One of the biggest thrills of my life was seeing poet Mary Oliver at Marquette University a few years ago.
I’ve talked about how influential poetry has been for me, especially the Psalms. I think God reaches you wherever you are, and for me that has always been the written word. I feel Him when I read Mary Oliver’s poetry, especially that last line where she issues the challenge that turns your entire perspective on its ear.
When I saw her at Marquette, she read “The Journey” and that famous last line:
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Oh yes, I relate to that so much. We can’t be a savior for people. We have one already. The most perfect one. We can only lean on Him and work on ourselves. We can only do so much.
There is comfort in that. I used to feel bound by my limitations, but I feel comfort in them now. I know where the limits are, and I know beyond those limits my Lord is there working, and has been there even before I knew where the boundaries ended.
I wrote a poem in tribute to Mary Oliver in one of my books. It talks about heaven and the timelessness of God.
“Silently I Read Mary Oliver’s Poetry”
Late at night
as I read
“More Beautiful Than the Honey Locust Tree
Are the Words of the Lord.”
I am filled with thoughts of Heaven
as Mary Oliver
with her beautiful words
I am filled with
and want of shouting,
“Glory to be God!”
But I must remain quiet
for my husband sleeps
I want to read aloud to him,
“For You are forever
while I am like a
single day that passes.”
But he sleeps so sound
and looks so handsome
in his dreams.
He is my nature,
my gift of love.
And I smile at his gentle snores –
my little slice of heaven.
©Cherie Burbach from New and Selected Poems
But perhaps it is her “The Summer Day” which really resonates with me. This poem seems to cry out for gratefulness, to make us appreciate every day, which is the ultimate gift from our Lord. Again, the last time of that poem becomes an anthem to meditate on:
“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”