But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves . . .
from Mary Oliver's poem, "Wild Geese"
I don't usually bother with poems I dislike, but I don't like this one. And people send it to me from time to time, as if to comfort me.
I know it's a little nuts, but every time I read it or hear it, as in a yoga class or on NPR, I get stuck on the line about letting the animal of your body love what it loves. That's all you need to do? Really?
And --you do not need to be good?
Then I start thinking--maybe it would work in an etiquette book for vampires.
WHEN I see spruces bend to left and right
Across the line of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some mom's been swinging on them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
I keep thinking about my mother these days . . .
One of the funnier memories . . .
My mother loved to hike. She also loved to blaze trails. And she always wanted a trail to go by spots that offered the best views.
Once, the two of us were blazing a trail in the mountains of Maine, and we came to a rocky outcroppings with a nice view of the lakes and ocean. We couldn't figure out how a way to get from the cliff to where we wanted the trail to go. There was a steep drop-off, and no easy way down from it in the direction we wanted. So my mother decided to lie on her belly, reach over the edge of the cliff, grab onto the top of a young tree--a spruce, I think (some kind of young evergreen), and the tree slowly bent over, depositing her on the ground before popping back up for me.
It was a fun ride. And it became Mom's new "neat thing" that she had to show everyone.
Needless to say, not everyone was as happy with the tree-ride.
When I was growing up, we used to get so many boxes of chocolates. With six kids in the family, we were always pinching them to see what was in the center. When my parents got upset with the boxes of mutilated chocolates, we started operating on them with sewing needles, delicately drilling into the bottoms to see the core. The chocolates were pretty disgusting, even after the most careful needle drilling. It was always a tight moment when the chocolates were offered up to guests . . .
My mother is in her last days now. It's been a few weeks in coming, and as a silly coping mechanism, I decided to do a parody a day for each day she was still here. I had quite a few parodies already drawn and written.
My mother, a school teacher, read me so many poems as a child. I didn't like them, and so, as a bratty way to deal with them, I made up parodies. Once you start doing that, it becomes a habit.
So many dumb, dumb parodies run through my mind.
My mother also corrected my accent and grammar constantly. I remember her once saying, It's not bah-baby. You aren't a sheep. It's rock-a-bye-baby.
With a southern accent, bye, becomes bah.
Now, when I am in Virginia, I hear people saying bah, or rather, ba-ah, to each other as they wave goodbye.
I think I will be hearing her voice in my head even louder, at least for a while now.
Every so often there's another article about how women prefer chocolate to sex. There are also articles that say women who eat chocolate are better in bed. A quick search this morning produced the following quote- A third of women dream about chocolate during the day, compared with only 18 per cent who think about sex, says a new British survey.
There was a study years ago that said British men were dumber after sex. (I wonder if this after-effect applied only to British men?) And another that said 40% of men lie about their sex lives on surveys. Still others claimed that prayer before sex improved performance. About 30% said God never answered their prayers. Women, some studies suggest, rely on chocolate more than men or God.
What is the deal with food photography lately? I was in this coffee shop the other day, and this couple was busy photographing every item of food on their plates. And it was not exactly exciting food. Just black coffee, sandwiches, pie . . . What do they do with the pictures? Put them on the wall?
Hey, look, this is what I ate last night! And this was lunch! But wait, don't go. You haven't seen breakfast yet.
Another album of poetry my parents bought when I was in grade school had a scratchy recording of Dylan Thomas reading "Do not go gentle into that good night." Unlike the Dickinson album, this one was a very powerful reading, almost sermon-like. It reminded me of the Baptist preacher we sometimes heard on the radio and giggled about . . . I would make up parodies, or almost parodies of the opening . . . Any command could become a parody.
Do not pick your nose or wipe on your sleeve
blow, blow into a handkerchief
Do not dip the pitchfork gently into the dung
and hurl it upon the heap
Nin Andrews is the author of 5 full collections of poetry and 6 chapbooks. She is also the editor of a book of translations of the Belgian poet, Henri Michaux. Her literary comics are posted on Best American Poetry's Blog on Monday mornings.