“To Taste and See, To Notice Things”

From “Crows” by Marilyn Nelson

“What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against emptiness
for a moment or an eternity—
images collected in consciousness
like a tree alone on the horizon—
is the main reason we’re on the planet.”


Marilyn Nelson is the dining companion you always wished for.

To share a meal with her is to share not only the quiet firm insistence on the purpose of being captured in these lines (notice how the sentence is posed as a question but ends as an assertion?) but also the quick wit and ready laugh of a person who has looked life in the eye and decided she’s in on the joke.

You can read the rest of this poem here, or — much better — you can listen to it and a few others here.

To spend time with Marilyn is to taste and see and notice things that were always there but maybe you couldn’t describe or you’d forgotten how to see for having seen them so often. Like how sometimes a taxi can be “faster than light.”

What if … that’s true.