How My Rusty Bike Returned Me to Poetry

Until yesterday, my poetry books were gathering dust on my desk.  To tell you the truth, I’d gotten a little disgruntled with poetry.  I just couldn’t understand why so much poetry is critically acclaimed and yet completely unintelligible to most readers – not to mention how difficult it is to write a compelling poem.  So I turned to short stories.  As it turns out, writing a short story is like pulling a white rabbit out of a hat.  Both forms require the work of a magician.  So how do writers know which one to adopt?

The answer came to me yesterday morning, during a bike ride with my daughter.  As we coasted along, with my daughter chirping happily in the trailer, I studied my bike.  I thought of how I had bought it in 1993, when I was a freshman in college.  I thought back to the 1993 – where I was, what I was doing, and where I would go next.  Suddenly I realized that I now have everything I had secretly wished for in 1993: a happy marriage, children, a home, and a sense of intellectual satisfaction.  I was overcome with gratitude, and I had a strong sense of the present.  In that moment, I knew my life could not get any better.  I could stop searching for the next, bigger, better stage of my life.

Of course I had the urge to write it all down – the moment, the feeling, the gratitude – but it wasn’t a story.  I didn’t want to fictionalize it or document it in prose.  I simply wanted to capture it and share it, like a kid who catches a firefly in a jar, on a summer night.  And then I realized something:  that, my friend, is a poem.  It’s a feeling, a thought, or a realization you want to capture and share with the world.

So, I picked up a dusty poetry book and decided to read until I found a poem that sings to me.  I found it.  Here it is:

In Our Woods,
Sometimes A Rare Music

By Mary Oliver

Every spring
I hear the thrush singing
in the glowing woods
he is only passing through.
His voice is deep,
then he lifts it until it seems
to fall from the sky.
I am thrilled.
I am grateful.
Then, by the end of morning,
he’s gone, nothing but silence
out of the tree
where he rested for a night.
And this I find acceptable.
Not enough is a poor life.
But too much is, well, too much.
Imagine Verdi or Mahler
every day, all day.
It would exhaust anyone.

From A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. Copyright 2012 by Mary Oliver.

In one sitting, I read seventy-one pages of Mary Oliver’s book, A Thousand Mornings.  I read the poems quickly, in a half hour.  Perhaps I should apologize to her – after all, can you imagine the time it took to compose those marvelous poems?  But I was gobbling them up like a half pint of Graeter’s ice cream on a night alone on the couch.  Every bite was delicious.  Every one made me gasp and say, “Oh, that’s good!”

I’d like to thank my bike, my daughter, and Mary Oliver for leading me back to poetry and answering a long-standing question.  I’m reminded of poetry’s beauty, relevance, and power to connect us with one another.  Poetry is a conversation about the human experience.  And there’s nothing like a little talk therapy to cure what ails us.


One thought on “How My Rusty Bike Returned Me to Poetry

  1. denisecordingley

    Ton blog et si joli et doux aujourd’hui.
    La vie en rose!!!! j’adore tes pensees!!!


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