Following is a poem titled Pandemic written by Lynn Ungar on 3/11/20. Thanks to Joanna Rupp at the University of Chicago for sending it to me.
I like to read poetry out loud. It slows me down enough to relish the words. Lynn, I don’t know you, but you wrote a beautiful poem that hopefully helps a lot of us in this moment.
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
Amy’s favorite poet, Mary Oliver, just passed away at 83. In her honor, following is Amy’s favorite Mary Oliver poem White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field.
out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel,
it was beautiful
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings –
five feet apart – and the grabbing
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys
of the snow –
And then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes,
to lurk there,
like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows –
so I thought:
isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping itself around us –
as soft as feathers –
that we are instantly weary
of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes,
not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river
that is without the least dapple or shadow –
that is nothing but light – scalding, aortal light –
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.
By Mary Oliver, From House of Light copyright © 1990, Beacon Press
If you like Mary Oliver, other favorites include Wild Geese and The Summer Day.
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves”
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
While some poetry ends, the poems last forever.