Friday, November 21, 2014

in the name of the marigold sun


by Michael McCarthy

I bless you in the name of the morning
the first thing of it, whispering
through the folds of my ear-imprinted pillow.
In the name of the mirror, toothbrush
and the slow shower that clarifies
vowels and consonants of my waking.

I bless you in the name of the breakfast
the wake up of it, orange juice and 
Quaker Oats, sometimes Cornflakes
milk, white and breathless
becoming supple flesh of sally-rod
bone of unbreakable dolomite.

I bless you in the name of toast, buttered
spread flat, not to mention marmalade 
its orange ribs rolled into this glass jar.
And in the name of an egg, boiled
in a white fountain-head of bubbles
the shell cracked open, and salted.

I bless you in the name of the chair, upright
my feet soft-shod on the floor-shine.
In the name of Gerry, who lives downstairs
and makes no more noise than a mouse
and in the name of the mouse
for whose absence I am grateful.

I bless you in the name of the marigold sun
remembering me to the meadows, where cows
who neither know nor number, graze
in a mist that is minding its own business
as it rises over the river
disappearing until nightfall. 

I bless you in the name of the air
rising over my childhood
when I stood to my waist in the water
splashed in a sacrament of swimming.
Where I ran round the field with my sister
in her summer of first communion.

I bless you in the name of that summer
for girls who came down from the city
and our games played in white clover. 
Once and for all and over and over
for moments of eternity
here and now, and forever. Amen.

{used with the author's permission}

The above poem is by a good friend of mine, and one to which I often return. It's even better when Michael reads it aloud. I remember hearing him read it when he lived here in Edmonton, for a while. And then he later recorded it, so I can hear his voice anytime I like. It's from his book Birds' Nests and Other Poems, which won the Patrick Kavanagh Award. Kind of a big deal. You can find copies on places like Abe Books etc, and perhaps in your local library. You can find some of his more recent work via The Poetry Business.

What is it about the poem above though, that almost always makes my hair stand on end, in the way that happens when you read a poem you love. It's the details, unadorned, clear, but homely, and full of memory and reverence. The description of Quaker Oats and cereal and eggs gets me every time. And then, Gerry. There's something about the Gerry stanza that makes me happy and chokes me up. The pure innocence of the last two stanzas. The potential for a beautiful childhood to live on and on inside us. The power of that, and the lovely gentleness.

When I asked him if I could use his poem this morning he reminded me that he'd written it in Edmonton, when he was here on sabbatical, and this makes it even more special for me.

A life in poetry, in writing can be a very strange thing. Though it might be difficult to believe at the beginning of a poetry career, you will make enemies, simply because of what or how you write. The good news is, you'll also make friends. Really amazing people who struggle with ideas, overcome pain, confront grief, whose hearts are big and full, and who are courageous and open. They live in uncertainty, with little acclaim for their artistic work. Their lives are often pared down, at times perilous. These people are invariably extremely hardworking. They give things up so they can instead carve time out to be creative. They're the people you ask to read something you've written because you're full of angst over it and they drop everything to do so. Their critique is honest and understanding and they know how to word things, but they don't let you off the hook.

Among the many gifts of the writing life is this kind of friendship. In fact, I've talked about this with several writing friends, and we always come back to this as the primary gift, besides the writing itself.


  1. What a beautiful and enchanting poem, thank you so much for sharing your friend with us this morning. I'm also glad to see a return of the cereal bowl in your photos today, too (love these!). And, yes, it is hard to believe people would make enemies over how or what you write about! Glad there are friends to help atone for that :)

  2. There is so much beauty to be found in the simplest of things. Your friend Michael helps us see that in this powerful poem. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Glad the poem spoke to you. Thx Judith and Leigh :)

  4. Such a wonderful poem. Thank you.

  5. beautiful poem...beautiful reflection...thank you for sharing both
    blessings, Rose


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