Authors: Mary Oliver
No Voyage and Other Poems
The River Styx, Ohio, and Other Poems
House of Light
New and Selected Poems Volume One
The Leaf and the Cloud
What Do We Know
Owls and Other Fantasies
Why I Wake Early
New and Selected Poems Volume Two
The Truro Bear and Other Poems
A Poetry Handbook
Rules for the Dance
Our World (with photographs by Molly Malone Cook)
At Blackwater Pond
For Anne Taylor
and no more.
And we also
. Never again. But this having been
, although only
to have been of the earth,
’Tis curious that we only believe as deep as we live.
What can I say that I have not said before?
So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.
Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four,
and the leaf is singing still.
Don’t even ask how rapidly the hummingbird
lives his life.
You can’t imagine. A thousand flowers a day,
a little sleep, then the same again, then
I adore him.
Yet I adore also the drowse of mountains.
And in the human world, what is time?
In my mind there is Rumi, dancing.
There is Li Po drinking from the winter stream.
There is Hafiz strolling through Shariz, his feet
loving the dust.
On the beach, at dawn:
four small stones clearly
hugging each other.
How many kinds of love
might there be in the world,
and how many formations might they make
and who am I ever
to imagine I could know
such a marvelous business?
When the sun broke
it poured willingly its light
over the stones
that did not move, not at all,
just as, to its always generous term,
it shed its light on me,
my own body that loves,
equally, to hug another body.
opens the pink rose
this bright morning,
the sun warm
on my shoulders,
on the opening petals.
it is the smallest,
the least important event
at this moment
in the whole world.
Yet I stand there,
Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.
A fox goes by
in the headlights
like an electric shock.
Then he pauses
at the edge of the road
and the heart, if it is still alive,
for which we have no name
but which we may remember,
in the darkness,
upon some other empty road.
Though I have been scorned for it,
let me never be afraid to use the word
For within is the shining leaf
and the blossoms of the geranium at the window.
And the eyes of the happy puppy as he wakes.
The colors of the old and beloved afghan lying
by itself, on the couch, in the morning sun.
The hummingbird’s nest perched now in a
corner of the bookshelf, in front of so many
books of so many colors.
The two poached eggs. The buttered toast.
The ream of brand-new paper just opened,
white as a block of snow.
The typewriter humming, ready to go.
You never know
is going to travel to you,
or through you.
Once a friend gave me
a small pine cone—
one of a few
he found in the scat
of a grizzly
in Utah maybe,
I took it home
and did what I supposed
he was sure I would do—
I ate it,
how it had traveled
through that rough
and holy body.
It was crisp and sweet.
It was almost a prayer
to you, Tom Dancer,
for this gift of the world
I adore so much
and want to belong to.
And thank you too, great bear.
Queen Anne’s lace
all the same it isn’t
stands straight on its
thin stems how it
scrubs its white faces
rags of the sun how it
makes all the
Okay, the broken gull let me lift it
from the sand.
Let me fumble it into a box, with the
Okay, I put the box into my car and started
up the highway
to the place where sometimes, sometimes not,
such things can be mended.
The gull at first was quiet.
How everything turns out one way or another, I
won’t call it good or bad, just
one way or another.
Then the gull lurched from the box and onto
the back of the front seat and
Okay, a little blood slid down.
But we all know, don’t we, how sometimes
things have to feel anger, so as not
to be defeated?
I love this world, even in its hard places.
A bird too must love this world,
even in its hard places.
So, even if the effort may come to nothing,
you have to do something.
It was, generally speaking, a perfectly beautiful
The gull beat the air with its good wing.
I kept my eyes on the road.
Percy wakes me and I am not ready.
He has slept all night under the covers.
Now he’s eager for action: a walk, then breakfast.
So I hasten up. He is sitting on the kitchen counter
where he is not supposed to be.
How wonderful you are, I say. How clever, if you
to wake me.
He thought he would hear a lecture and deeply
his eyes begin to shine.
He tumbles onto the couch for more compliments.
He squirms and squeals; he has done something
that he needed
and now he hears that it is okay.
I scratch his ears, I turn him over
and touch him everywhere. He is
wild with the okayness of it. Then we walk, then
he has breakfast, and he is happy.
This is a poem about Percy.
This is a poem about more than Percy.
Think about it.