Showing posts with the label Mary Oliver

Honey At The Table

It fills you with the soft essence of vanished flowers, it becomes a trickle soft as a hair that you follow from the honey pot over the table and out the door and over the ground, and all the while it thickens, grows deeper and wilder, edged with pine boughs and wet boulders, pawprints of bobcat and bear, until deep in the forest you shuffle up some tree, you rip the bark, you float into and swallow the dripping combs, bits of the tree, crushed bees — a taste composed of everything lost, in which everything lost is found. - Mary Oliver

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean— the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down— who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Listen to Ms. Oliver read her own poem. If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like. Copyri


by Mary Oliver Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light. It was what I was born for - to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world - to instruct myself over and over in joy, and acclamation. Nor am I talking about the exceptional, the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant - but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations. Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help but grow wise with such teachings as these - the untrimmable light of the world, the ocean's shine, the prayers that are made out of grass? If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.

Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness

by Mary Oliver Every year we have been witness to it: how the world descends into a rich mash, in order that it may resume. And therefore who would cry out to the petals on the ground to stay, knowing, as we must, how the vivacity of what was is married to the vitality of what will be? I don’t say it’s easy, but what else will do if the love one claims to have for the world be true? So let us go on though the sun be swinging east, and the ponds be cold and black, and the sweets of the year be doomed. If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.

I Want to Write Something So Simply

by Mary Oliver, from Evidence I want to write something so simply about love or about pain that even as you are reading you feel it and as you read you keep feeling it and though it be my story it will be common, though it be singular it will be known to you so that by the end you will think— no, you will realize— that it was all the while yourself arranging the words, that it was all the time words that you yourself out of your own heart had been saying. for Brendan who shared tonight at a 12 step meeting. You inspired me to write more personally about my experience with Issan and the founding years at Maitri Hospice. If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.


by Mary Oliver The spirit likes to dress up like this: ten fingers, ten toes, shoulders, and all the rest at night in the black branches, in the morning in the blue branches of the world. It could float, of course, but would rather plumb rough matter. Airy and shapeless thing, it needs the metaphor of the body, lime and appetite, the oceanic fluids; it needs the body's world, instinct and imagination and the dark hug of time, sweetness and tangibility, to be understood, to be more than pure light that burns where no one is — so it enters us — in the morning shines from brute comfort like a stitch of lightning; and at night lights up the deep and wondrous drownings of the body like a star. by Mary Oliver, from Dream Work Atlantic Monthly Press If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.


by Mary Oliver All night the dark buds of dreams open richly. In the center of every petal is a letter, and you imagine if you could only remember and string them all together they would spell the answer. It is a long night, and not an easy one— you have so many branches, and there are diversions— birds that come and go, the black fox that lies down to sleep beneath you, the moon staring with her bone-white eye. Finally you have spent all the energy you can and you drag from the ground the muddy skirt of your roots and leap awake with two or three syllables like water in your mouth and a sense of loss—a memory not yet of a word, certainly not yet the answer— only how it feels when deep in the tree all the locks click open, and the fire surges through the wood, and the blossoms blossom. If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.

White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field

Detail from Audubon Plate 121 Snowy Owl by Mary Oliver Coming down out of the freezing sky with its depths of light, like an angel, or a Buddha with wings, it was beautiful, and accurate, striking the snow and whatever was there with a force that left the imprint of the tips of its wings — five feet apart — and the grabbing thrust of its feet, and the indentation of what had been running through the white valleys of the snow — and then it rose, gracefully, and flew back to the frozen marshes to lurk there, like a little lighthouse, in the blue shadows — so I thought: maybe death isn't darkness, after all, but so much light wrapping itself around us — as soft as feathers — that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking, and shut our eyes, not without amazement, and let ourselves be carried, as through the translucence of mica, to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow, that is nothing but light —

