Maren O. Mitchell, To Care or Not

Maren O. Mitchell
TO CARE OR NOT

I care less and less
how others see me,
more how I see myself.
I don’t care for the nasty
arrow thoughts that zing
out of me erratically, pulled
from the quiver of a mind
in limbo: They boomerang back,
deflating pride in my goodness.
With nothing but the illusion
of control, I care more and more
about small birds, wild turkey,
tentative deer—who tremble
when lightning is loose.
That foraging chipmunks
do not emerge into the puncturing
jaws of cats. That whales are
not decimated by a lesser species.
Care that the 17-year cicadas finally
laid their eggs, and birds who
couldn’t endure their clamor
are returning to mark
hours with song.
I care less about the speed of days,
length of nights, my deliberate walk.
I care that my mind is calmer,
I laugh more, and cry
almost not at all.
That no life is long
enough to learn how to
love—care I have only begun,
with a shaky idea of the process.

Author’s Comment: It could be that winding down a life does this to all of us eventually. Anyway, it is happening to me—changing of priorities—and I don’t care at all. It is a relief.

Bio: Maren O. Mitchell’s poems have appeared in Southern Humanities Review, The Classical Outlook, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, Pirene’s Fountain, Appalachian Journal, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Skive (Australia), the anthologies The Southern Poetry Anthology, V: Georgia, Sunrise from Blue Thunder, and elsewhere. Work is forthcoming in Hotel Amerika this fall. Her nonfiction book is Beat Chronic Pain, An Insider’s Guide (Line of Sight Press, 2012). For twenty years, across five states, she has taught the Japanese art of origami. She lives with her husband in Young Harris, GA.

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38 thoughts on “Maren O. Mitchell, To Care or Not

    • Thanks, Karen. It was one of those poems that comes without much effort – listening to what I really was thinking and feeling.

  1. love, love, love this: “With nothing but the illusion
    of control, I care more and more
    about small birds”
    and
    “That no life is long
    enough to learn how to
    love”

  2. I just can’t read this enough. The poem touches on what we all as human beings must eventually face and then brings us to the place we are all seeking, but have no answers …yet. The last four lines are what resonated with me the most.

    Just wonderful Maren

  3. Well, dang Maren! Can you get any better? This entire part was so fantastic:

    “I care that my mind is calmer,
    I laugh more, and cry
    almost not at all.
    That no life is long
    enough to learn how to
    love—care I have only begun,
    with a shaky idea of the process.”

    You are a star in the firmament, Poet!

    • I don’t know about that “star in the firmament” bit, but I really do love to know that you like this, Barbara.

  4. As we get older, hopefully wisdom replaces the inconsequential cares of youth – your poem was wonderful! Thank you for expressing this in such a beautiful way.

  5. So profound, especially about love, that like many of your poems, I’m amazed words can capture the beautiful images you create.

  6. Maren, I keep a “poems to study” file on hand for exploring further (or again) and this poem just got added to it. Thanks.

  7. Maren, the Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn frequently said, “everything is change…change, change, change.” Your poem speaks to this and certainly speaks to me in this regard. In the movement of years I have begun to see the little things to be more beautiful, important, and significant. I embrace the small beauties of life. As you said, ” I care more and more about small birds….” It appears that as we age clarity presents itself and all of life, especially the things we used to take for granted, is found to be precious. Your poem presents the inherent change we all face in a most effective manner. Thank you.

    • Bill, thank you. It seems to be the slowing down, doesn’t it (?), that enables or forces us to see more widely and more up close.

  8. Maren: Your poem touched my soul today. Had time to think about how our priorities do change as the years dwindle down. You are a beautiful person to me, and I love your poetry, especially this one. Carole Thompson

    • Melissa, I hope you forgive my liking lady bugs. A small group of them warmed a lonely winter, as they lived under a lamp in thyme leaves and pansies, and ate apple slices on top of my microwave. I talked to them, got to watch their lives. They are in my book that Scott reviewed.

      Thank you for loving my poem. I don’t know about my philosophy – seems it is just being too tired to care about what I no longer care about, and caring about what is left – that really matters.

      • You are forgiven, Maren. 😉 I would love ladybugs, too, if in small batches. Alas, they don’t visit me as nicely.

        Maybe we tire so that we can appreciate what is important.

  9. RE. Author’s comment. Me too. In the poem, I am particular charmed by the juxtaposition of small birds & wild turkey. Where I’m living now, I have a plenitude of both, along with numerous others including the chipmunks, one of which I once found sleeping in my cat’s bed. Brava to the poem & to the poet!

    • Phebe, thanks for “me toing.” And what happened to the chipmunk when they both woke? Good luck with finding the right publisher, and with your move with an old cat. Ha! I found my right publisher was myself – and feel at home with the integrity of the editor. Would love to meet you someday.

  10. I must echo the comments above, though I needn’t try to add to what they say, except to second them. My 85th next week. I understand where you’re you’re coming from! Wish I could do it so beautifully.

    • Joan, you surprise me! I remember your comments from other Wild Goose issues, and I envisioned you in your 50’s, at most. So – what comes through is your enthusiasm for life. What are years but the movement of earth?

      Many thanks for the echo.

  11. I must echo the comments above, though I needn’t try to add to what they say, except to second them. My 85th next week. I understand where you’re coming from! Wish I could do it so beautifully.

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