Read Red Bird: Poems Online

Authors: Mary Oliver

Tags: #Poetry, #American, #General, #Nature, #Environmental Conservation & Protection

Red Bird: Poems

BOOK: Red Bird: Poems
5.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


No Voyage and Other Poems
The River Styx, Ohio, and Other Poems
Twelve Moons
American Primitive
Dream Work
House of Light
New and Selected Poems Volume One
White Pine
West Wind
The Leaf and the Cloud
What Do We Know
Owls and Other Fantasies
Why I Wake Early
Blue Iris
New and Selected Poems Volume Two

The Night Traveler
Sleeping in the Forest
Wild Geese
(UK Edition)

A Poetry Handbook
Blue Pastures
Rules for the Dance
Winter Hours
Long Life
Our World (with photographs by Molly Malone Cook)


Red Bird


Maker of All Things, Even Healings

There Is a Place Beyond Ambition


Night and the River


Straight Talk from Fox

Another Everyday Poem

Visiting the Graveyard


With the Blackest of Inks


The Orchard

A River Far Away and Long Ago

Night Herons

Summer Story

The Teachers

Percy and Books (Eight)

Summer Morning

Small Bodies

Winter and the Nuthatch

Crow Says


Percy (Nine)

Black Swallowtail


Showing the Birds

From This River, When I Was a Child, I Used to Drink

Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears Trying to Survive on the Melting Ice Floes

Of The Empire

Not This, Not That


In the Pasture

Both Worlds

We Should Be Well Prepared


I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life (Ten)

Swimming, One Day in August

Mornings at Blackwater

Who Said This?

This Day, and Probably Tomorrow Also

Of Goodness

Meadowlark Sings and I Greet Him in Return

When I Cried for Help

In the Evening, in the Pinewoods

Love Sorrow

Of Love

Eleven Versions of the Same Poem:

Am I lost?

I don’t want to live a small life

I am the one

Now comes the long blue cold

So every day

If the philosopher is right

There you were, and it was like spring

Where are you?

I wish I loved no one

I will try

What is the greatest gift?


Red Bird Explains Himself

But I always think that the best way to know God is to love
many things.
—Vincent van Gogh

Red Bird

Red bird came all winter
firing up the landscape
as nothing else could.
Of course I love the sparrows,
those dun-colored darlings,
so hungry and so many.
I am a God-fearing feeder of birds.
I know He has many children,
not all of them bold in spirit.
Still, for whatever reason—
perhaps because the winter is so long
and the sky so black-blue,
or perhaps because the heart narrows
as often as it opens—
I am grateful
that red bird comes all winter
firing up the landscape
as nothing else can do.


I had a dog
    who loved flowers.
        Briskly she went
            through the fields,
yet paused
    for the honeysuckle
        or the rose,
            her dark head
and her wet nose
        the face
            of every one
with its petals
    of silk,
        with its fragrance
into the air
    where the bees,
        their bodies
            heavy with pollen,
    and easily
        she adored
            every blossom,
not in the serious,
    careful way
        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—
    that happy
        in the heaven of earth—
            that wild, that loving.

Maker of All Things, Even Healings

All night
under the pines
the fox
moves through the darkness
with a mouthful of teeth
and a reputation for death
which it deserves.
In the spicy
villages of the mice
he is famous,
his nose
in the grass
is like an earthquake,
his feet
on the path
is a message so absolute
that the mouse, hearing it,
makes himself
as small as he can
as he sits silent
or, trembling, goes on
hunting among the grasses
for the ripe seeds.
Maker of All Things,
including appetite,
including stealth,
including the fear that makes
all of us, sometime or other,
flee for the sake
of our small and precious lives,
let me abide in your shadow—
let me hold on
to the edge of your robe
as you determine
what you must let be lost
and what will be saved.

There Is a Place Beyond Ambition

When the flute players
couldn’t think of what to say next
they laid down their pipes,
then they lay down themselves
beside the river
and just listened.
Some of them, after a while,
jumped up
and disappeared back inside the busy town.
But the rest—
so quiet, not even thoughtful—
are still there,
still listening.


I wish I was twenty and in love with life
    and still full of beans.
Onward, old legs!
There are the long, pale dunes; on the other side
the roses are blooming and finding their labor
no adversity to the spirit.
Upward, old legs! There are the roses, and there is the sea
shining like a song, like a body
I want to touch
though I’m not twenty
and won’t be again but ah! seventy. And still
in love with life. And still
full of beans.

Night and the River

I have seen the great feet
into the river
and I have seen moonlight
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,
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.


There is a place where the town ends,
    and the fields begin.
It’s not marked but the feet know it,
also the heart that is longing for refreshment
    and, equally, for repose.
Someday we’ll live in the sky.
Meanwhile, the house of our lives is this green world.
The fields, the ponds, the birds.
The thick black oaks—surely they are
    the invention of something wonderful.
And the tiger lilies.
And the runaway honeysuckle that no one
    will ever trim again.
Where is it? I ask, and then
my feet know it.
One jump, and I’m home.

Straight Talk from Fox

Listen says fox it is music to run
    over the hills to lick
dew from the leaves to nose along
    the edges of the ponds to smell the fat
ducks in their bright feathers but
    far out, safe in their rafts of
sleep. It is like
    music to visit the orchard, to find
the vole sucking the sweet of the apple, or the
    rabbit with his fast-beating heart. Death itself
is a music. Nobody has ever come close to
    writing it down, awake or in a dream. It cannot
be told. It is flesh and bones
    changing shape and with good cause, mercy
is a little child beside such an invention. It is
    music to wander the black back roads
outside of town no one awake or wondering
    if anything miraculous is ever going to
happen, totally dumb to the fact of every
    moment’s miracle. Don’t think I haven’t
peeked into windows. I see you in all your seasons
    making love, arguing, talking about God
as if he were an idea instead of the grass,
    instead of the stars, the rabbit caught
in one good teeth-whacking hit and brought
    home to the den. What I am, and I know it, is
responsible, joyful, thankful. I would not
    give my life for a thousand of yours.
BOOK: Red Bird: Poems
5.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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