Karen Rivers

some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing(s).

Karen Rivers

There's a beach by a house where we lived when The Bun was smaller.  It's a pebble beach, small.  Nothing special you might think.   But you would be wrong.

This beach gives gifts. 

Every time we go there, it offers up one perfect white shell.   A whelk, I think.   One shell.  Every time.  I keep them in a vase on the windowsill.  

Today I took the kids there.  And today we found hundreds of shells.  Everywhere we stepped, there were more and more.  For reasons I couldn't explain, I felt like crying.  

Then The Bun reached down and said, "Can I keep this?" 

It was a perfect, dried blood star.   I'd never even seen one before.   A perfect gift among hundreds of perfect gifts.

We came home and unloaded our pockets into shiny silver mixing bowls of soap and water, the shells whitening more over night.  In the morning, we'll fill more and more and more glass vases and keep them on the windowsill -- the windowsill of whatever house we happen to inhabit -- with the others, collected more slowly, one at a time.  Our history.

I have not been here because I've been readying the house.   The house is for sale.   The house I thought I'd do anything to hold on to.   It turns out, it is just a house.  

A huge wooden sign with my cousin's name on it is on the front lawn, swinging in the strong winds that blow up from the beach.   I am sad and not sad.  

I have made arrangements to buy another house, nestled at the foot of the mountain I love.  (The one where I logged so many miles after my marriage collapsed like a stringless puppet, limp in a heap on the stage, the audience silent.)

Our own place.  Mine and the kids.  Tiny and perfect.  Shadowed by hundred year old trees, standing behind it like sentries, guarding us from all that could go wrong.

Today when we walked, I passed two houses where I lived for several years each.   Each house was a different chapter.  I have one distinct memory from each home.

Neither memories are good ones.  

I wonder what this says about me.

I've been reading a lot of poetry.  Poetry fits me right now -- small snippets of beautiful language carved into sculptures that I can carry in my pockets and worry my fingers around while I repaint trim and dig in the yard.  Poetry makes me pause and breathe more deeply and to remember something basic about being human.  That sounds corny and ridiculous, but it's not.  It's just true.  

When you read Mary Oliver, it's like going outside.  It's like being barefoot on a dirt path, dawn sprinkling the blades of grass that line the way with dew.  It's like the sky is wrapped all around you, holding you.  

It's like that.  

Do you know what I mean?


- Mary Oliver


Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman's boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don't you?


I wanted the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,

whoever I was, I was

for a little while.


It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don't know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.


Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don't we?



the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.


You don't want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don't want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it's the same old story - - -
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.


And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.


And probably,
if they don't waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.