June 5 – City Sculpture and Mary Oliver

Monday, June 5 — “you had better get / your eyes checked / or, better, still, / your diminished spirit”

How many encounters could I remember if I worked at it, when someone took the trouble to tell me, bluntly and lovingly, to pay attention to the way I was not paying attention? — An old Lakota grandmother when I was just 24, her eyes alight with humor, knowing that I was just young. An older Jesuit telling me that I’d pushed too hard, this new priest daunting the congregation unnecessarily. An atheist scholar friend observing that when I spoke the first time at MIT, “the authority from which you spoke did not include the people in the room.”

This list is long and deeply refreshing, the people who took the trouble to be allies to me. Their voices run as deep as those of people who worked to be precise when telling me I was beautiful. Mary Oliver writes of clouds to remind us of our allies, when scolding or celebrating, our pilgrim selves.

These utterly a-typical weeks of fear and anger, of anger and fear, of face masks and handwashing rituals, a close friend observed a week or two ago, create a context for work and ordinary life that she describes as “haphazard.”

Nevertheless, every now and then Mary Oliver just smacks me . . . . to get my attention and helps me pay attention to the depths in my life.  Yours too, perhaps.

Have a blest weekend.


john sj


The Monument to Joe Louis, aka “The Fist”


Today’s Post – Mary Oliver: “The Fist”

There are days
when the sun goes down
like a fist,
though of course

if you see anything
in the heavens
in this way
you had better get

your eyes checked
or, better, still,
your diminished spirit.
The heavens

have no fist,
or wouldn’t they have been
shaking it
for a thousand years now,

and even
longer than that,
at the dull, brutish
ways of mankind—

heaven’s own
Instead: such patience!
Such willingness

to let us continue!
To hear,
little by little,
the voices—

only, so far, in
pockets of the world—
the possibilities

of peace?
Keep looking.
Behold, how the fist opens
with invitation.

Mary Oliver

“The Fist” by Mary Oliver. Text as published in Thirst: Poems (Beacon Press, 2007).

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