Mary Oliver

A Visitor – Mary Oliver

A Visitor – Mary Oliver

My father, for example, who was young once and blue-eyed, returns on the darkest of nights to the porch and knocks wildly at the door, and if I answer I must be prepared for his waxy face, for his lower lip swollen with bitterness. And so, for a long time, I did not answer, but slept fitfully betwee... »

After Arguing Against The Contention That Art Must Come From Discontent – Mary Oliver

After Arguing Against The Contention That Art Must Come From Discontent – Mary Oliver

Whispering to each handhold, “I’ll be back,” I go up the cliff in the dark. One place I loosen a rock and listen a long time till it hits, faint in the gulf, but the rush of the torrent almost drowns it out, and the wind — I almost forgot the wind: it tears at your side or it... »

An Afternoon In The Stacks – Mary Oliver

An Afternoon In The Stacks – Mary Oliver

Closing the book, I find I have left my head inside. It is dark in here, but the chapters open their beautiful spaces and give a rustling sound, words adjusting themselves to their meaning. Long passages open at successive pages. An echo, continuous from the title onward, hums behind me. From in her... »

At Blackwater Pond – Mary Oliver

At Blackwater Pond – Mary Oliver

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled after a night of rain. I dip my cupped hands. I drink a long time. It tastes like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold into my body, waking the bones. I hear them deep inside me, whispering oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened? ~ At ... »

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

At Great Pond the sun, rising, scrapes his orange breast on the thick pines, and down tumble a few orange feathers into the dark water. On the far shore a white bird is standing like a white candle — or a man, in the distance, in the clasp of some meditation — while all around me the lil... »

August – Mary Oliver

August – Mary Oliver

When the blackberries hang swollen in the woods, in the brambles nobody owns, I spend all day among the high branches, reaching my ripped arms, thinking of nothing, cramming the black honey of summer into my mouth; all day my body accepts what it is. In the dark creeks that run by there is this thic... »

Aunt Leaf – Mary Oliver

Aunt Leaf – Mary Oliver

Needing one, I invented her – the great-great-aunt dark as hickory called Shining-Leaf, or Drifting-Cloud or The-Beauty-of-the-Night. Dear aunt, I’d call into the leaves, and she’d rise up, like an old log in a pool, and whisper in a language only the two of us knew the word that m... »

Beyond the Snow Belt – Mary Oliver

Beyond the Snow Belt – Mary Oliver

Over the local stations, one by one, Announcers list disasters like dark poems That always happen in the skull of winter. But once again the storm has passed us by: Lovely and moderate, the snow lies down While shouting children hurry back to play, And scarved and smiling citizens once more Sweep do... »

Black Oaks – Mary Oliver

Black Oaks – Mary Oliver

Okay, not one can write a symphony, or a dictionary, or even a letter to an old friend, full of remembrance and comfort. Not one can manage a single sound though the blue jays carp and whistle all day in the branches, without the push of the wind. But to tell the truth after a while I’m pale w... »

Blossom – Mary Oliver

Blossom – Mary Oliver

In April the ponds open like black blossoms, the moon swims in every one; there’s fire everywhere: frogs shouting their desire, their satisfaction. What we know: that time chops at us all like an iron hoe, that death is a state of paralysis. What we long for: joy before death, nights in the swale &#... »

Catbird – Mary Oliver

Catbird – Mary Oliver

He picks his pond, and the soft thicket of his world. He bids his lady come, and she does, flirting with her tail. He begins early, and makes up his song as he goes. He does not enter a house at night, or when it rains. He is not afraid of the wind, though he is cautious. He watches the snake, that ... »

Clapp’s Pond – Mary Oliver

Clapp’s Pond – Mary Oliver

Three miles through the woods Clapp’s Pond sprawls stone gray among oaks and pines, the late winter fields where a pheasant blazes up lifting his yellow legs under bronze feathers, opening bronze wings; and one doe, dimpling the ground as she touches its dampness sharply, flares out of the bru... »

Climbing The Chagrin River – Mary Oliver

Climbing The Chagrin River – Mary Oliver

We enter the green river, heron harbor, mud-basin lined with snagheaps, where turtles sun themselves–we push through the falling silky weight striped warm and cold bounding down through the black flanks of wet rocks–we wade under hemlock and white pine–climb stone steps into the ti... »

Cold Poem – Mary Oliver

Cold Poem – Mary Oliver

Cold now. Close to the edge. Almost unbearable. Clouds bunch up and boil down from the north of the white bear. This tree-splitting morning I dream of his fat tracks, the lifesaving suet. I think of summer with its luminous fruit, blossoms rounding to berries, leaves, handfuls of grain. Maybe what c... »

