by Mary Oliver in Evidence (Beacon Press, 2009)
My heart, that used to pump along so pleasantly,
has come now to a different sort of music.
There is someone inside those red walls, irritated
and even, occasionally, irrational.
Years ago I was part of an orchestra; our conductor
was a wild man. He was forever rapping the music-
stand for silence. Then he would call out some
correction and we would begin again.
Now again it is the wild man.
I remember the music shattering, and our desperate
Once he flung the baton over our heads and into
the midst of the players. It flew over the violins
and landed next to a bass fiddle. It flopped to the
floor. What silence! Then someone picked it up
and it was passed forward back to him. He rapped
the stand and raised his arms. Then we all breathed
again, and the music restarted.
On a personal note, this poem was the first one (of many) I recorded in an ongoing journal/letter I wrote for my husband throughout our cancer ordeal. I read and copied it the day of his biopsy, while I sat alone in the waiting room. It so happens I find it no less apt in expressing my current feelings as we navigate the pandemic.