Sunday, July 26, 2009

Listening to the Grocery List

author’s note:

“These are not just words talking.”
                   --  Mary Oliver


I’m speaking of the spheres
while you’re talking of
today’s grocery list.

But I’ve come to realize
the secret in your list;
the secret knowledge: listen
to your list:
it is not a coded catalog
of essentials for the spirit?

Those ringed onions,
those round apples,
milk, eggs, sage, fish--
yes--especially the fish
that we pull
from the depths.

All of these gifts
will pass through the arch
of the kitchen door
so as to be revealed
and transformed
by our earnest utensils:
          the sharp knife will discern;
          the blender will blend;
          the oven will bake
          our concoction solid.

Then table knives, forks, and spoons
will break it all apart again
so we may take in
and digest
what we created from a list
that cost us so dearly,
that paid us so well.

But even if we ignored
their symbolic meaning
these everyday items
would still be sacred:
containing as they do a light

--a light that requires
such containers
because that light
can never be seen by us
straight on: too strong:
that light shines
from the province of the gods

          that watch over us
          with dispassionate passion.
          And nudge us
          a little here and there
          when we’re about to step
          on the wrong square
          --a nudge that feels
          like a lightening bolt
          all the way to the core.

other lists also contain
these messages--

I suppose all our words, heard
in a certain light,
create a lofty shadow:
a deep shadow that whispers
a secret so secret

that such subterfuge
as a grocery list is used
to tell ourselves
what the heart knows
and obeys--

how we carry
in our myriad activities
the single purpose--

how what we carry
in our hearts will force us
up the most fearsome
--and tiresome--
mountain.  The mountain
that you and I chose
too long ago
to change our minds

How could we refuse?

© 2009, Michael R. Patton
earnest audio
new steps

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