Wednesday, September 11, 2013

when a bird cries out


by Herman Hesse

Sometimes, when a bird cries out,
Or the wind sweeps through a tree,
Or a dog howls in a far off farm,
I hold still and listen a long time.

My soul turns and goes back to the place
Where, a thousand forgotten years ago,
The bird and the blowing wind
Were like me, and were my brothers.

My soul turns into a tree,
And an animal, and a cloud bank.
Then changed and odd it comes home
And asks me questions. What should I reply?

"We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss - we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living…"

–Marie Howe via Crashingly Beautiful 

also: from NPR

I've been in that spot - before all my more serious editing begins, where I'm trying to decide what I'll be writing next. And then I read those lines by Marie Howe, that glimpse she gives us, and I can't help thinking it's poetry I must write. And maybe I will. Poetry and something else, in tandem. Which is often how it's gone for me. Writing two things at once.

It's a day we'll all be thinking about loss. And who hasn't lost someone? Howe's poem comes out of writing of the loss of her brother. And grieving, working through loss, is always about learning how to live. How to live with grief, but also, how just to live. How to cherish life. And this is why I love Howe's lines so much. Just that glimpse, that sidelong glance, that moment of cherishing one's own life, unexpectedly, in the midst of grief.

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