I dearly love this poem by William Stafford, and many years ago printed it for our holiday card. My Mom and Dad thumbtacked it up in their spare bedroom where I saw it whenever I went home. It’s a good reminder, especially in the dark of winter.
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out — no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
Walt Whitman for this Monday, in his vigorous and brave spirit of the self as celebration of life. I was obsessed with Leaves of Grass in high school and with Whitman’s life, his service in the Civil War, his regard of Abraham Lincoln and the gorgeous prose he wrote alongside his poetry.
Through his writing Whitman helped me to imagine life at that time, and to feel that in myself lay the power to create, to express my vision and have it reflect both myself and my time. At a time of war and its loss, I also identified myself as an American through his work, independent, observant, reverent and vigorous.
Laws for Creations
By Walt Whitman
Laws for creations,
For strong artists and leaders, for fresh broods of teachers and
perfect literats for America,
For noble savans and coming musicians.
All must have reference to the ensemble of the world, and the
compact truth of the world,
There shall be no subject too pronounced–all works shall illustrate
the divine law of indirections.
What do you suppose creation is?
What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free and
own no superior?
What do you suppose I would intimate to you in a hundred ways, but
that man or woman is as good as God?
And that there is no God any more divine than Yourself?
And that that is what the oldest and newest myths finally mean?
And that you or any one must approach creations through such laws?
You can download Leaves of Grass from Project Gutenburg.
I have been shockingly neglectful of Poetry Monday this last month, but health scares in my family and needless deaths in my community have sent me to poetry, as trouble always does. Mary Oliver is a favorite and this poem is a good one. Have a soulful Monday.
Walking to Oak-Head Pond, and Thinking of the Ponds I Will Visit in the Next Days and Weeks
What is so utterly invisible
not the wind,
not the inside of stone.
And yet, how often I’m fooled-
I’m wading along
in the sunlight-
and I’m sure I can see the fields and the ponds shining
I can see the light spilling
like a shower of meteors
into next week’s trees,
and I plan to be there soon-
and, so far, I am
just that lucky,
my legs splashing
over the edge of darkness,
my heart on fire.
I don’t know where
such certainty comes from-
the brave flesh
or the theater of the mind-
but if I had to guess
I would say that only
what the soul is supposed to be
could send us forth
with such cheer
as even the leaf must wear
as it unfurls
its fragrant body, and shines
against the hard possibility of stoppage-
which, day after day,
before such brisk, corpuscular belief,
shudders, and gives way.
from What Do We Know, Volume V, Number 3, Summer 2001
Perseus Books Group