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Thursday, April 6, 2017

In Honor of Mockingbirds & N'tl Poetry Month (which is always April)

This morning a Northern mockingbird, who seemed to be undeterred by the April showers we are having in NYC, paid a visit to my rooftop garden, and alighted upon my Prickly Pear cactus, as seen in the images posted directly above.

The Prickly Pear seems an odd choice as a place to perch, given its sharp needles, but my advice was not solicited by the visiting mockingbird!

Be that as it may, whenever I see this bird type, I think of Mary Oliver's poem The Mockingbird, which is posted below.

All summer
the mocking bird
in his pearl-gray coat
and his white-windowed wings
from the hedge to the top of the pine
and begins to sing, but it’s neither
lilting nor lovely,
for he is a thief of other sounds –
whistles and truck brakes and dry hinges
plus all the songs
of other birds in his neighborhood;
mimicking and elaborating,
he sings with humor and bravado
so I have to wait a long time
for the softer voice of his own life
to come through. He begins
by giving up all his usual flutter
and setting down on the pine’s forelock
then looking around
as though to make sure he’s alone;
then he slaps each wing against his breast,
where his heart is,
and, copying nothing, begins
easing into it
as though it was not half so easy
as rollicking,
as though his subject now
was his true self,
which of course was as dark and secret,
as anyone else’s,
and it was too hard –
perhaps you understand –
to speak or to sing it
to anything or anyone
but the sky.

As you may recall, dear reader, I posted another one of Oliver's poems (about European starlings) just one week ago today; and if you'd like to refer to that entry, please click here.

Re the poem I've posted directly above, I've read an interesting reaction to it from a religious leader, here's what he had to say:

"One of our key tasks as Christian leaders is to do the kind of interior work so that we find our own voice i.e. the voice God has given us for the world. That is no small task. This has been a life message of my mentor, Leighton Ford, over the last 30 years. When I was with him last month, he shared this wonderful poem by Mary Oliver. It has served as a rich companion to my meditation on Jesus as He bravely launched His ministry and resisted the Evil One (Matt.3-4). Too many people never find their own voice and simply repeat the things they have heard for their entire lives. Too many of us don’t lead as a result. May God give us grace to be brave and let our voices be heard. Take some time and prayerfully read this lovely poem. Then go back and read Matthew 3:13-4:11 and consider its application to the life of Jesus."

And another one from a blogger:

"We are like the mockingbird, afraid to sound our own voice and instead pulling all the stories we hear to ourselves and simply replaying them. Too many people never find their own voice and simply repeat the things they have heard for their entire lives. What we need to do, in writing and in life, is be brave and let our voices be heard. Be yourself when people are around, try not to be afraid of what others will think of you for letting your opinion be heard. Share your voice with the world, even if you are still finding it. The only way to know what you believe and feel is by expressing yourself. Listen to the stories around you and let them shape you – let yourself find your voice and use it."

In any event, today, I also had the distinct honor to be visited by two mockingbirds, as evidenced in the following pictures:

My seeing the two of them caused me to think of another poem by Mary Oliver,  MOCKINGBIRDS, which I've posted below:

This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing
the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing
better to do
than listen.
I mean this
In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door
to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,
but gods.
It is my favorite story--
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give
but their willingness
to be attentive--
but for this alone
the gods loved them
and blessed them--
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water
from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,
and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down--
but still they asked for nothing
but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.
Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning--
whatever it was I said
I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field--
I was hurrying
through my own soul,
opening its dark doors--
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

And I hope my seeing these two mockingbirds caused me to do as Oliver did, and go "hurrying
through my own soul, opening its dark doors--"  and, lean out and be listening; as the mockingbird seems to do in a number of situations (as evidenced below).

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