The Journey

by Anne Bennett on March 25, 2011

The other day while sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, I read an article in Oprah Magazine written by Maria Shriver about the poet, Mary Oliver. Oliver was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1984 and is, according to the New York Times, one of America’s best-selling poets.

This was news to me because, poetry fancier that I am, I had not heard of her before reading Shriver’s interview; I was thus knocked down a few pegs in the know-it-all department.

Shriver wrote that Oliver has become one of her heroes and that she keeps her poem, “The Journey,” on her desk and reads it often. I, too, will return to it again and again.

As you read it yourself, imagine how you might express your own need or desire to change your life. Could you do a better job than this? If it inspires you in any way, and I certainly hope that it does, you will have been aptly introduced to the miracle of poetry.

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Starlit Night," 1917

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda March 26, 2011 at 6:53 am

Wonderful poem. We each have to make our own choices.

Ann Appleyard March 26, 2011 at 7:45 am

Love it! Very inspirational and pertinent!

Lin March 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm

The last 2 lines say it all.

Marie Snook March 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm

THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH FOR SHARING THIS ANN!!!! It truly has touched me! I think I will keep it on my desk top too!

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