18 August 2011

the plum trees

I have been feeling a dearth of poetry in my life recently.

Please take that literally, not symbolically, as in: There is no beauty in my life, no lyrical moments, no hints of something deeper in an occasion as normal as a morning walk.

It's just that I haven't been reading poetry as much right now—summer hiatus? But what for?—and I didn't realize that I was feeling its absence until my friend Jessie handed me a book of poems last night.

"Thank you so much for letting me borrow this. Good introduction to Mary Oliver."

I stared at the book as if it weren't mine, this copy of American Primitive. I couldn't remember any of the poems in it, nor could I remember loaning it to Jessie, but here it was, in my hands and she said it was mine.

We were at the Chicago History Museum to watch Sixteen Candles, which doesn't sound like a very History Museum-appropriate thing to do until you remember that it was filmed in Chicagoland, and it was made in 1984, making it part of our near history now.

Besides, it was the kind of August evening that makes you thankful for seasons and in particular the one you're experiencing right then.

It was twilight, and the high rises next to Lincoln Park were lit with glowing lives, people going about making dinner or cleaning up from dinner or putting children to bed.

In front of us, the Museum had set up an outdoor movie screen, and just in front of us at our feet was a bottle of white wine, nectarines, chocolate, and cheese. And a Rice Krispy treat from Starbucks because we can't all be swank all the time.

It was, in fact, the kind of night to write poetry, but instead I watched a movie and then got on my train back to the suburbs.

I read poetry on the train before I fell asleep {taking a 10:40 train certainly interferes with my bedtime, which is 10:00}, and American Primitive fell open to this particular poem, "The Plum Trees."

I read it and remembered what it feels like to have poetry in your life. This poem was, in fact, like a small wild plum, which is a comment that will make sense after you read it, and so I will leave you to that now.

The Plum Trees
Mary Oliver

Such richness flowing
through the branches of summer and into

the body, carried inward on the five
rivers! Disorder and astonishment

rattle your thoughts and your heart
cries for rest but don't

succumb, there's nothing
so sensible as sensual inundation. Joy

is a taste before
it's anything else, and the body

can lounge for hours devouring
the important moments. Listen,

the only way
to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it

into the body first, like small
wild plums.

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