Sunday, January 15, 2023

January 15: "Franz Marc's Blue Horses," Helen's Birthday, Piece of God

Mary Oliver and my friend Helen . . . 

Franz Marc's Blue Horses

by:  Mary Oliver

I step into the painting of the four blue horses.
I am not even surprised that I can do this.

One of the horses walks toward me.
His blue nose noses me lightly.  I put my arm
over his blue mane, not holding on, just 
He allows me my pleasure.
Franz Marc died a young man, shrapnel in his brain.
I would rather die than try to explain to the blue horses
     what war is.
They would either faint in horror, or simply
     find it impossible to believe.
I do not know how to thank you, Franz Marc.
Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
     is the piece of God that is inside each of us.
Now all four horses have come closer,
     are bending their faces toward me
          as if they have secrets to tell.
I don't expect them to speak, and they don't.
If being so beautiful isn't enough, what
     could they possibly say?

Today is my friend Helen's birthday.  Helen loved Mary Oliver, would hand copy whole poems by Oliver in her journals and the cards she sent to close friends.  I will always associate Helen with the things that fill Oliver's poems--bears and herons and ponds and snow geese and ocean waves and honey.  Oliver embraces the wild world, and so did Helen.

The very first line of today's poem could have been written by Helen.  Helen did things like that all the time--step into paintings, dance on words, fly with starlings, hike 200 miles to the shores of a blue sea.  You think I'm waxing poetic.  I'm not.  Helen was this combination of Mary Poppins, Mary Oliver, Glinda the Good Witch, and Bruce Springsteen groupie, with some Leonard Cohen darkness thrown in for good measure. 

My beautiful friend loved beautiful things--poems and paintings and tapestries and desserts.  I can actually see Helen with Franz Marc's blue horses.  She sizzles with joy as she pets their Cubist necks and tangles her fingers in the waves of their manes.  Helen grew up on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.  She was part saltwater.  Climbing on the back of one of those blue horses is like going home for her.  Together, they gallop and crest and leap in the bright spray of sun and surf. 

That is how I think of Helen on this day of her birth.  She was always filled with the desire to make things beautiful, and she didn't just enjoy beauty.  Helen indulged in it.  Gulped it.  Gorged it.  Mary Oliver is right.  That desire for beauty is the piece of God that is inside all of us.

Saint Marty celebrates his friend Helen tonight.  A piece of God who made this world more beautiful every day of her life.

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