One of the books I am very slowly reading and savoring is poet Mary Oliver's Thirst, published this month. I don't like a lot of poetry, but there isn't much here (maybe none) that I do not like thus far! Oliver is a Pulitzer prize winning poet who often writes poetry based on her reflections on nature, which she does here as well, but who increasingly has begun to write of Christian faith. That's not necessarily to make Oliver an evangelical Christian (I note the book is published by Beacon Press, which is under the auspices of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, a non-Christian religious group), but one must evaluate any art on its own basis and not on the basis of the artist's philosophical or religious persuasion, at least in the first instance.
So, I'll be offering a few of Oliver's poems from time to time in the next few weeks, and a full review of her book a little later on. I like this particular poem for the love of creation it reflects, its accessibility, and it's final lines inviting the Creator to "come in, come in:"
Making the House Ready for the Lord
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice --- it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances --- but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And I still believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.
I suppose there is more than one way to understand the poem, but for me the whole house and animal theme is a metaphor for a life that is not shining, that is broken, and yet one that is open to people and animals and, ultimately, to the Lord -- one that says everyday, "come in, come in."