Fall song by 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 mysteries - roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This
I try to remember when time's measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn
flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay - how everything lives, shifting
from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.
Sleeping In The Forest
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 of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
- Favourites: 2
Song of the Builders
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 our inexplicable ways
building the universe.
I was very careful never to take an interesting job. If you have an interesting job, you get interested in it.Mary Oliver
I have a notion that if you are going to be spiritually curious, you better not get cluttered up with too many material things.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, and dipped into it
among the swarming bees - honey and comb
she lipped and tongued and scooped out
in her black nails, until
maybe she grew full, or sleepy, or maybe
a little drunk, and sticky
down the rugs of her arms,
and began to hum and sway.
I saw her let go of the branches,
I saw her lift her honeyed muzzle
into the leaves, and her thick arms,
as though she would fly -
an enormous bee
all sweetness and wings -
down into the meadows, the perfections
of honeysuckle and roses and clover -
to float and sleep in the sheer nets
swaying from flower to flower
day after shining day.
Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine
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
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 of his heart
like a Schubert
and his eyes
working and working like those days of rapture,
by Van Gogh in Arles?
Look! for most of the world
or remembering -
most of the world is time
when we’re not here,
not born yet, or died -
a slow fire
under the earth with all
our dumb wild blind cousins
can’t even remember anymore
their own happiness -
Look! and then we will be
like the pale cool
stones, that last almost
Little Summer Poem Touching The Subject Of Faith
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 shucks, nor the cobs.
the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker --
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.
And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing --
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,
the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet --
all of it
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.
And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt
swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.
Starlings in Winter
Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
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
becomes for a moment fragmented,
then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine
how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,
this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;
I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
When Death Comes
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
Picking Blueberries, Austerlitz, New York,1957
Once, in summer
in the blueberries,
I fell asleep, and woke
when a deer stumbled against me.
she was so busy with her own happiness
she had grown careless
and was just wandering along
to the wind as she leaned down
to lip up the sweetness.
So, there we were
with nothing between us
but a few leaves, and wind’s
backed away finally
and flung up her white tail
and went floating off toward the trees -
but the moment she did that
was so wide and so deep
it has lasted to this day;
I have only to think of her -
the flower of her amazement
and the stalled breath of her curiosity,
and even the damp touch of her solicitude
before she took flight -
to be absent again from this world
and alive, again, in another
for thirty years
sleepy and amazed,
rising out of the rough weeds
listening and looking.
where are you?
Walking To Oak-Head Pond, And Thinking Of The Ponds I Will Visit In The Next Days And Weeks
What is so utterly invisible
not the wind,
not the inside of a stone.
And yet, how often I'm fooled--
I'm wading along
in the sunlight--
and I'm sure I can see the fields and the ponds shining
I can see the light spilling
like a shower of meteors
into next week's trees,
and I plan to be there soon--
and, so far, I am
just that lucky,
my legs splashing
over the edge of darkness,
my heart on fire.
I don't know where
such certainty comes from--
the brave flesh
or the theater of the mind--
but if I had to guess
I would say that only
what the soul is supposed to be
could send us forth
with such cheer
as even the leaf must wear
as it unfurls
its fragrant body, and shines
against the hard possibility of stoppage--
which, day after day,
before such brisk, corpuscular belief,
shudders, and gives way.
Honey At The Table
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 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.
The Summer Day
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 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?
Needing one, I invented her -
the great-great-aunt dark as hickory
called Shining-Leaf, or Drifting-Cloud
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 meant follow,
and we'd travel
cheerful as birds
out of the dusty town and into the trees
where she would change us both into something quicker -
two foxes with black feet,
two snakes green as ribbons,
two shimmering fish - and all day we'd travel.
At day's end she'd leave me back at my own door
with the rest of my family,
who were kind, but solid as wood
and rarely wandered. While she,
old twist of feathers and birch bark,
would walk in circles wide as rain and then
scattering the rags of twilight
on fluttering moth wings;
or she'd slouch from the barn like a gray opossum;
or she'd hang in the milky moonlight
burning like a medallion,
this bone dream, this friend I had to have,
this old woman made out of leaves.
