Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter, or the day after, if Jesus came back as a regular man

Oliver exploring the ruins of the burnt mission church at San Juan Capistrano

I had nothing to write of Easter, of eggs, forgotten, still brown and white on their tempered shelf, of the slip out of church, the sidle down the two-year aisle, the children running to fill plastic eggs with candy and the pull away of ritual. I had nothing to write of Easter.

Last night I went to Royce Hall and heard the poets Billy Collins and Kay Ryan in conversation. They were witty and kind and funny and in love with words. 

Kay Ryan read this poem, and now I have something to write of Easter:

The Palm at the End of the Mind

After fulfilling everything
one two three he came back again
free, no more prophecy requiring
that he enter the city just this way,
no more set-up treacheries.
It was the day after Easter. He adored
the eggshell litter and the cellophane
caught in the grass. Each door he passed
swung with its own business, all the 
witnesses along his route of pain
again distracted by fear of loss
or hope of gain. It was wonderful
to be a man, bewildered by 
so many flowers, the rush
and ebb of hours, his own
ambiguous gestures--his 
whole heart exposed, then
taking cover.

--Kay Ryan


  1. Elizabeth,
    To begin~ The image of Oliver looking at the ruins of the mission is completely priceless in connection with this post. That you were in the same room with Billy Collins and Kate Ryan and overheard their witty conversation is enough to make anyone's Easter in my book (I used to be an English teacher at Community College) and finally, this poem is completely heart-opening. It lifts us beyond ourselves, beyond the static "story" that we tell over and over again each year for Easter. It lets us know that none of us, not even Christ, has to live out some fated, painful and bewildered destiny saecula saeculorum. We can move on. It is lovely that she says, "His whole heart exposed, then taking cover" as if he had only that one day to be himself with his "ambiguous gestures"and not the One we expect him to be.
    Love at Easter to you and your family,

  2. oh elizabeth...

    here is an easter from mary oliver that you can speak of too...


    You can
    die for it–
    an idea,
    or the world. People

    have done so,
    their small bodies be bound

    to the stake,
    an unforgettable
    fury of light. But

    this morning,
    climbing the familiar hills
    in the familiar
    fabric of dawn, I thought

    of China,
    and India
    and Europe, and I thought
    how the sun

    for everyone just
    so joyfully
    as it rises

    under the lashes
    of my own eyes, and I thought
    I am so many!
    What is my name?

    What is the name
    of the deep breath I would take
    over and over
    for all of us? Call it

    whatever you want, it is
    happiness, it is another one
    of the ways to enter

    may your heart be infused with holy fire even as you pass the undyed eggs, the sleeping rituals, the hope for passion.

  3. Collins and Ryan! Together at Royce Hall! How do you find out about these miraculous events? Or more specifically, how do I not? Just posted a different Ryan poem (The Pass) on my blog yesterday, with an interview too. Fascinating woman.

  4. how wonderful. what a great way to spend time, listening to poems.

  5. Well, Elizabeth, it sounds as if you did have a very fine Easter celebration and I join you in celebrating words and especially and specifically that poem.
    I love you.

  6. Elizabeth and Rebecca, Thank you for sharing such beautiful poetry on this Easter day. It was more satisfying than a basket full of chocolate eggs.

  7. You may not have much to say of Easter, but I hope it was a happy day for you and the fam.

  8. I too couldn't think of a better way of honouring Easter than with poetry. Happy Easter, Elizabeth.

  9. Just lovely. I like Billy Collins too. I just heard an interview with him this morning on our local public radio station!

  10. Well, I hope you collared him afterward and boldly asked him why he has been such a curmudgeon about his poem "Litany." (Just kidding!)
    I'm so thankful that you had that time to immerse yourself in the beauty of language, which means so much to you, and refreshes your heart.
    Your family and their Easter joy are beautiful to behold here. God bless you and them!



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