them all--
roses, delphiniums, daisies, iris, lilies,
and more whose names I don’t know, in bright new water--
a bounce upward at the end to let them take
their own choice of position, the wheels, the spurs,
the little sheds of the buds. It took, to do this,
perhaps fifteen minutes.
Fifteen minutes of music
with nothing playing.