Reckless Poem

by Mary Oliver Today again I am hardly myself. It happens over and over. It is heaven-sent. It flows through me like the blue wave. Green leaves – you may believe this or not – have once or twice emerged from the tips of my fingers somewhere deep in the woods, in the reckless seizure of spring. Though, of course, I also know that other song, the sweet passion of one-ness. Just yesterday I watched an ant crossing a path, through the       tumbled pine needles she toiled. And I thought: she will never live another life but this one. And I thought: if she lives her life with all her strength       is she not wonderful and wise? And I continued this up the miraculous pyramid of everything       until I came to myself. And still, even in these northern woods, on these hills of sand, I have flown from the other window of myself to become white heron, blue whale,       red fox, hedgehog. Oh, sometimes already my body has felt like the body of a flower! Sometim

Night and the River

by Mary Oliver I have seen the great feet leaping into the river and I have seen moonlight milky along the long muzzle and I have seen the body of something scaled and wonderful slumped in the sudden fire of its mouth, and I could not tell which fit me more comfortably, the power, or the powerlessness; neither would have me entirely; I was divided, consumed, by sympathy, pity, admiration. After a while it was done, the fish had vanished, the bear lumped away to the green shore and into the trees. And then there was only this story. It followed me home and entered my house— a difficult guest with a single tune which it hums all day and through the night— slowly or briskly, it doesn’t matter, it sounds like a river leaping and falling it sounds like a body falling apart. If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.

The Buddha's Last Instruction

by Mary Oliver “Make of yourself a light” said the Buddha, before he died. I think of this every morning as the east begins to tear off its many clouds of darkness, to send up the first signal-a white fan streaked with pink and violet, even green. An old man, he lay down between two sala trees, and he might have said anything, knowing it was his final hour. The light burns upward, it thickens and settles over the fields. Around him, the villagers gathered and stretched forward to listen. Even before the sun itself hangs, disattached, in the blue air, I am touched everywhere by its ocean of yellow waves. No doubt he thought of everything that had happened in his difficult life. And then I feel the sun itself as it blazes over the hills, like a million flowers on fire- clearly I’m not needed, yet I feel myself turning into something of inexplicable value. Slowly, beneath the branches, he raised his head. He looked into the faces of that frightened crow


by Mary Oliver What did you notice? The dew snail; the low-flying sparrow; the bat, on the wind, in the dark; big-chested geese, in the V of sleekest performance; the soft toad, patient in the hot sand; the sweet-hungry ants; the uproar of mice in the empty house; the tin music of the cricket’s body; the blouse of the goldenrod. What did you hear? The thrush greeting the morning; the little bluebirds in their hot box; the salty talk of the wren, then the deep cup of the hour of silence. What did you admire? The oaks, letting down their dark and hairy fruit; the carrot, rising in its elongated waist; the onion, sheet after sheet, curved inward to the pale green wand; at the end of summer the brassy dust, the almost liquid beauty of the flowers; then the ferns, scrawned black by the frost. What astonished you? The swallows making their dip and turn over the water. What would you like to see again? My dog: her energy and exuberance, her willingness,

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting - over and over announcing your place in the family of things. from Dream Work , 1985 If you want to read more of Mary Oliver’s poems, here are some that I like.


by Mary Oliver As I was searching for poems for a memorial service, I looked through some poems by Mary Oliver, a woman I usually take to be a Buddhist poet though I have no evidence other than the way her words land in my heart, and found this gem which I want to share. Sweet Jesus, talking his melancholy madness, stood up in the boat and the sea lay down, silky and sorry. So everybody was saved that night. But you know how it is when something different crosses the threshold—the uncles mutter together, the women walk away, the young brother begins to sharpen his knife. Nobody knows what the soul is. It comes and goes like the wind over the water— sometimes, for days, you don’t think of it. Maybe after the sermon, after the multitude was fed, one or two of them felt the soul slip forth like a tremor of pure sunlight, before exhaustion, that wants to swallow everything, gripped their bones and left them miserable and sleepy, as they are now, for