NEAR AND FAR
FOUR POEMS BY MARY OLIVER
And have you changed your life?
in the family of things.
the only life you could save.
building the universe.
THE POEMS OF CARL SANDBURG
A FATHER TO HIS SON
A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
'Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.'
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
'Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy.'
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.
DEATH SNIPS PROUD MEN
DEATH is stronger than all the governments because
the governments are men and men die and then
death laughs: Now you see 'em, now you don't.
Death is stronger than all proud men and so death
snips proud men on the nose, throws a pair of
dice and says: Read 'em and weep.
Death sends a radiogram every day: When I want
you I'll drop in--and then one day he comes with a
master-key and lets himself in and says: We'll
Death is a nurse mother with big arms: 'Twon't hurt
you at all; it's your time now; just need a
long sleep, child; what have you had anyhow
better than sleep?
The People YesThe people will live on.The learning and blundering people will live on. They will be tricked and sold and again soldAnd go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds, The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback, You can't laugh off their capacity to take it.The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas. The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,is a vast huddle with many units saying: "I earn my living. I make enough to get by and it takes all my time. If I had more time I could do more for myself and maybe for others. I could read and study and talk things over and find out about things. It takes time. I wish I had the time." The people is a tragic and comic two-face: hero and hoodlum:phantom and gorilla twisting to moan with a gargoyle mouth:"They buy me and sell me...it's a game...sometime I'llbreak loose..." Once having marchedOver the margins of animal necessity,Over the grim line of sheer subsistence Then man cameTo the deeper rituals of his bones,To the lights lighter than any bones,To the time for thinking things over,To the dance, the song, the story,Or the hours given over to dreaming, Once having so marched. Between the finite limitations of the five sensesand the endless yearnings of man for the beyondthe people hold to the humdrum bidding of work and foodwhile reaching out when it comes their wayfor lights beyond the prison of the five senses,for keepsakes lasting beyond any hunger or death. This reaching is alive.The panderers and liars have violated and smutted it. Yet this reaching is alive yet for lights and keepsakes. The people know the salt of the sea and the strength of the winds lashing the corners of the earth. The people take the earth as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope. Who else speaks for the Family of Man? They are in tune and step with constellations of universal law. The people is a polychrome, a spectrum and a prism held in a moving monolith, a console organ of changing themes, a clavilux of color poems wherein the sea offers fog and the fog moves off in rain and the labrador sunset shortens to a nocturne of clear stars serene over the shot spray of northern lights. The steel mill sky is alive. The fire breaks white and zigzag shot on a gun-metal gloaming. Man is a long time coming. Man will yet win. Brother may yet line up with brother: This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers. There are men who can't be bought. The fireborn are at home in fire. The stars make no noise, You can't hinder the wind from blowing. Time is a great teacher. Who can live without hope? In the darkness with a great bundle of grief the people march.In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the peoplemarch: "Where to? what next?"