A thousand gifts were given to us in the womb.

From the mystically wise Robert Bly (1926-) and his newest book, Talking into the Ear of a Donkey.

picture of Robert Bly from Poetry Foundation

“Courting Forgetfulness”

It’s hard to know what sort of rough music
Could send our forgetfulness back into the ground,
From which the gravediggers pulled it years ago.

The first moment of the day we court forgetfulness.
Even when we are fully awake, a century can
Go by in the space of a single heartbeat.

The life we lose through forgetfulness resembles
The earth that sticks to the sides of plowshares
And the eggs the hen has abandoned in the woods.

A thousand gifts were given to us in the womb.
We lost hundreds during the forgetfulness of birth,
And we lost the old heaven on the first day of school.

Forgetfulness resembles the snow that weighs down
The fir boughs; behind our house you’ll find
A forest going on for hundreds of miles.

Robert, it’s to your credit that you remember
So many lines of Rilke, but the purpose of forgetfulness
Is to remember the last time we left this world.

We have lived our own death a thousand times

From Robert Bly’s newest book, Talking into the Ear of a Donkey:

cover of Robert Bly's book, Talking into the Ear of a Donkey

“Ravens Hiding in a Shoe”

There is something men and women living in houses
Don’t understand. The old alchemists standing
Near their stoves hinted at it a thousand times.

Ravens at night hide in an old woman’s shoe.
A four-year-old speaks some ancient language.
We have lived our own death a thousand times.

Each sentence we speak to friends means the opposite
As well. Each time we say, “I trust in God,” it means
God has already abandoned us a thousand times.

Mothers again and again have knelt in church
In wartime asking God to protect their sons,
And their prayers were refused a thousand times.

The baby loon follows the mother’s sleek
Body for months. By the end of summer, she
Has dipped her head into Rainy Lake a thousand times.

Robert, you’ve wasted so much of your life
Sitting indoors to write poems. Would you
Do that again? I would, a thousand times.

I love a firmness in you that disdains the trivial

I love this Robert Bly poem so much that I’m going to post it again this year. He’s a big fan of repetition, of letting the words sink in once, twice, three more times, so I think he would approve.

“Indigo Bunting”

I go to the door often.
Night and summer. Crickets
lift their cries.
I know you are out.
You are driving
late through the summer night.

I do not know what will happen.
I have no claim on you.
I am one star
you have as guide; others
love you, the night
so dark over the Azores.

You have been working outdoors,
gone all week. I feel you
in this lamp lit
so late. As I reach for it
I feel myself
driving through the night.

I love a firmness in you
that disdains the trivial
and regains the difficult.
You become part then
of the firmness of night,
the granite holding up walls.

There were women in Egypt who
supported with their firmness the stars
as they revolved,
hardly aware
of the passage from night
to day and back to night.

I love you where you go
through the night, not swerving,
clear as the indigo
bunting in her flight,
passing over two
thousand miles of ocean