Thursday, June 04, 2009

Song of the body

Mary Oliver's new book of poetry (just made available in paperback) is Red Bird, and this poem is the last one in the volume. But it's beautiful, lifting up a key idea that's been gleaming at the center of my attention for the last few weeks--the tender interplay between body, mind, and spirit. So much of religion seems like it wants to cast off the body and value the soul or spirit; so much of practical life ignores or tunes out the call of spirit; but it's really a both/and--and that is the recipe for joy and peace. I'm learning that, g r a d u a l l y. :) Here's the poem:

    Red Bird Explains Himself

    Yes, I was the brilliance floating over the snow
    and I was the song in the summer leaves, but this was
    only the first trick
    I had hold of among my other mythologies,
    for I also knew obedience: bring sticks to the nest,
    food to the young, kisses to my bride.

    But don’t stop there, stay with me: listen.

    If I was the song that entered your heart
    then I was the music of your heart, that you wanted and needed,
    and thus wilderness bloomed that, with all its
    followers: gardeners, lovers, people who weep
    for the death of rivers.

    And this was my true task, to be the
    music of the body. Do you understand? for truly the body needs
    a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work,
    the soul has need of a body,
    and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable
    beauty of heaven
    where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes,
    and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart.

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