Inked. Day 6 | Mary Oliver “Tell me, what is it you plan to do…”

Mary Oliver

Poetry evokes spaciousness in me. In a university writing class, our weekly assignment was to choose a poet (from a provided list) read his or her poems, choose three, and hand write them into a journal in order to hear the cadence and rhythm of the lines. Mary Oliver was my first pick, and her writing has now accompanied me for more than half my life. I purchase every book she pens. Most of her poems speak to me, and evoke humor, a pause, reverence, gratitude, a calling to slow down, pay attention, become astonished. These are lines from three favorites, each from a succeeding decade. Do you have a favorite poem or poet who accompanies you?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
–One Summer’s Day [House of Light]

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.” …
Wild Geese

Prayer [Evidence]

“May I never not be frisky,
May I never not be risque.

May my ashes, when you have them, friend,
and give them to the ocean,

leap in the froth of the waves
still loving movement,

still ready, beyond all else,
to dance for the world.”

Tip: Find a poet who has a body of work, a poem, or even one line that evokes fire or passion within you, drawing forth a necessary shedding, emergence, or grounding truth. Then memorize that line or poem…


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