Tuesday, April 01, 2008


The auditorium, with its ancient curlicues and busts, with the flopping seats and stuffy professors wandering in, gray hair winging, was thrumming. Thrumming with the noise of academics, of women gathered in herds, wanting to hear about that one wild and precious life, the book club contingents who paint ceramics and wish for their children to call on the weekends. We weren't sore thumbs, just younger versions peppered in.

Sunday night was Mary Oliver's reading at the State Theatre in Minneapolis. Every time I closed my eyes, a white rose floated into view--her hair, the black backdrop. It's like cloud watching, that impression you have when gazing, then eyes closed, the white rose, the angel. It all breaks open, Rorschach tests.

We seek out places to put our words. Pull up the skirt of my bag, search for what I have forgotten--a pen, the envelope back. To fight the voices--hers against my own. The way I want to write when I am here, the way I have dried up so many times, wake again. When I am an audience member, I want to close my eyes, hear the words, be a participant; there is also this bit of me that struggles, wants to write my own poetry. Oh, a beautiful line--"our minds rattle our tongues," "we are on the shoulders of two seasons," etc.

Eyes closed, breathe in the smell. The antiseptic smell of gum, the staleness of breath moldering.

There is an assumption that everyone is the same--that everyone else must write too, that the compulsion is just as human as breathing in that room. Why aren't notebooks propped on every knee? Why are the lights so dim? I cannot read what I scribble, but that is OK; I've had much practice writing in precarious situations--while driving, while taking walks in the woods. I know how to write in rhythm to my body, on the backs of my arms, the stop and stutter by the side of the road.

Mary Oliver, how I wish she could read me to sleep every night. Her voice is so soothing, her images like ripples in a pond. The undulation of noise, the way it moves. A contented sigh.

This was my Sunday evening, sandwiched between two lovely women, my heart pattering to the beat of applause, the standing ovation, the celebration of poetry.

Today: A snow day. April Fools, we are, tucked into our empty classrooms, but there will be no poisson d'avril on my back. I am always a little relieved when this holiday falls on a weekend.

Today: Declining schools, a sorrowful process. There are poets I would have loved to study with, programs that beckoned. But I know this is right: yesterday I accepted the University of Minnesota's offer. I spoke with my principal, spoke with Julie Schumacher, have begun looking at what will be my schedule in the autumn. I tremble when I think of the truth of this: I will immerse myself in poetry, in words. I got in.


jenni said...

Lucky you - I love Mary Oliver's poetry.

Julia said...

i don't think i've said this yet, molly, but congratulations! i'm so so happy for you that you're able to follow your path in the way that you know is right for you now. it will be lovely. and i look forward to reading some of your poetry and continuing to read your beautiful words and enjoying your beautiful photographs in the time to come.