A Startling Keepsake of a Poem–And A Prayer
It was my turn to lead the devotion at the monthly deacon’s meeting at my church, so I turned to the reliably inspiring poetry of Mary Oliver. I found this one:
I knelt down
at the edge of the water,
and if the white birds standing
in the tops of the trees whistled any warning,
I didn’t understand.
I drank up to the very moment it came
crashing toward me,
its tail flailing
like a bundle of swords,
slashing the grass,
and the inside of its cradle-shaped mouth
and rimmed with teeth—
and that’s how I almost died
in beautiful Florida.
But I didn’t.
I leaped aside, and fell,
and it streamed past me, crushing everything in its path
as it swept down to the water
and threw itself in,
and, in the end,
this isn’t a poem about foolishness
but about how I rose from the ground
and saw the world as if for the second time,
the way it really is.
The water, that circle of shattered glass,
healed itself with a slow whisper
and lay back
with the back-lit light of polished steel,
and the birds, in the endless waterfalls of the trees,
shook open the snowy pleats of their wings, and drifted away,
while, for a keepsake, and to steady myself,
I reached out,
I picked the wild flowers from the grass around me—
and blood-red trumpets
on long green stems—
for hours in my trembling hands they glittered
This poem inspired me to pray this prayer:
Dear loving, watchful God, may you be the alligator who wakes us up. May your spirit crash through the flora of our complacency and remind us to be vibrantly alive. May we be startled into falling back into your embrace…and…then…pushed back into our lives, with a new awakening, a new vision.