‘To Mary Oliver: Whose Instructions for Living a Life Are to Pay Attention, Be Astonished, and Tell About It,’ by Lucy Walker
To Mary Oliver: Whose Instructions for Living a Life Are to Pay Attention, Be Astonished, and Tell About It.
By Lucy Walker
I’m doing my best, Mary. Or, maybe not.
I’ll be honest, a sunrise doesn’t astonish me anymore,
the salt crust on the train platform, the blue-invisible light
from my computer screen how I bing and click-tap
through the afternoon.
I suppose, a good river could astonish me still.
The swell and rush and the crush of pine needles underfoot
but that astonishment might not last
and how long do I have to write it down?
I admit, I’d rather not pay attention
and would like my breath to slow as if trapped in ice,
as if asleep, waiting to rise to a light that only exists in the past.
I think, Mary, you would like me to focus
on the shoreline or the hay bales piled in a pyramid
behind my parent’s house but the closer attention I pay
the more the moment projects onto a giant screen.
Is astonishment the same as joy? Because I’m astonished
at how little that feeling wells up in me anymore.
Actually, I’m not. I’m getting better at faking it, Mary.
Or, maybe worse.
Sometimes, I’m astonished at how incapable I am,
at the fear I thought would be gone by now, and how
I never want to be like anyone I’ve ever met.
I suppose, I’m astonished at that.
But, I’m definitely trying not to pay attention to it.
I’m astonished at how easy it is to lie
and how little I care for the truth
and here’s me telling about it, Mary.
Lucy Walker is a Vermont poet currently living in New York City. She is a second year student in Sarah Lawrence College’s MFA writing program. She has been previously published in Blue Earth Review, Off the Coast, and Vantage Point.
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