Poetry Friday: “Breakage” by Mary Oliver


Mourning the loss of
Krystle, Lingzi, Martin, Sean


The week opened here with two bombs exploding and closed with the arduous pursuit of those responsible. The weight of our grief is incalculable.

At the boundaries of life and death, and overwhelmed by brokenness, it is tempting to say that words fail. But that is not what poets (and those who love them) do.

In Breakage, from the August 2003 issue of Poetry magazine, Cape Cod poet Mary Oliver turns her fierce attention once again to the seashore, to the drama at its very edge, to the fragmentary evidence of unceasing motion:

and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.

Can we see within ourselves an unending cycle of tearing down and building up? Little becomes big becomes little. Construction, de-construction, renewal.

It’s like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself …
Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

Healing will take forever, and we have all the time in the world.

(“Cape Cod Nauset Beach” from jcsullivan24 / cc by-nc)


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