Journey Poems

A few days ago, I checked my Facebook messages and found this Mary Oliver poem waiting for me.

The Journey

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.

(from Dream Work)

And then tonight, I came down from snuggling at bedtime and stumbled on another “Journey” poem, this one by the soulful David Whyte. It is worth taking the few minutes to listen to him tell the story of what inspired the poem, and to hear him read it in that incantatory and mesmerizing style of his.

The Journey

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

small, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving
you are arriving.

(from The House of Belonging)

I have more to say about both of these poems and what they mean to me right now, but also want to just let them ring out into this night, resonating long after the reading out loud is over, like bells, like geese, their call settling over me as I try to sleep.

6 thoughts on “Journey Poems

  1. Shannon says:

    Beautiful, beautiful. I just bought my first book of Mary Oliver poems this last Friday. I was looking for another poet and came to her instead. This is how these things work, I see. Such serendipity.

    I loved Mr. Whyte’s reading as well. Thank you so much for sharing these things with us.


  2. Beth Patterson says:

    Dear Jena–
    These 2 poems have been lighthouses for me for years. Thank you for sharing them in this beautiful way–and for intimating that there’s light at the end of your Dark Night.

    Much love to you-



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