The darkest thing
met me in the dark.
It was only a face
and a brace of teeth
that held no words,
though I felt a salty breath
sighing in my direction.
Once, in an autumn that is long gone,
I was down on my knees
in the cranberry bog
and heard, in that lonely place,
two voices coming down the hill,
and I was thrilled
to be granted this secret,
that the coyotes, walking together
can talk together,
for I thought, what else could it be?
And even though what emerged
were two young women, two-legged for sure
and not at all aware of me,
their nimble, young women tongues
telling and answering,
and though I knew
I had believed something probably not true,
yet it was wonderful
to have believed it.
And it has stayed with me
as a present once given is forever given.
Easy and happy they sounded,
those two maidens of the wilderness
from which we have–
who knows to what furious, pitiful extent–
From the book The Truro Bear and Other Adventures
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird--
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
From the book Thirst
When I receive updates from the Writers Almanac, I read the poem first, before looking at the author’s name. I read through this little poem and immediately loved it. I then looked to see who the author was. Duh!.. ha, of course it was Mary Oliver!
I had a dog
who loved flowers.
Briskly she went
through the fields,
for the honeysuckle
or the rose,
her dark head
and her wet nose
of every one
with its petals
with its fragrance
into the air
where the bees,
heavy with pollen,
not in the serious,
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom—
the way we praise or don't praise—
the way we love
or don't love—
but the way
we long to be—
in the heaven of earth—
that wild, that loving.
Last night I had in my hand what I thought was a book of poetry by Stanley Kunitz. As I read the poem I was gratified that I had finally found another poem, besides “Layers” and “The Snakes of September” by Kunitz, that resonated for me. As I closed the book to look for a post-it strip to mark the poem with, I realized that I had actually grabbed a Mary Oliver book. Poor Stanley. At least I reached for you. At least I tried. You’re still revered and your book, Passing Through, is still the National Book Award Winner.
Meanwhile, here is Daisies by 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
perfectly content not knowing. Song being born
of quest he knows this: he must turn silent
were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead
oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly
unanswered. At my feet the white-petaled daisies display
the small suns of their center-piece, their--if you don't
mind my saying so--their hearts. Of course
I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and
narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know.
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun
lights up willingly; for example--I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch--
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.
From Mary Oliver’s Book Here
Buy Stanley Kunitz’s book here
In the early curtains
of the dusk
a slow galloping
This way and that way
through the trees
and under the trees.
in the open mindedness
of not knowing enough
It was beautiful.
It was silent.
It didn't even have a mouth.
But it wanted something,
it had a purpose
and a few precious hours
to find it,
and I suppose it did.
The next evening
it lay on the ground
like a broken leaf
and didn't move,
which hurt my heart
which is another small thing
that doesn't know much.
When this happened it was about
the middle of summer,
which also has its purposes
and only so many precious hours.
and not with any assignment from us,
or even a small hint
everything that needs to be done
From the book “Why I Wake Early” by Mary Oliver
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
From the book Evidence by Mary Oliver