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Posted by Simon Parke, 06 February 2017, 11.15am

My poem of the week, (thanks to Mark Godson) is ‘Invitation’ by Mary Oliver.

I asked ‘What is the least likely poem being read in the White House today’?...because that is the poem for me.

And this gathering of words - away from winning and towards delight and gratitude - is one of those least likely poems.

It bids me stop, bids me attend…for a change.


Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

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