I first heard of Marie Howe, yesterday on NPR's "Fresh Air" with Terry Gross. One of the poems Marie read were "Prayer" from her book "Kingdom of Ordinary Time" which I share here:
Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention — the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage
I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here
among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.
The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?
My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.
Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.
Her poetry speaks the unspoken: of rights of passage, of distractions from everyday life, of searching for something more. I was struck with the honesty and rawness of her work and searched further and found some other poems.
At first the scissors seemed perfectly harmless.
They lay on the kitchen table in the blue light.
Then I began to notice them all over the house,
at night in the pantry, or filling up bowls in the cellar
where there should have been apples. They appeared under rugs,
lumpy places where one would usually settle before the fire,
or suddenly shining in the sink at the bottom of soupy water.
Once, I found a pair in the garden, stuck in turned dirt
among the new bulbs, and one night under my pillow,
I felt something like a cool long tooth and pulled them out
to lie next to me in the dark. Soon after that I began
to collect them, filling boxes, old shopping bags,
every suitcase I owned. I grew slightly uncomfortable
when company came. What if someone noticed them
when looking for forks or replacing dried dishes? I longed
to throw them out, but how could I get rid of something
that felt oddly like grace? It occurred to me finally
that I was meant to use them, and I resisted a growing compulsion
to cut my hair, although in moments of great distraction,
I thought it was my eyes they wanted, or my soft belly
- exhausted, in winter, I laid them out on the lawn.
The snow fell quite as usual, without any apparent hesitation
or discomfort. In spring, as expected, they were gone.
In their place, a slight metallic smell, and the dear muddy earth.
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days,
some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, a
nd the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the
everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep headstrong blue, and
the sunlight pours through
the open living room windows because the heat’s on too
high in here, and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping the bag of groceries
in the street, the bag breaking,
I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And
yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my
coffee down my wrist and sleeve,
I thought it again, and again later, when buying a
hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold.
What you called that yearning.
What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come
and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want
more and more and then more of it.
But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse
of myself in the window glass,
say the window of the corner video store, and I’m
gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned
coat that I’m speechless. I am living. I remember you.
You can find more about Marie Howe and her books here:
spiritual digital art