Thursday, June 9, 2011


Early bird lap swim cut short by thunder. Of course. It's Thor's Day in the blog. Thor is shaking his hammer at me for that shirtless actor comment a while back. But the water felt great for the short time I was in it, and I got several laps in before the very responsible lifeguards whistled us out of the pool.

So today I will use those four overripe bananas to make some more vegan banana bread, a recipe I now prefer to the one in Joy of Cooking. It uses maple syrup and apple cider vinegar and the bread stays very moist! Oops, I left the soy milk in my mom's fridge...but last time I used water, for lack of soy milk, anyway.

Speaking of my mom, the poetry of Mary Oliver sometimes drives her crazy, er, bananas. All that wandering around in the beauty. My mom points out the need to mow and pull out weeds, the little maple trees growing in the rain gutters, etc. I read Thirst recently--can't recall when/how I obtained a copy. Seems new, not from Babbitt's, not from our dead friend Griff, but I don't remember buying it, and I gave up buying books for Lent and have not much resumed. Sort of a sustainable living choice, that.

Thirst drove me back to American Primitive, House of Light, and Dream Work, for poems that weren't banging me over the head with goodness. This was a good thing to do. The human story before the huge beauty story is there, right away, in Dream Work. In "Dogfish," in "Trilliums," in "Rage." In "Dogfish," Mary Oliver says this, halfway through:

You don't want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don't want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

But this is quite a dilemma. I do want to hear the story of her life, transformed as she offers it, yes, in poems, but I do want some version of the personal story, in the "flickering" of the dogfish down in the water, in the flash of "the sun's fire" on motionless stone (in "Knife"), in the terrible dark anti-optimism of "The Shark," in which a shark is caught by fishermen, mauled in its own thrashing, and hauled home:

And I say: in the wilderness of our wit
we will all cry out last words--heave and spit them
into the shattering universe someday, to someone.

Whoever He is, count on it: He won't answer.
The inventor is like the hunter--each
in the crease and spasm of the thing about to be done
is lost in his work. All else is peripheral,
remote, unfelt. The connections have broken.

Consider the evening:
the shark winched into the air; men
lifting the last bloody hammers.
And Him, somewhere, ponderously lifting another world,
setting it free to spin, if it can,
in a darkness you can't imagine.


Sandy Longhorn said...

Happy Thor's Day! (I'm re-reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman and seem surrounded by the gods both ancient and newly-minted.)

As for Oliver, I love her early works, esp. American Primitive, but I don't care much for the later books where I think she repeats herself a bit too much. Thanks for the excerpts!

Nancy Devine said...

thanks for the link to the recipe. i've been doing a big of vegan baking as of late and am finding some good stuff: recipes in which beans play a central role.

Kathleen said...

Beans, bananas, new and ancient gods! Quite a Thor's Day thus far.

Cathy said...

I respect Mary Oliver for writing what she wants to write, and being successful at it besides. It's like she doesn't write about people, but she keeps finding people in things that aren't people. If that makes sense.

I do have to pace myself reading her, though, or the poems run together. I keep wishing she'd write one about yanking out weeds by the fistful or something.

Collagemama said...

I am just grateful for the reminder of maple seedlings in gutters, and that I don't have to be responsible for them anymore.

Kathleen said...

I keep pulling up the little trees in the yard....

Dick Jones said...

As a Brit, I came late to Mary Oliver so thanks for this profile, which advances further my perception of this remarkable poet.

Kathleen said...

She's lovely, Dick. And you can meet America's natural beauty in her poems. She looks at the whole world, too.