2021 Grateful 9: Mysteries, Yes

I was never a great one for poetry. I’m haunted by memories of childhood recitations. Having a stammer of sorts means that there are times I can’t say my name. I stumble over my Ms, my Ss, my Fs, my Ls, my Ws, and Bs. In no particular order. I don’t stammer every day. I mightn’t stammer for a week, and then one day, it’ll hit. That can be a little unnerving considering I give workshops in communications and public speaking for a living. But such is life.

Many lifetimes ago, after being what was perceived as exceedingly helpful, the customer asked me my name. For thirty minutes, we’d spoken on the phone about his account without as much as a misspoken word. But could I say my name? Not for the life of me. When I explained, he told me that his son had a similar issue. I’ve not met anyone since who claims the same.

I used to dread being asked to read aloud in class. Back when I was answering other people’s phones, it was for companies and organisations whose names began with B or R or W – once I had a BW combination. The good Lord was really having a laugh. I still HATE HATE HATE introducing myself. I can feel the mounting anxiety as the facilitator goes around the room. Yes, introductions are necessary, but it’s the pattern that does me in, the space where anxiety grows as my turn comes around. In my workshops, I call on someone by name to introduce themselves so that the hard part (in my world) is done.

When I was in my early teens, I won a gold medal for reciting Padraig Colum’s Old Women of the Road. The W killed me. But apparently, my stammering added feeling. I dreaded these recitals with a dread that hasn’t been matched by anything since. It soured me on poetry for a long time.

When I stumbled on Rod McKuen and Leonard Cohen I began to come around but meeting Neil McCarthy, a real, live, flesh-and-blood poet who earns his money in verse was when I began to forget the dread.

Now, I’m regularly amazed when my social media feed coughs up poems that I need to read, just when I need to read them. This is more than subject liking; it’s mood sensing. And if that’s what FB is doing, it’s scary. Mysterious, but scary.

Today, I needed grounding. I needed the comfort of a poem. I got Mary Oliver. And I’m grateful.

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
~Mary Oliver, “Mysteries, Yes”

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One Response

  1. “Dreading with a dread” reminds me of the Wycliffe translation of the Bible – the shepherds “dreaded with a great dread” at the appearance of the angel with “a company of the heavenly knighthood”!

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