Daisies – Mary Oliver

Daisies – Mary Oliver

It is possible, I suppose that sometime we will learn everything there is to learn: what the world is, for example, and what it means. I think this as I am crossing from one field to another, in summer, and the mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either knows enough already or knows enough to be p... »

Dogfish – Mary Oliver

Dogfish – Mary Oliver

Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing kept flickering in with the tide and looking around. Black as a fisherman’s boot, with a white belly. If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin, which was rough as a thousand sharpened nail... »

Egrets – Mary Oliver

Egrets – Mary Oliver

Where the path closed down and over, through the scumbled leaves, fallen branches, through the knotted catbrier, I kept going. Finally I could not save my arms from thorns; soon the mosquitoes smelled me, hot and wounded, and came wheeling and whining. And that’s how I came to the edge of the ... »

Fall Song – Mary Oliver

Fall Song – Mary Oliver

Another year gone, leaving everywhere its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves, the uneaten fruits crumbling damply in the shadows, unmattering back from the particular island of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere except underfoot, moldering in that black subterranean castle of unobservable m... »

Flare – Mary Oliver

Flare – Mary Oliver

1. Welcome to the silly, comforting poem. It is not the sunrise, which is a red rinse, which is flaring all over the eastern sky; it is not the rain falling out of the purse of God; it is not the blue helmet of the sky afterward, or the trees, or the beetle burrowing into the earth; it is not the mo... »

Gannets – Mary Oliver

Gannets – Mary Oliver

I am watching the white gannets blaze down into the water with the power of blunt spears and a stunning accuracy– even though the sea is riled and boiling and gray with fog and the fish are nowhere to be seen, they fall, they explode into the water like white gloves, then they vanish, then the... »

Happiness – Mary Oliver

Happiness – Mary Oliver

In the afternoon I watched the she-bear; she was looking for the secret bin of sweetness – honey, that the bees store in the trees’ soft caves. Black block of gloom, she climbed down tree after tree and shuffled on through the woods. And then she found it! The honey-house deep as heartwood, an... »

Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches – Mary Oliver

Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches – Mary Oliver

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives – tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, hanging from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, feel like? Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you? Never to enter the sea and ... »

Heron Rises From The Dark, Summer Pond – Mary Oliver

Heron Rises From The Dark, Summer Pond – Mary Oliver

So heavy is the long-necked, long-bodied heron, always it is a surprise when her smoke-colored wings open and she turns from the thick water, from the black sticks of the summer pond, and slowly rises into the air and is gone. Then, not for the first or the last time, I take the deep breath of happi... »

Honey At The Table – Mary Oliver

Honey At The Table – Mary Oliver

It fills you with the soft essence of vanished flowers, it becomes a trickle sharp 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 an... »

Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine – Mary Oliver

Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine – Mary Oliver

Who doesn’t love roses, and who doesn’t love the lilies of the black ponds floating like flocks of tiny swans, and of course, the flaming trumpet vine where the hummingbird comes like a small green angel, to soak his dark tongue in happiness – and who doesn’t want to live with the brisk motor ... »

Knife – Mary Oliver

Knife – Mary Oliver

Something just now moved through my heart like the thinnest of blades as that red-tail pumped once with its great wings and flew above the gray, cracked rock wall. It wasn’t about the bird, it was something about the way stone stays mute and put, whatever goes flashing by. Sometimes, when I si... »

Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me – Mary Oliver

Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me – Mary Oliver

Last night the rain spoke to me slowly, saying, what joy to come falling out of the brisk cloud, to be happy again in a new way on the earth! That’s what it said as it dropped, smelling of iron, and vanished like a dream of the ocean into the branches and the grass below. Then it was over. The sky c... »

Lightning – Mary Oliver

Lightning – Mary Oliver

The oaks shone gaunt gold on the lip of the storm before the wind rose, the shapeless mouth opened and began its five-hour howl; the lights went out fast, branches sidled over the pitch of the roof, bounced into the year that grew black within minutes, except for the lightening – the landscape... »

Lilies – Mary Oliver

Lilies – Mary Oliver

I have been thinking about living like the lilies that blow in the fields. They rise and fall in the edge of the wind, and have no shelter from the tongues of the cattle, and have no closets or cupboards, and have no legs. Still I would like to be as wonderful as the old idea. But if I were a lily I... »

Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard – Mary Oliver

Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard – Mary Oliver

His beak could open a bottle, and his eyes – when he lifts their soft lids – go on reading something just beyond your shoulder – Blake, maybe, or the Book of Revelation. Never mind that he eats only the black-smocked crickets, and the dragonflies if they happen to be out late over ... »

Little Summer Poem Touching The Subject Of Faith – Mary Oliver

Little Summer Poem Touching The Subject Of Faith – Mary Oliver

Every summer I listen and look under the sun’s brass and even into the moonlight, but I can’t hear anything, I can’t see anything — not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up, nor the leaves deepening their damp pleats, nor the tassels making, nor the s... »

Marengo – Mary Oliver

Marengo – Mary Oliver

Out of the sump rise the marigolds. From the rim of the marsh, muslin with mosquitoes, rises the egret, in his cloud-cloth. Through the soft rain, like mist, and mica, the withered acres of moss begin again. When I have to die, I would like to die on a day of rain– long rain, slow rain, the ki... »

Mindful – Mary Oliver

Mindful – 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 ta... »

Moccasin Flowers – Mary Oliver

Moccasin Flowers – Mary Oliver

All my life, so far, I have loved more than one thing, including the mossy hooves of dreams, including’ the spongy litter under the tall trees. In spring the moccasin flowers reach for the crackling lick of the sun and burn down. Sometimes, in the shadows, I see the hazy eyes, the lamb-lips of... »

Mockingbirds – Mary Oliver

Mockingbirds – Mary Oliver

This morning two mockingbirds in the green field were spinning and tossing the white ribbons of their songs into the air. I had nothing better to do than listen. I mean this seriously. In Greece, a long time ago, an old couple opened their door to two strangers who were, it soon appeared, not men at... »

Moles – Mary Oliver

Moles – Mary Oliver

Under the leaves, under the first loose levels of earth they’re there — quick as beetles, blind as bats, shy as hares but seen less than these — traveling among the pale girders of appleroot, rockshelf, nests of insects and black pastures of bulbs peppery and packed full of the swe... »

Morning Glories – Mary Oliver

Morning Glories – Mary Oliver

Blue and dark-blue rose and deepest rose white and pink they are everywhere in the diligent cornfield rising and swaying in their reliable finery in the little fling of their bodies their gear and tackle all caught up in the cornstalks. The reaper’s story is the story of endless work of work c... »

Morning Poem – Mary Oliver

Morning Poem – Mary Oliver

Every morning the world is created. Under the orange sticks of the sun the heaped ashes of the night turn into leaves again and fasten themselves to the high branches — and the ponds appear like black cloth on which are painted islands of summer lilies. If it is your nature to be happy you wil... »

Mushrooms – Mary Oliver

Mushrooms – Mary Oliver

Rain, and then the cool pursed lips of the wind draw them out of the ground – red and yellow skulls pummeling upward through leaves, through grasses, through sand; astonishing in their suddenness, their quietude, their wetness, they appear on fall mornings, some balancing in the earth on one h... »

Next Time – Mary Oliver

Next Time – Mary Oliver

Next time what I’d do is look at the earth before saying anything. I’d stop just before going into a house and be an emperor for a minute and listen better to the wind or to the air being still. When anyone talked to me, whether blame or praise or just passing time, I’d watch the f... »

Music – Mary Oliver

Music – Mary Oliver

I tied together a few slender reeds, cut notches to breathe across and made such music you stood shock still and then followed as I wandered growing moment by moment slant-eyes and shaggy, my feet slamming over the rocks, growing hard as horn, and there you were behind me, drowning in the music, let... »

On Winter’s Margin – Mary Oliver

On Winter’s Margin – Mary Oliver

On winter’s margin, see the small birds now With half-forged memories come flocking home To gardens famous for their charity. The green globe’s broken; vines like tangled veins Hang at the entrance to the silent wood. With half a loaf, I am the prince of crumbs; By snow’s down, the birds amassed wil... »

One – Mary Oliver

One – Mary Oliver

The mosquito is so small it takes almost nothing to ruin it. Each leaf, the same. And the black ant, hurrying. So many lives, so many fortunes! Every morning, I walk softly and with forward glances down to the ponds and through the pinewoods. Mushrooms, even, have but a brief hour before the slug cr... »

Peonies – Mary Oliver

Peonies – Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready to break my heart as the sun rises, as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers and they open — pools of lace, white and pink — and all day the black ants climb over them, boring their deep and mysterious holes into ... »

Picking Blueberries, Austerlitz, New York,1957 – Mary Oliver

Picking Blueberries, Austerlitz, New York,1957 – Mary Oliver

Once, in summer in the blueberries, I fell asleep, and woke when a deer stumbled against me. I guess she was so busy with her own happiness she had grown careless and was just wandering along listening to the wind as she leaned down to lip up the sweetness. So, there we were with nothing between us ... »

