Be Light (After Reading Mary Oliver)
by Mark Chmiel
Ten times a day something happens to me like this—some strengthening throb of amazement—some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest, and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.
So there’s that last chapter
In part two of The Book of Mev:
The beloved one is slowing losing her life force
And, as the Easterners say, she was getting ready to shed her body.
She had no words, just an extension of head from neck to pucker and kiss.
So long ago.
Mary Oliver reminds me
It’s so simple:
We are to be light.
We are to be sri,
Inner beauty radiating out
Spitting forth light shafts
Every degree which way.
“Make of yourself a light.”
That Friday night at Ratterman’s Funeral Home
You did just this—
Another death scene—
My father encasketed.
Such flickering light there the last years
All that was said or barked,
Wasn’t said, wasn’t whispered,
At least by me, or not nearly enough.
I was slashed,
I knew I would go on,
I’ve done this before,
But it’s always different, isn’t it?
And then you walked in,
I’ve said this to you several times before
But then didn’t the disciples on the way to Emmaus
Tell that story over and over:
I was startled about how warm I felt
From being/basking in your presence.
You had few words.
And rightly so.
It was the Buddha within you,
That Buddha you’ve become—
Yes, you are, don’t deny it, maybe not 24/7
But long stretches of minutes you are,
Just sitting or standing there,
Eyes wide open,
Eyes like Mary Oliver’s,
No wonder you sent me her book,
You two both have eyes that are in good working order,
Eyes that are enablers of appreciation,
Especially the most ordinary savoring.
So, Guruji, you taught me light:
Light the opposite of growling
The opposite of judging meanly
The opposite of doing it once and wondering why nothing changes
The opposite of 7% there, moving in and out of orbit
The Gita says: “Like a million suns”
Oliver writes: “Like a million flowers on fire”
What else, dear Lo,
Is there to do
But to throw off these self-manufactured
Socially approved encrustations
That block and dim and drain our light?
“Look within, Shimmelstoy, how many times
Do I have to kick you in the mud:
You are Light already.
People have told you this,
A student every five years or so,
They are not used to someone paying them such close attention.
But you fade out, from fear, and shine and polish your armor.
Send that armor to the junkyard,
And be free.”
Anne Waldman, Buddha student,
American poet, trainee in disaster, says:
“May all beings enjoy profound, brilliant glory.”
Thanks to you,
Thanks to Mary Oliver,
Thanks to Buddha,
“May all beings be profound, brilliant glory.”