And talk about poetry we will, with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Ada Limon, Ross Gay, and Emily Dickinson. She started it, really: she said “Nobody knows this little rose.” Now we know Nobody: Odysseus’ cunning way to describe himself when he escapes the Cyclops, Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, and Emily Dickinson’s anthem poem, I’m Nobody, a startling messing with our minds, since you can’t say you’re nobody, to say, I am, is to be somebody, and then to say you’re nobody is to completely undercut that in existential shenanigans. You can’t say you are not. Except, you can.
Bees, why bees, Dr. B? You’ve given us shows of moles and bats and hats and coots, roosters, birds, foxes, bears, butterflies, and even worms! How low can you go? You’ve had us walking, on our knees, falling from the sky and down stairs, lying in a hammock, slowed down to and swinging with revelation.What can be said about the plain old butter-knife bee? We’re into lyric, epic, ode, the quirky manic Bernstein, Stern, Williams, and Gregg, remember? I know you are!
“Today when persimmons ripen,” as Jane Hirshfield begins us, we’re slowing down—you know you move too fast—in this slowed time of year, where trees are strutting their structural moxie, revealed when their leaves take flight, sing the song of gravity, and reveal the gold orange and red and yellow reality in them all along, a way that poetry slows us down to express the fall foliage colors, the way a poem can turn us into what we have been all along—as Rumi puts this idea, “lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”
All things birth-day, and tomorrow, the first day of school, a new year, a new life: WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR OUR WORLD, WHAT WOULD YOU TEACH, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE BE LEARNED? And so, launched by thoughts of T.S. Eliot’s birthday tomorrow, beginnings . . . beginnings . . .
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.—Mary Oliver (from Swan)
Mary Oliver knows worry. Shakespeare knows worry. You know worry. I know worry. It’s what we’re made of, what distinguishes us from trees or chipmunks or glorious elk or owls or stars or salamanders. We’re worriers. Own it. But we’re also problem solvers, so we try to talk ourselves out of things, through things, to come up with a salve, some sort of savvy solace, something to rouse us ever onward. We need this: because hear in my morning inbox, Newsmax: 5 signs you will get cancer. Your last chance for . . . Don’t miss out on . . . Beware . . . Alert! Barbara did you know that . . .always adding to the day’s To Do list, worry about this, stress here and now! But hear come our poets, our own deus ex machina, to save the day, seize it, lift and heft and hoist and heave our worry-frayed spirits into resilience. And so we slow down, hold on, hear it (hear hear!) for our POETRY SLOW DOWN, radiomonterey.com, magic4life radio, produced by Zappa Johns, with your host Professor Barbara Mossberg, on the ways poets have our ears and backs, to wit:
Whoever Brought Me Here
All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there. This drunkenness began in some other tavern. When I get back around to that place, I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile, I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary. The day is coming when I fly off, but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice? Who says words with my mouth? Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? I cannot stop asking. If I could taste one sip of an answer, I could break out of this prison for drunks. I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way. Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home. This poetry. I never know what I’m going to say. I don’t plan it. When I’m outside the saying of it, I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.
Because you are. You will be. You have been. This happens to us all. Literally and metaphorically, we all find ourselves up on the roof, a grizzly bear circling below (you hear about it in the news, but this actually happened when I was being recruited for a job in Alaska, and no, I am not writing you from my job in Alaska, although I think every day how amazing it would have been to be there with all those writers and artists and scientists and aurora borealis), the flood waters rising below (as we just have been seeing in the news this past week), people being mean to you in your life (see Steve Martin’s Roxanne), and in general being adrift, at sea in your life, unsettled, awash, in crisis, self-exiled, and, as you survey the scene, for this moment, safe.