A Fire for the Cold




Beloved poet, Mary Oliver wrote:

“Poetry is a life-cherishing force. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down for the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes indeed.”

I discovered today's poem in a newly treasured book, Ten Poems to Open Your Heart by Roger Housden, which I found in the bookstore at The Light Center in Black Mountain, NC on my recent trip there with my meditation circle.


Housden's commentary on "West Wind #2", can be found beneath the poem. I hope you find some words you need today.


"West Wind #2"

by Mary Oliver


You are young. So you know everything. You leap

into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me.

Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without

any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.

Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and

your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to

me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent

penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a

dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile

away and still out of sight, the churn of the water

as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the

sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable

pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth

and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls

plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life

toward it.


Housden's thoughts:

We bumble along, focusing on minutiae, worrying and fretting away our days, too often worrying about things which will either never happen, or things over which we have no control. Which distracts us from “that unmistakable pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming.”
Or, I think we sense the “embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming” and mistake our excitement for fear and so turn back to the litany of mundane cares that pull us away from our true being.

- Photo by Lucian Alexe on Unsplash