August 6: “Route 684, Southbound Rest Stop”

So you see why it could not have been a more humble moment.
If there was any outward sign of regalia
It might have been the twilight crowning of the day, just then,
A perfect moment of dusk, but changing, as a wave does
Even as you admire it. Because the southbound stop
Mirrors the one northbound where we so often find ourselves
At the beginning, southbound’s return holds the memory
Of northbound’s setting-out, and the grassy median between
With its undisturbed trees defines an elusive strip of the present
Where no one lives. After twenty-eight years of the trip,
It’s like two beakers of colored water — one green, one blue —
Have poured themselves back and forth, because
On one side we are tinted by remembering the other.
But this aspect of the journey, at least, we know we will repeat.
As dusk cohered that moment — aquas, pinks, violets —
Just at that moment as I was returning to the car
A woman came the other way, her two young daughters
Holding her hands, and the gloaming sparkled around them
So that I froze, as they were backlit, starry,
They were the southbound reminder of who I had been beginning
The trip. She didn’t look like me, but what I did recognize
Was her clarity of purpose, in what Sharon Olds called
the days of great usefulness, making life as nice
As she could for them, always writing the best story,
And also, beneath her skin, living with delight as quiet
As the shoots anchoring grass beneath the earth.
I walked back to my car. My husband sat in the driver’s seat,
Our weekend’s luggage thrown in back.
Tell me we really had those girls, I said,
and that they held my hands like that. When I got home
I pictured her helping them each into bed — I knew it was
Later than she had hoped — then reading
Each section of the paper’s terrible news, finally alone.
— Jessica Greenbaum
Advertisements

June 16: “North Wind”

I love you, malcontent
Male wind—
Shaking the pollen from a flower
Or hurling the sea backward from the grinning sand.

Blow on and over my dreams. . .
Scatter my sick dreams. . .
Throw your lusty arms about me. . .
Envelop all my hot body. . .
Carry me to pine forests—
Great, rough-bearded forests. . .
Bring me to stark plains and steppes. . .

I would have the North to-night—
The cold, enduring North.

And if we should meet the Snow,
Whirling in spirals,
And he should blind my eyes. . .

Ally, you will defend me—
You will hold me close,
Blowing on my eyelids.

— Lola Ridge

April 28: “North Country”

In the north country now it is spring and there
is a certain celebration. The thrush
has come home. He is shy and likes the
evening best, also the hour just before
morning; in that blue and gritty light he
climbs to his branch, or smoothly
sails there. It is okay to know only
one song if it is this one. Hear it
rise and fall; the very elements of your soul
shiver nicely. What would spring be
without it? Mostly frogs. But don’t worry, he

arrives, year after year, humble and obedient
and gorgeous. You listen and you know
you could live a better life than you do, be
softer, kinder. And maybe this year you will
be able to do it. Hear how his voice
rises and falls. There is no way to be
sufficiently grateful for the gifts we are
given, no way to speak the Lord’s name
often enough, though we do try, and

especially now, as that dappled breast
breathes in the pines and heaven’s
windows in the north country, now spring has come,
are opened wide.

— Mary Oliver

January 23: “Monday”

Awake, like a hippopotamus with eyes bulged
from the covers, I find Monday, improbable
as chair legs, camped around me, and God’s terrible
searchlight raking down from his pillbox on Mount Hood,
while His mystic hammers reach from the alarm clock
and rain spangles on my head.

Cliff at my back all week I live, afraid
when light comes, because it has deep whirlpools
in it. I cross each day by the shallow part but
have often touched the great hole in the sky
at noon. I close my eyes and let the day
for a while wander where all things will, and then
it settles in a fold of the north.

At the end, in my last sickness, I think I will travel
north, if well-meaning friends will let me– to bush,
to rock, to snow– have nothing by me, fall
on the sky of earth in the north, and let my heart
finally understand that part of the world
I have secretly loved all my life– the rock. But now
I gradually become young, surge from the covers,
and go to work.

— William Stafford