I turned thirty-seven yesterday. Because it's a prime-number birthday, I threw myself a party. It's been six years since my last prime-number birthday party; the theme then was Guilty Pleasures, and I invited nearly everybody I knew. This time I threw a poetry night, and Kris convinced me to keep the guest list small.
I had an awesome time.
The food was great: pickled carrots, pickled olives, pickled aspargus, pickled cucumbers, two types of little smokies, various nuts and crackers and breads, myriad cheeses, salami, and all sorts of chocolate treats. Guests brought wine, and Kris and I broke open the bar.
Throughout the night, we gathered in the parlor periodically to share poems. I was worried that this might fall flat, but it actually seemed to work quite well, despite the lack of seating. The big winner of the night was actually Mary Oliver. Three (four?) people shared her poems. Courtney read the following:
When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
and Naomi read this, which I think is brilliant:
by Mary Oliver
die for it—
or the world. People
have done so,
their small bodies be bound
to the stake,
fury of light. But
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun
for everyone just
as it rises
under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?
What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it
whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
I'm taking the day off from work tomorrow. Every year I take a day off for my birthday: it's a personal holiday. If I'm lucky, the sun will shine and I'll be able to mow the lawn, take a walk, and perhaps photograph the magnolia and the camellias. And, of course, I'll take time to have lunch at the Chinese place!
On this day at foldedspace.org
2007 — Birthday Weekend In which I celebrate my 38th birthday in a casual way.