Mary Oliver's book, Upstream
, came out just a bit before my trip to Tulum
a couple of years ago. I brought it along not realizing what a balm the words would become at a particularly terrifying and isolating moment
. I believe though that poetry—and perhaps all forms of prose—fall on a reader in a particular moment, and how or in which way they land is far beyond the control of the writer. I wrote this poem a while back in my mind but just got it down on "paper" last night. It seemed appropriate to share this week, as Oliver said herself, "There is so much to admire, to weep over. / And to write music or poems about."
So why not get started immediately🙏,
The other day I was trying to remember this poem I had read
So that I could re-read it.
But it lingered on the tip of my mind’s tongue like a dream
That I couldn’t remember if I’d had or not,
Like a feeling, rather than a subject
What was it about?
Who wrote it?
So, I tried to google from all I could feel:
But the key words came out all cliché—like
“Motherhood poem being sad and wishing there was a better world”
And then a nifty long-shot:
“Best poems I ever read on Instagram”
You get the idea.
It’s hard to google a poem based on a sensation in your gut.
After rolling the feeling around on the tip of my tongue for too long
I finally stopped
And it made me sad because I was on an airplane
And most things on airplanes have that effect
There I was
five miles above it
But still tethered to it
And all I wanted
was that poem,
and it eluded me.
I wanted to feel the feeling,
Not remember the memory of the feeling
at a 30,000 foot distance,
Slipped in like a needle in the haystack of my brain circuitry:
A friend of a friend in a hotel bathroom,
and the particular way in which he squeezed out the toothpaste tube.
An Australian design student
who smelled like truffle oil
three years before I knew what truffle oil smelled like.
The gurgle orchestra of my childhood dog’s belly,
who let me lay on her like a pillow when I was little.
The particular face of the particular bully,
and the exact spot where he poked my side—
the skin of which has regenerated at least 300 times since.
They say the human brain has about a billion neurons
Give or take,
But that memories continue to build on each other,
Form new connections,
Up to maybe a million gigabytes of memory storage.
(The Internet may be even bigger
But I still can’t find that poem there.)
Though even if I could,
That means the poem that I read
Would not be the same one you read.
The lines would weave with what we each know to be true,
A feeling would form
and eventually fade
like a cirrostratus cloud
like trying to find a wrinkle on the face of a friend back on earth
from an airborne plane—
surely there but elusive,
like the feeling of a life
you never lived.
Try this at home.
Mary O. wrote that "attention is the beginning of devotion." I really liked that line, as it cuts right to the chase. Today, try to pay attention to the natural world a little bit more intently. Maybe it's the howl of the winter wind, how it shakes the house and whistles through the tree branches in its power. Whatever: choose one thing of the natural world to pay attention to—perhaps it will inspire a poem. Maybe it will just inspire an Instagram story about a duck and how much you can relate to it—who knows!
Quote of the week
"...all because I was steadfast about one or two things: loving foxes, and poems, the blank piece of paper, and my own energy — and mostly the shimmering shoulders of the world that shrug carelessly over the fate of any individual that they may, the better, keep the Niles and the Amazons flowing. And that I did not give to anyone the responsibility for my life. It is mine. I made it. And can do what I want to with it. Live it. Give it back, someday, without bitterness, to the wild and weedy dunes." - Mary Oliver
I'm a huge fan of this entire new album from James Blake. It's v spicy. New yoga class playlist is here! And as always, the Om Weekly "radio" so to speak, is here.
What do you want to see here?
I've got some ideas about where to take this newsletter in 2019 (probably more bad poems, more great interviews, more yoga-teacher-keeps-it-real-ness), but I also would love some input since ya'll are the ones who read this. Or like 50% of you, plus or minus. #data Reply back and let me know what your hopes, dreams and desires are and I'll try to oblige, within reason.