Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Gift of a Poem: "Things to Think" by Robert Bly

This poem arrived today from my friend Ellen Debe. I love her. It came with this sweet and simple introduction:

I always think of this time of year as 'new' because of school starting. is a New Year's gift for you:

Things to Think

Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door,
Think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time,
Or that it's been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

~ Robert Bly ~

(Morning Poems)

Critical Response:
I notice....
the direction by the poet, to "think in new ways."
the phone ringing
a large message
The image of a wounded animal
A bear and antlered moose emerging,
a child being carried.
The child is one of my own.
a door knock.
News of being forgiven.
"If you lie down no one will die."

It reminds me of....
The last poem Ellen ever gave me, entitled, "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver.
Oliver's lines, "you do not have to be good....You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."
My friend Marianna, who lives up in the woods by the Snake River with her dogs and cats and horses and knows the intimacy of such creatures in wild landscapes.
Native beliefs around parenting, around family, around our interconnectedness.
The Franciscan, Fr. Richard Rohr, and how he talks about "the great chain of being."
Being wide-awake and encountering my own unborn son.
Leaving teaching.

I feel...
excited about the call.
hungry for Yeats.
scared of blood and the natural and supernatural.
at peace with the possibility of forgiveness.
calm with the largeness of letting go.
achy with the desire for this message.

I wonder....
What Bly knew of Yeats?
If either ever had children?
What part do bears and moose play in his thinking? travels?
What does work look like for most people? What does it look like for you? me? My dad? Barack Obama? McCain? teachers in Afghanistan? teachers and healers and factory workers here?
Who do we think we are keeping alive?
Who do you feel responsible for?
How heavy is carrying a life in our heart or body or spirit or psyche?
What does "lying down" mean for you?
What does forgiveness do to the brain?
What would happen if we all took these instructions on how to think?
Could this poem save someone's life?

I speculate....
That Robert Bly was a teacher who loved nature and knew death and the weight of life and the capacity to work constantly in the name of sustaining something that was already being sustained by something like water and sun and animals and earth.

What do you speculate?

Happy contemplating!

1 comment:

Sr. Katherine Mullin said...

The last line surprised me. A new (old) way to say," I am not everyone's savior.'don't you think? SK