Thursday, May 7, 2009

…to be the Hummingbird

I think it was about a year ago that I heard Garrison Keillor read this poem on "The Writers' Almanac" one morning. I was driving at the time, so I couldn't make note of the title of the poem or of the author. I remember getting home and searching through the Writers' Almanac archives on NPR's website… No luck.

Today, it occurred to me to google the words that I remembered…the last line of the poem, as it happens. And I struck paydirt.

Long Afternoon at the
Edge of Little Sister Pond

As for life,
I'm humbled,
I'm without words
sufficient to say

how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of these
and over and over,

and long pale afternoons besides,
and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest,
still unhatched

though warm and watched over
by something I have never seen -
a tree angel, perhaps,
or a ghost of holiness.

Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective.
It suffices, it is all comfort -
along with human love,

dog love, water love, little-serpent love,
sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
flying among the scarlet flowers.
There is hardly time to think about

stopping, and lying down at last
to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
yet to come, when
time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,

and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
As for death,
I can't wait to be the hummingbird,
can you?

~ Mary Oliver ~

I want to memorize these lines, and when the thought of my mortality threatens to overwhelm me, I want to think, "I can't wait to be the hummingbird…"


alphawoman said...

Like the foul mouth ship captain in Benjamin Button. Nice poem. I can here old Garrison reading it now.

JACKIE said...

I'm just as likely to hear a hummer as see one in our yard. There's a buzz and by the time you look up it's just a flash out of the corner of your eye.

They're gutsy little critters. One species flies OVER the Gulf of Mexico on it's southern migration. Hard to believe something so small can fliy so far.

sunflowerkat321 said...

I miss seeing hummingbirds. We had regular visitors in PA, but I understand only one type is indigenous to NY and it's rare to see one.

The poem took my breath away. I love the serenity of it.