Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Thread

Come with me as I time travel back to this year's Poem in Your Pocket day...

I was so excited about the day that I sent the following email out the night before:

Hi Friends!
Tomorrow, April 24th, is Poem in Your Pocket Day!  Today, I'm sharing with you the poem I'll be carrying around.  Hope you like it and that you put one in your pocket too.
:) Mary
I shared Starlings in Winter by Mary Oliver.  I had run across the poem a few days before this year’s Poem in Your Pocket Day and was once again in awe of the words on the page

…they are acrobats
the freezing wind.
now, in the theater of air,
swing over buildings…

Theater of air… I love that.  And in my excitement over the well-written verse I felt a need to share the poem and the day with a few friends.

One never knows what will happen when an idea is thrown out into the universe.  The truth is I never expected anything in return.  My intent was to share something I’d found and loved with a group of gals I’ve grown up with over the last 30 years.  Us girls- there are about 10- are united through common experiences.  Although our ages vary from 48 to 52 years, we shared at least a semester or two together on the banks of the St Mary’s River.  Many of us were English majors- only three were not, choosing to study Philosophy, Sociology, or Economics instead.  No matter the major, we all spent four years at a small liberal arts college located in surely one of the most idyllic waterfront locations in the state of Maryland. 

In the time since that shared experience we’ve spent a lot of time together.  There have been a lot of laughs, drinks, and what feels like one endless conversation about any old thing that came to mind.  We’ve danced at each other’s weddings, toasted in many a new year, and supported one another through the struggles of parenthood, divorce and loss.  The gift of friendship I have with these gals always makes me smile.

The messages in my inbox piled up that day and as the responses grew so did the smile on my face and the warmth, love and admiration in my heart.  In the end 35 emails were exchanged.   Twenty-two poems were shared and, although I don’t have the hard data to prove it, I’d say everyone who participated in my little poem project went to bed feeling like they’d received a hug or two from afar.  I sure did. 

Robin did her best to sum up everyone’s words in one compilation poem:

Chunky and noisy--I feel my boots
as though I had wings

Yours is the earth and everything in it
For it is in giving that we receive

May you open your eyes to water, water waving forever
From which the tender green shoots of new life emerge
I want to learn how to purr
Sometimes even a single feather's enough to fly

A pal's last need is a thing to heed
Let the sun beat on our forgetfulness
Let the storm wash the plates

What is all this juice and all this joy?

Remember: sticks and stones may break your bones
but names will never hurt you

Oh somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright
But there is no joy in Mudville--
It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart

A song for thee amid the farthest sky

I am circling around God, that ancient tower

I love my job! I love the pay!

And which is more: You'll be a Man my son!

On April 25th the email exchange continued.  This time there were no poems to read- only heartfelt thanks to the group for keeping the poetry coming all day long.  We hadn’t just communicated with one another- some reached out in different directions by sharing poems with co-workers, family members, and even our former English professor.  My dad shared a poem that he had written about the ending of the Orioles’ baseball season a few years ago.  Jeannie’s mom added a poem as well. And then there was Michael Glaser, one of our college English professors and former Poet Laureate for the state of Maryland.  How pleased he must have been to see his former students spending their day exchanging poetry back and forth on the Internet.

He responded:
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.          
                                            …William Stafford

I treasure that you and your "St. Mary's Girls" keep hold of that thread!

And so, thirty years later, we’d come full-circle with one last lesson from Michael.  I savored his words and let a thousand images of those St. Mary’s Girls swirl around in my head.  I was home in Alexandria but I was sure I could see the sun spilling oranges, reds and yellows onto the St. Mary’s River as it dipped below the horizon.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know you had posted this until just this morning! I have goosebumps remembering the flurry of emails passing through cyberspace that day. And the smug feeling I had all day knowing I had a poem in my pocket and a thread connecting us girls.