“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” ~ Roald Dahl
“I am growing,
I am growing
this hardy flower, me.
the muck and weeds
in my struggle
to be free.
through the darkness
I am reaching,
I am reaching
toward Your light,
of Your Word
where my fragile
roots take hold,
brings forth a bud
of hope, of hope…
of freedom, yet untold.”
~ Barbara A. Mccabe
“And now I know what most deeply connects us
after that summer so many years ago,
and it isn’t poetry, although it is poetry,
and it isn’t illness, although we have that in common,
and it isn’t gratitude for every moment,
even the terrifying ones, even the physical pain,
though we are halfway through
it, or even the way you describe the magnificence
of being alive, catching a glimpse,
in the store window, of your blowing hair and chapped lips,
though it is beautiful, it is; but it is
that you’re my friend out here on the far reaches
of what humans can find out about each other.”
~ Jason Shinder
Mary Oliver, the poet discusses what she calls “the cancer visit.” In 2012 she was diagnosed with lung cancer and said that death had “left his calling card.” She was treated and was given “a clean bill of health.”
In her collection Blue Horses, “The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac” is a four-part poem that recalls the shadowy underworld of loss and survival. And yet, grief is coupled with a hopefulness. The poem is petitionary, asking of us to make what we can of the time we have left.
Why should I have been surprised?
Hunters walk the forest
without a sound.
The hunter, strapped to his rifle,
the fox on his feet of silk,
the serpent on his empire of muscles—
all move in a stillness,
hungry, careful, intent.
Just as the cancer
entered the forest of my body,
without a sound.
The question is,
what will it be like
after the last day?
Will I float
into the sky
or will I fray
within the earth or a river—
How desperate I would be
if I couldn’t remember
the sun rising, if I couldn’t
remember trees, rivers; if I couldn’t
even remember, beloved,
your beloved name.
I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.
so why not get started immediately.
I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.
And to write music or poems about.
Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.
Late yesterday afternoon, in the heat,
all the fragile blue flowers in bloom
in the shrubs in the yard next door had
tumbled from the shrubs and lay
wrinkled and fading in the grass. But
this morning the shrubs were full of
the blue flowers again. There wasn’t
a single one on the grass. How, I
wondered, did they roll back up to
the branches, that fiercely wanting,
as we all do, just a little more of
~ Mary Oliver