The oaks shone
on the lip
of the storm before
the wind rose,
the shapeless mouth
opened and began
its five-hour howl;
went out fast, branches
the pitch of the roof, bounced
into the year
that grew black
within minutes, except
for the lightening - the landscape
bulging forth like a quick
lesson in creating, then
thudding away. Inside,
it was hard to tell
fear from excitement:
poured stroke! and still,
what a fire and a risk!
As always the body
wants to hide,
wants to flow toward it - strives
to balance while
excitement shouts, back
and forth - each
bolt a burning river
tearing like escape through the dark
field of the other.
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 mockingbird who, in his own cadence,
will go on sizzling and clapping
from the branches of the catalpa that are thick with blossoms,
that are billowing and shining,
that are shaking in the wind.
You still recall, sometimes, the old barn on your
great-grandfather's farm, a place you visited once,
and went into, all alone, while the grownups sat and
talked in the house.
It was empty, or almost. Wisps of hay covered the floor,
and some wasps sang at the windows, and maybe there was
a strange fluttering bird high above, disturbed, hoo-ing
a little and staring down from a messy ledge with wild,
Mostly, though, it smelled of milk, and the patience of
animals; the give-offs of the body were still in the air,
a vague ammonia, not unpleasant.
Mostly, though, it was restful and secret, the roof high
up and arched, the boards unpainted and plain.
You could have stayed there forever, a small child in a corner,
on the last raft of hay, dazzled by so much space that seemed
empty, but wasn't.
Then--you still remember--you felt the rap of hunger--it was
noon--and you turned from that twilight dream and hurried back
to the house, where the table was set, where an uncle patted you
on the shoulder for welcome, and there was your place at the table.
There is a graveyard where everything I am talking about is,
I stood there once, on the green grass, scattering flowers.
Nothing is so delicate or so finely hinged as the wings
of the green moth
against the lantern
against its heat
against the beak of the crow
in the early morning.
Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop
Not in this world.
was the blue wisteria,
was the mossy stream out behind the house,
my mother, alas, alas,
did not always love her life,
heavier than iron it was
as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,
I bury her
in a box
in the earth
and turn away.
was a demon of frustrated dreams,
was a breaker of trust,
was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.
He followed God, there being no one else
he could talk to;
he swaggered before God, there being no one else
who would listen.
this was his life.
I bury it in the earth.
I sweep the closets.
I leave the house.
I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.
It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.
I give them--one, two, three, four--the kiss of courtesy,
of sweet thanks,
of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.
May they sleep well. May they soften.
But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.
I will not give them the responsibility for my life.
Did you know that the ant has a tongue
with which to gather in all that it can
Did you know that?
The poem is not the world.
It isn't even the first page of the world.
But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.
It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.
The voice of the child crying out of the mouth of the
is a misery and a disappointment.
The voice of the child howling out of the tall, bearded,
is a misery, and a terror.
Therefore, tell me:
what will engage you?
What will open the dark fields of your mind,
like a lover
at first touching?
there was no barn.
No child in the barn.
No uncle no table no kitchen.
Only a long lovely field full of bobolinks.
When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,
like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.
Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.
Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.
A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.
Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.
In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.
Live with the beetle, and the wind.
This is the dark bread of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.
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 kind you think will never end.
And I would like to have whatever little ceremony there might be
take place while the rain is shoveled and shoveled out of the sky,
and anyone who comes must travel, slowly and with thought,
as around the edges of the great swamp.
That Sweet Flute John Clare
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;
Poe, rambling in the gloom-bins of Baltimore and Richmond--
light of the world, hold me
Climbing The Chagrin River
the green river,
with snagheaps, where turtles
sun themselves--we push
through the falling
striped warm and cold
through the black flanks
of wet rocks--we wade
and white pine--climb
stone steps into
the timeless castles
of emerald eddies,
cold as ice tumbling
out of a white flow--
flying off rocks,
frivolous and lustrous,
skirting the secret pools--
full of the yellow hair
of last year's leaves
where grizzled fish
hang halfway down,
like tarnished swords,
while around them
nails of light
in the loose