Wage Peace

April 08, 2007 by barbara
Apple Blossoms

by Judyth Hill
(but frequently misattributed to Mary Oliver--even here, for one full day. My bad! Barbara)

Wage peace with your breath.
Breathe in firemen and rubble, breathe out whole buildings
and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists and breathe out sleeping children
and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Make soup.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief as the outbreath of beauty or the gesture of fish.
Swim for the other side.
Wage peace.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don't wait another minute.

Posted in


Poet (not verified) | April 8, 2007 - 7:43pm

Mary Oliver helps me stay sane too--thanks for posting this. Have you ever read any of John-Cory? You can find him at:


See especially the section on "War and Politics"--Let me know what you think.


susan | April 8, 2007 - 9:47pm

It may be the unconscious job of the poets to keep us sane. Google up Wislawa Szymborska. Here's one of hers. It's hardly a comfort.

The End and the Beginning
by Wislawa Szymborska

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won't
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the sides of the road,
so the corpse-laden wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone must drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone must glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it's not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

Again we'll need bridges
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls how it was.
Someone listens
and nods with unsevered head.
Yet others milling about
already find it dull.

From behind the bush
sometimes someone still unearths
rust-eaten arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must give way to
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass which has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out,
blade of grass in his mouth,
gazing at the clouds.


perhansa (not verified) | April 9, 2007 - 2:31pm

Very moving. I have a Polish friend who has given me several volumes of her work. It's both heartfelt and moving and thoughtful. Thanks for this one...


Poet (not verified) | April 9, 2007 - 12:12pm

I can't believe I forgot to ask Barbara (or Susan since you are obviously a fan) from which collection of Mary Oliver's did this work come?


susan | April 9, 2007 - 12:32pm

Funny you should ask. I googled the poem to find which collection it's from, and there are some sites that say it's actually by Judyth Hill, but often attributed to Mary Oliver. Hmmm. Enough of them to make me think that it's not a Mary Oliver poem after all. Barb, do you know?
Also, did you know that Mary Oliver will be here in Mpls. in May? The tickets sold out in less than a day.


Babs (not verified) | April 9, 2007 - 2:20pm

Crikey! I have always assumed (always being a relative term here) that Mary Oliver wrote that piece. Never thought to second-guess it. Now I must. Let me do some due diligence here.


Poet (not verified) | April 9, 2007 - 11:58pm

Susan purred:

Also, did you know that Mary Oliver will be here in Mpls. in May? The tickets sold out in less than a day.


Gloat, gloat, gloat--I envy you the pleasure of your evening


susan | April 10, 2007 - 9:58am

Hey, what makes you think I got any of 'em? Well -- okay. I did. But I was stifling my gloat, or so I thought. So here's a question. If you knew that I got tix, do you know me? And therefore know how I came to get them? Now you've got me wondering, Poet, just who you are.


Poet (not verified) | April 10, 2007 - 12:24pm

Susan wonders:

So here's a question. If you knew that I got tix, do you know me? And therefore know how I came to get them? Now you've got me wondering, Poet, just who you are. (sic--you forgot ?)


I am as near as your next breath and as far away as the next galaxy, I am the one before whom all your secret thoughts and imaginings are plainly naked and unashamed as are all mine before you, You have never met me and always known me.

Okay now the actual facts: Earlier (before Barbara "corrected" her mistaken attribution) there was a post by you that said that despite having sold out in 12 hours you managed to get a ticket, actually two (at that point i was going to ask if I could go with you but since we have not yet been formally introduced it seemed a bit presumptious--although for the chance to hear Mary Oliver I actually considered it.)

For a more formal introduction check out my email address in the confidential blog post file and write me off blog!--Tee Hee Hee!)


susan | April 12, 2007 - 12:47am

Yer killin' me. Confidential blog post file? C'mon, I just do the wash and hang the linen. My next breath is in bed --my dreams in the next galaxy. Next clue?


Anonymous (not verified) | February 14, 2009 - 1:41am