by Mary Oliver

Page 6

About a year and a half ago, I was on a United States Information Agency journey to the Far East. We were gone about five weeks and "saw" four countries, so this was a pretty rapid journey. All the same, it was amazing and wonderful and I'm just beginning now, in a way, to write about it. We went first to New Zealand, which is an extraordinarily beautiful country. It has, I think, seventy million sheep, five million people. From New Zealand, we flew to Jakarta, which is the capital city of Indonesia. That city has nine million people, just in the city, so it was very shocking to see the difference. This is a poem called "Acid."

In Jakarta,
among the vendors
of flowers and soft drinks,
I saw a child
with a hideous mouth,
and I knew the wound was made
for a way to stay alive.
What I gave him
wouldn't keep a dog alive.
What he gave me
from the brown coin
of his sweating face
was a look of cunning.
I carry it
like a bead of acid
to remember how,
once in a while,
you can creep out of your own life
and become someone else-
an explosion
in that nest of wires
we call the imagination.
I will never see him
again, I suppose.
But what of this rag,
this shadow
flung like a boy's body
into the walls
of my mind, bleeding
their sour taste-
insult and anger,
the great movers?

  previous page
next page
table of contents
search the archives

  Titanic Operas Main Page
Copyright 1999 by Martha Nell Smith, all rights reserved
Maintained by Rebecca Mooney  <>
Last updated on March 10, 2008
Dickinson Electronic Archives