National Poetry Month: My Fellow Goose

flight sky bird blue
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My Fellow Goose

for Jolee

With thanks to Mary Oliver

 

A lone goose is flying

across the sky.

He honks and honks and

then again,

calling to his family, somewhere.

I have seen no other geese.

 

I could honk, too, but

you are forever beyond hearing.

You will never again greet me

at the door

or sleep by my side.

 

Now, I am left to pray

for a goose

in the chill morning.

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National Poetry Month: Dog Songs by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver, who passed away this January, remains one of this country’s most popular poets.  She won both the National Book Award for Poetry and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.  On a more personal level, I feel a connection to her work because she was born in northeast Ohio, near where I live.

20190405_224303Oliver frequently uses themes of nature in her work, so it is not really a surprise that she has an entire book of poems about dogs.  Published in 2013, Dog Songs contains many poems about canines in general as well as some specific dogs in Oliver’s life.  There are also beautiful sketches of dogs throughout the book.

Her simple, unadorned structures and word choice fit the topic very well.  You can easily see her familiarity with and love for dogs coming through. From the very first poem I could see how she uses the motif of dogs to discuss issues of identity, love, living well, and even what it means to be human.  

One of the poems that spoke to me immediately was “Her Grave,” as I am also dealing with a recent loss of a pet.  The lines that really struck me:

She roved ahead of me through the fields, yet would come back,

or wait for me, or be somewhere.

 

Now she is buried under the pines.

Specifically, it’s that “be somewhere” that got me.  It seems to me that the essence of grief is distilled into those two little words.  Jolee, my cat, used to be somewhere. He existed. And now he is not, does not. As simple as that.

I may have cried a bit while reading some of these poems.  But that’s good. I think poetry is one of the most powerful tools for processing emotions, both reading and writing it.  I’m happy that reading this book made me get up out of bed in the night and find pen and paper to write a poem myself before it slipped out of my head.  (You’ll be reading that one a little later this month.)

If you are not familiar with Oliver’s work, now is a great time to check it out since April is National Poetry Month.  Let me know which poem of hers is your favorite!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beloved

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From Dublin.

The National Library in Dublin has a wonderful exhibit on the Irish poet W.B. Yeats that is definitely worth taking a look at.  At the entrance, visitors are invited to list their favorite poem.  I’m sure some people wrote the name of one of Yeats’ poems, as he and his poems are much loved in Ireland and across the world.

I wrote “This Is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams, which has long been my favorite poem.

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beloved

And on Earth, peace to men of goodwill (via John Denver and the Muppets)

Around this time of year, the sounds of the season are constantly playing in my house and car; Celtic Woman, Straight No Chaser, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and many others are regulars in my playlist.  I love Christmas music, and my very favorite album is the sadly-rather-obscure John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.

We had this album on vinyl when I was a kid, and I learned to use the record player just to be able to play it. It has some darling versions of classic Christmas songs:

  • The Twelve Days of Christmas (BA DUM BUM BUM)
  • Little Saint Nick by Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem (RUN RUN REINDEER)
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Piggy pudding?!?)
  • Silent Night in both German and English, with a brief history of the song

There are also wonderful original songs, most of which I’ve never heard covered by anyone else, which is a shame:

  • The Peace Carol (beautiful flute part)
  • When the River Meets the Sea (more beautiful flute)
  • A Baby Just Like You (can you tell I play flute?)
  • Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913

This last one is my favorite track on the album.  It is a solo by John Denver–no Muppets, therefore less interesting to me as a kid.  But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it to be one of the most meaningful Christmas songs I know.  The lyrics are adapted from a poem of the same name by Robert Bridges (which is now in the public domain).

Noel: Christmas Eve 1913

Robert Bridges, 18441930

Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis 

A frosty Christmas Eve 
   when the stars were shining
Fared I forth alone 
   where westward falls the hill,
And from many a village 
   in the water’d valley
Distant music reach’d me 
   peals of bells aringing:
The constellated sounds 
   ran sprinkling on earth’s floor
As the dark vault above 
   with stars was spangled o’er.
Then sped my thoughts to keep 
   that first Christmas of all
When the shepherds watching 
   by their folds ere the dawn
Heard music in the fields 
   and marveling could not tell
Whether it were angels 
   or the bright stars singing.

Now blessed be the tow’rs 
   that crown England so fair
That stand up strong in prayer 
   unto God for our souls
Blessed be their founders 
   (said I) an’ our country folk
Who are ringing for Christ 
   in the belfries to-night
With arms lifted to clutch 
   the rattling ropes that race
Into the dark above 
   and the mad romping din.

But to me heard afar 
   it was starry music
Angels’ song, comforting 
   as the comfort of Christ
When he spake tenderly 
   to his sorrowful flock:
The old words came to me 
   by the riches of time
Mellow’d and transfigured 
   as I stood on the hill
Heark’ning in the aspect 
   of th’ eternal silence.

The song distills it beautifully into three shorter stanzas:

A frosty Christmas Eve, when the stars where shining
I traveled forth alone, where westward falls the hill
And for many, many a village, in the darkness of the valley
Distant music reached me, peals of bells were ringing.

Then spread my thoughts to olden times, to that first of Christmases
When shepherds who were watching, heard music in the fields
And they sat there and they marveled, and they knew they could not tell
Whether it were angels, or the bright stars a-singing

But to me heard a far, it was starry music
The singing of the angels, the comfort of our Lord
Words of old that come a traveling, by the riches of the times
And I softly listened, as I stood upon the hill
And I softly listened, as I stood upon the hill

Because you probably just skipped reading that wall of text, I’ll sum up.  The narrator is out walking and hears the church bells ringing for Christmas.  The music, seeming to come from the sky, reminds him of how the angels appeared singing to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus.  He feels their words (Pax hominibus bonae voluntatis = peace to men of goodwill) speaking to him through the Christmas bells.

It’s a beautiful sentiment, and one that gets at the heart of the Christmas season.  It’s a time to pause and appreciate what we have, the beauty of nature and humanity, and let peace fill out hearts, even at the darkest time of year.

So to all you people of goodwill, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I wish you peace–now and throughout the year to come.

La misma causa

Hay algo que solo puedo expresar así,

y no es mi amor,

porque no encuentro palabras dulces

en esta lengua exterior.

Pero en cierto modo irónico

me funciona mejor

porque hay algo que sólo puedo expresar así

y eso es el dolor.


To my knowledge, this is the only poem I’ve ever written in Spanish. (Corrections are appreciated haha).  Last time, I talked about my study abroad semester in Salamanca, Spain; I also wrote this poem at that time.  I liked the irony that I was using Spanish to express my frustration at being in a place that speaks Spanish.

I tried running this through Google Translate, but it butchers it, so here’s my translation:

 

There’s something I can only express this way,

and it’s not my love,

because I can’t find sweet words

in this foreign tongue.

But in a certain ironic way,

it serves me better,

because there’s something I can only express this way,

and that is sorrow.