Poem (The spirit likes to dress up…) – Mary Oliver

Poem (The spirit likes to dress up…) – 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, li... »

Sand Dabs, Five – Mary Oliver

Sand Dabs, Five – Mary Oliver

What men build, in the name of security, is built of straw. * Does the grain of sand know it is a grain of sand? * My dog Ben — a mouth like a tabernacle. * You can have the other words-chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I&... »

Skunk Cabbage – Mary Oliver

Skunk Cabbage – Mary Oliver

And now as the iron rinds over the ponds start dissolving, you come, dreaming of ferns and flowers and new leaves unfolding, upon the brash turnip-hearted skunk cabbage slinging its bunches leaves up through the chilling mud. You kneel beside it. The smell is lurid and flows out in the most unabashe... »

Sleeping In The Forest – Mary Oliver

Sleeping In The Forest – Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me, she took me back so tenderly, arranging her dark skirts, her pockets full of lichens and seeds. I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed, nothing between me and the white fire of the stars but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths among the branches... »

Snow Geese – Mary Oliver

Snow Geese – Mary Oliver

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last! What a task to ask of anything, or anyone, yet it is ours, and not by the century or the year, but by the hours. One fall day I heard above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was a flock of snow gees... »

Snowy Night – Mary Oliver

Snowy Night – Mary Oliver

Last night, an owl in the blue dark tossed an indeterminate number of carefully shaped sounds into the world, in which, a quarter of a mile away, I happened to be standing. I couldn’t tell which one it was – the barred or the great-horned ship of the air – it was that distant. But, anyway, aren’t th... »

Some Things The World Gave – Mary Oliver

Some Things The World Gave – Mary Oliver

1 Times in the morning early when it rained and the long gray buildings came forward from darkness offering their windows for light. 2 Evenings out there on the plains when sunset donated farms that yearned so far to the west that the world centered there and bowed down. 3 A teacher at a country sch... »

Song of the Builders – Mary Oliver

Song of the Builders – Mary Oliver

On a summer morning I sat down on a hillside to think about God – a worthy pastime. Near me, I saw a single cricket; it was moving the grains of the hillside this way and that way. How great was its energy, how humble its effort. Let us hope it will always be like this, each of us going on in ... »

Stanley Kunitz – Mary Oliver

Stanley Kunitz – Mary Oliver

I used to imagine him coming from his house, like Merlin strolling with important gestures through the garden where everything grows so thickly, where birds sing, little snakes lie on the boughs, thinking of nothing but their own good lives, where petals float upward, their colors exploding, and tre... »

Starlings in Winter – Mary Oliver

Starlings in Winter – Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy, but with stars in their black feathers, they spring from the telephone wire and instantly they are acrobats in the freezing wind. And now, in the theater of air, they swing over buildings, dipping and rising; they float like one stippled star that opens, becomes for a moment fragme... »

Such Singing in the Wild Branches – Mary Oliver

Such Singing in the Wild Branches – Mary Oliver

It was spring and finally I heard him among the first leaves – then I saw him clutching the limb in an island of shade with his red-brown feathers all trim and neat for the new year. First, I stood still and thought of nothing. Then I began to listen. Then I was filled with gladness – an... »

Sunrise – Mary Oliver

Sunrise – Mary Oliver

You can die for it- an idea, or the world. People have done so, brilliantly, letting their small bodies be bound to the stake, creating an unforgettable fury of light. But this morning, climbing the familiar hills in the familiar fabric of dawn, I thought of China, and India and Europe, and I though... »

That Sweet Flute John Clare – Mary Oliver

That Sweet Flute John Clare – Mary Oliver

That sweet flute John Clare; that broken branch Eddy Whitman; Christopher Smart, in the press of blazing electricity; My uncle the suicide; Woolf, on her way to the river; Wolf, of the sorrowful songs; Swift, impenetrable mask of Dublin; Schumann, climbing the bridge, leaping into the Rhine; Ruskin,... »

The Buddha’s Last Instruction – Mary Oliver

The Buddha’s Last Instruction – 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 ... »

The Chance To Love Everything – Mary Oliver

The Chance To Love Everything – Mary Oliver

All summer I made friends with the creatures nearby — they flowed through the fields and under the tent walls, or padded through the door, grinning through their many teeth, looking for seeds, suet, sugar; muttering and humming, opening the breadbox, happiest when there was milk and music. But... »

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