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Blackbird singing in the dead of night, so addressed the poet/musician Paul McCartney to this harbinger of spring, with its rich flute-like trills. Then, he unleashed his response to police forcibly removing a black woman from the white section of a New York restaurant in 1968. Moving back from his hotel window across the street, he continued writing.

A close look at the words chosen for this song-poem evidenced Paul’s artistry: This was not your usual blackbird; in the UK, the words bird and girl were used interchangeably, so the victim in the fracas morphed into blackbird whose spirit sang, no matter the violence fraught with death. Years of such bludgeoning no longer mattered and spawned more protest marches.

Only visionaries intuit patterns for critical change, and McCartney’s revolutionary paradoxes sought to fulfill this purpose:

Take these broken wings and learn to fly.

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.

The mandate to receive these gifts, despite their uselessness, and learn different ways of empowerment and vision was clear. Precisely in their woundedness, they would find healing, through their imaginations. It would be their experience.

Indeed,

All your life/you were only waiting for this moment to come.

That moment has come and gone. Not much has changed, or so it seems. Ensuing betrayals and tribulations have scarred hearts, that is true, but more learning to fly and see continue among us.

And the mandate still holds:  

Blackbird fly/ Into the light of the dark black of night.

Within that paradox, LIFE abounds … and always has.

Seems to me that words have emotional lives: some retain their vibrancy; others, relegated to bone piles. That’s where revision is critical, because serious readers look for depth that resonates or challenges the human condition—at least that was what I thought until I came across the word, praise, depleted in my perception.

Yet, it appeared on the dedicatory page of Mary Oliver’s book of poems, Why I Wake Early (2004): “Lord! Who hath praise enough?” a line taken from “Providence,”composed by the priest-poet George Herbert in seventeenth-century England. Through relishing Oliver’s poems drawn from her Provincetown morning walks, I awoke to the wordlessness of praise: more an attitude toward the unfolding of creation in pristine moments than windy definition.

In Oliver’s artistic process, I sense praise empowered her co-creation with God who disciplined her senses, helped her search for apt words, then clothed revelations with simple, often one-syllable words; their explosive energy still jars her listeners, readers, and decades of fledgling writers who have sat in her classes and workshops.

Her poem, “Snow Geese”, describes such an experience: the flock, “being the color of snow, catching the sun,” their rapid flight leaving her bereft with painful/delightful longing. She concludes: “What matters/is that, when I saw them, /I saw them/as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.”

Another poem, “Look and See” concludes with heart-prayer: “Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us, if we only look and see.”—After having been regaled by a gull’s pink foot casually scratching its stomach of white feathers as it sailed overhead.

Such gifts are always offered and elicit praise within the openhearted—but as George Herbert says, there’s never enough…

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