Pack three lunches at
midnight. Smile to think of them
crunching fresh carrots.
Pick up this and that
Put it there and here and there
Then do it again.
Peek in dark bedroom
Pull covers up to his chin
Tuck Hulk in tight too
Here’s a beautiful sunny day kind of poem by Mary Oliver, read by the author:
Want more of her work? Follow this link:
Want to read a classic Baddest Mother Ever story about kindness? How about:
OK, no more jokes about Poe. I shall poke fun at him nevermore.
Man, wouldn’t it be cool if T.S. Eliot was the surprise guest at next year’s Super Bowl halftime show? Maybe doing a duet with One Direction.
We always see pictures of Samuel Clemens in a white suit…so OF COURSE he wears tighty whities! Mystery solved.
If you like funny stories about underwear, check out this classic Baddest Mother Ever post:
The last poem in Raymond Carver’s collection A New Path to the Waterfall is called “Late Fragment.” Legend has it that his wife, Tess Gallagher, found it scribbled on a scrap of paper in the pocket of his bathrobe a few weeks after he died from brain cancer.
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to
Beloved on the earth.
Raymond Carver screwed up most of his life with alcohol, but he spent the last eleven years of his brief time on this earth sober, successful, and happily married. Then he died from brain cancer anyway. That’s how life goes, right? No promises. No deals. No rest for the wicked and only the good die young.
As I grow older and my heart gets tougher, those two words–even so?–resonate. They are the acknowledgement of all that has come before, the good and the bad, the fair and the shitty: “Did you get what you wanted from this life, even considering all that has happened to you and where you are right now and whether you deserve this fate?” Carver accepts it all with two simple words: I did.
Oh, when I read this poem for the first time, I thought I knew a thing or two about life. I was 21 and completely enthralled by a man who was totally out of my reach. He loaned me this book–he liked to lend me books and ideas and I lived to borrow them, mostly because they had been imprinted with his approval. So when this poem worked its way into my tender and untried heart, I skipped right to those last words: to feel myself/Beloved on the earth. Being beloved is the point of life, right?
The longer I live, the more I realize that the heart of this poem, this last fragment from the crumbling mind of a bruised genius is the line just above that: To call myself beloved.
It’s not about the even so and whether it will ever be balanced out.
It’s not just about being beloved while on the earth.
The work of this life is to call myself beloved.
I have this poem on an old creased piece of notepaper, written out for me in my friend Mike’s very distinctive handwriting. It’s one of my most precious possessions. He sent it to me when we were new friends, long before I was heartbroken or frustrated or jaded. Long before I had known abiding love, great accomplishment, quiet peace. I come back to it every so often for a reminder of his kind gift and our long friendship. I love him because he reminds me to be gentle with myself and to strive to be happy.
I remember one Easter when my nephews were small–they grabbed handfuls of cherry blossoms that had fallen from the trees in Nana and Papa’s yard. Jackson and Grant flung the pale pink petals in the air so they floated down to dust baby Jake’s head. We all laughed as the boys sang, “It’s snowing! It’s snowing!” while Jake squealed with joy. That’s been a dozen years ago and I still remember the sound of their laughter and the astonishment I felt at loving these small, new people so keenly.
Isn’t it holy to live in a moment and know that you will remember it for the rest of your life? Cherry blossoms remind me to look up. We are alive, beneath the cherry blossoms.
Here’s one thing I love about having a space for writing: I am surrounded by my books, which are filled with ideas, and that comes in handy at times like RIGHT NOW when I really feel a desperate urge to write but cannot think of a damn thing I want to say. Every spine of every volume reminds me that all writers have a moment (or year) when they get stuck. Misery loves company and these writers are good company because they made it through.
I reached over just now and picked up a slim gray book of poems by Raymond Carver called “A New Path to the Waterfall.” I bought this copy for myself in the spring of 1990. A professor of mine, on whom I had a huge crush, had loaned me his copy earlier in the year because he thought I might like it. I did. I loved it and I loved him and that’s OK to confess now because I’m 45 and it feels sweet, not embarrassing, to remember that time when he and I would talk about books and painting and the ways of the world. I was 21 and really looking to have my heart broken a few times. Just to check, I googled him and his smile still made my tired old heart go pitter pat.
One thing that drew me to this book of poems when I was 21 was the tragic story of Carver’s life. He died in 1988 from lung cancer at the age of 50. But he was supposed to have died 10 years before that. Carver tried his best to drink himself to death but managed to get clean at 40. He called the rest of his life “gravy” (and there’s a poem by that name, too). In that last best 10 years, he made a life with Tess Gallagher, a fellow writer. When they learned that he was dying, they married so they could call each other husband and wife.
Well. That rings a bell. These poems that I loved when I was a heartsick 21 year old girl mean even more to me now that I also know what it is like to promise “til Death do us part” when Death is practically a guest at the wedding.
So here is a lovely poem, written by Ray in the days between his marriage and his death. After he died, Tess gathered all these last poems and assembled “A New Path to the Waterfall.” His gifts to her; her gift to him.
From the window I see her bend to the roses
holding close to the bloom so as not to
prick her fingers. With the other hand she clips, pauses and
clips, more alone in the world
than I had known. She won’t
look up, not now. She’s alone
with roses and with something else I can only think, not
say. I know the names of those bushes
given for our late wedding: Love, Honor, Cherish—
this last the rose she holds out to me suddenly, having
entered the house between glances. I press
my nose to it, draw the sweetness in, let it cling—scent
of promise, of treasure. My hand on her wrist to bring her close,
her eyes green as river-moss. Saying it then, against
what comes: wife, while I can, while my breath, each hurried petal
can still find her.