Part three of Mary Oliver’s poem reminding us to make use of the time that we have. She wrote this after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
“The Fourth Zodiac”
I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.
So why not get started immediately.
I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.
And to write music or poems about.
Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.
A few of my favorite lines from a poem by Andrea Gibson about how lovely it is to simply exist.
"When You Believe Your Body Is Your Enemy"
Imagine, when a human dies
the soul misses the body,
actually grieves the loss
of its lost hands, and all
they could hold. Misses
the wanting lips, the searching
tongue, the throat closing
shy reading out loud
on the first day of school...
... Misses how the body could sleep
through a dream. What else can
sleep through a dream?
What else can laugh?
What else can wrinkle
the smile’s autograph?
Imagine the soul misses each falling
eyelash waiting to be wished.
... When a human dies the soul moves through the universe
trying to describe how a body trembles
when it’s lost, softens when it’s safe, how
a wound would heal given nothing but time.
Do you understand?
Nothing in space can imagine it.
No comet, no nebula, no ray of light
can fathom the landscape of awe, the heat of shame.
The fingertips pulling the first gray hair
and throwing it away. "I can’t imagine it,"
the stars say. "Tell us again about goosebumps.
Tell us again about pain."
A poem by Edmund Vance Cooke that my Nan shared with me during one of my battles with Crohn's as a teenager:
How Did You Die?
Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?
You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that!
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there-that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts;
It's how did you fight-and why?
And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?