Feast After Famine: 'Every morning, so far, I'm alive.'

The library is doing something great for National Poetry Month. Have you seen it?

It happened that we read a poem together—me and the kids—about the landscape. But also, as poems go, about so much more. 

Esme picked it from a glass jar, on the front desk at the , marked "Poetry: For Adults." The jar sat next to its twin which held poems for children. 

She picked a Langston Hughes number from the children's one the day before. She's on the cusp of 8 these days: about to finish second grade, handily devouring books bigger than her head in a night's span, skipping rungs on the monkey bars and so full of big girl that she jauntily plucked a folded sheet of paper from the grown-up jar. 

"That one is for adults," the librarian explained. 

"I know," she said, and picked it anyway. 


"Isn't it plain the sheets of moss, except that 

they have no tongues, could lecture 

all day if they wanted about


spiritual patience? Isn't it clear 

the black oaks along the path are standing

as though they were the most fragile of flowers?"


She read aloud as we walked home along the sidewalk and she didn't stop to breathe, not once. So that one sentence bled into the other and another and the meaning was not just muddled. It was lost. 

She read the words. But not the poem. Like we rush through life and neglect the living. 

Our week was a good one, with long afternoons outside at the park and our first barefoot day. There were weeds to pick. And seeds to plant. Games to watch and poems to unfold.

The kids gathered around me at the dinner table strewn with dirty plates and I read the poem again, pausing to talk about each line, sometimes each word. 


"Every morning I walk like this around 

the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart 

ever close, I am as good as dead.

Every morning, so far, I'm alive. And now

the crows break off from the rest of the darkness

and burst up into the sky — as though


all night they had thought of what they would like

their lives to be, and imagined

their strong, thick wings."


And it's true, Mary Oliver. It's true. We shared a week of play as simple as the plainest sheets of moss. We read books in the setting sun and logged mileage on walks to and from our parks. But goddam if it didn't make my heart explode with light to share such wonder with them. I am as good as dead, I am, if it ever fails to move me. 

Excerpts from the poem, "Landscape," by Mary Oliver. You can read the entire poem here. 

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Renee Adams April 12, 2012 at 08:06 PM
A beautiful article from you, as usual. Pat, library manager at Duncan branch, told me about the article (someone told her about it). She and I and other staff worked on the April Is Poetry Month displays in the library, and I typed up and printed the poems for the poetry jars (Pat's idea). We've been so pleased that the pick-a-poem jars have been such a hit and were wishing someone would write about the poetry month "specials" in the local newspapers. She can't initiate anything herself that way by library rules, so it was very nice you had the idea to write about it in the Patch. Hopefully, folks will go by to pick a poem and check out the poetry books in the column displays near the circulation desk. Go Poetry!
Dana Damico April 12, 2012 at 08:37 PM
We love the jars, Renee. LOVE them! My favorite poem so far is another Mary Oliver one, Blossom. It reminds me of one of my favorite songs -- Night Swimming by REM. Evokes the same feelings as when I listen to the song. I've been saving all the poems and rereading them. The kids, so far, like the Shel Silverstein ones best which is no surprise as they're familiar with them from our books at home. In any case, I should have known you had a hand in this. Thanks for your work -- and Pat's idea. Go Poetry, indeed!


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