Poetry for the Journey

“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook


I agree with Mary Oliver: Poetry is as necessary as food. Poetry is also a life preserver, a companion, a time machine, and a force that moves me through darkness. Hearing a poem transports me back to places and times: some pleasant, some difficult, and some downright hellish. I turn to poetry whenever I need an explanation of things that are not explainable. Yes, poetry has the power to do even that. Poetry also shows me that someone else has gone through similar territory and made it through to the other side. The Journey is a poem that I came across while going through a confusing period in my life. I memorized it by heart and repeated it often; it became my mantra. I can’t explain exactly how, but having this poem weave through my thoughts, helped to alleviate painful emotions. It was a daily reminder that one day I would also finally know what I had to do. It gave me hope and much needed patience. Whenever I read it now, I am immediately and viscerally reminded of what was happening during that challenging time. And yet, the words also remind me of something greater: I survived. Poetry is necessary, most necessary. What is poetry to you?

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~~Mary Oliver


Author’s Photo: Woods, Winter 2016

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5 thoughts on “Poetry for the Journey

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