Monday, November 21, 2011

When Death Comes: Mary Oliver, oak leaf shapes, oil paint, red leaves

Oak Leaf Shapes, oil on canvas, © 2011, Sukie Curtis (unfinished?)
Yesterday, on a very mild November day, with a gang of tufted titmice scolding us and nuthatches chattering from the overhanging branches of evergreens, we buried the ashes of my mother-in-law in a cemetery in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. This recent painting, inspired by an oak branch in a bottle, seems somehow appropriate to the occasion.

At the graveside, our prayers were accompanied by a psalm and Mary Oliver's poem "When Death Comes."

"When Death Comes"  by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common 
as a field daily, and as singular;

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my lie something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

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