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Authors: Mary Oliver

The Swan

BOOK: The Swan
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O
THER
B
OOKS BY
M
ARY
O
LIVER

P
OETRY
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
Thirst
Red Bird
The Truro Bear and Other Poems
Evidence

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

A
UDIO
At Blackwater Pond
Many Miles

For Anne Taylor

CONTENTS

What Can I Say

Of Time

On the Beach

How Perfectly

How I Go to the Woods

A Fox in the Dark

Just Around the House, Early in the Morning

Tom Dancer’s Gift of a Whitebark Pine Cone

Passing the Unworked Field

For Example

Percy Wakes Me (Fourteen)

Today

Swan

Beans Green and Yellow

It Is Early

How Many Days

More of the Unfinishable Fox Story

The Riders

The Poet Dreams of the Classroom

Dancing in Mexico

The Sweetness of Dogs (Fifteen)

Bird in the Pepper Tree

In Provincetown, and Ohio, and Alabama

April

Torn

Wind in the Pines

The Living Together

We Cannot Know

The Poet Dreams of the Mountain

Mist in the Morning, Nothing Around Me but Sand and Roses

The Last Word About Fox (Maybe)

How Heron Comes

When

Trees

In Your Hands

I Own a House

I Worried

Lark Ascending

Don’t Hesitate

In the Darkness

Four Sonnets

Trying to Be Thoughtful in the First Brights of Dawn

More Evidence

Whispered Poem

The Poet Is Told to Fill Up More Pages

AFTERWORD

Percy

Everyone
once, once
only. Just
once
and no more.
And we also
once
. Never again. But this having been
once
, although only
once,
to have been of the earth,
seems irrevocable.

—Rilke,
Duino Elegies

’Tis curious that we only believe as deep as we live.

—Emerson,
Beauty

What Can I Say

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.

Of Time

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
   he vanishes.

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

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.

How Perfectly

How perfectly
  and neatly
    opens the pink rose

this bright morning,
  the sun warm
    on my shoulders,

its heat
  on the opening petals.
    Possibly

it is the smallest,
  the least important event
    at this moment

in the whole world.
  Yet I stand there,
    utterly happy.

How I Go to the Woods

Ordinarily I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.

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 in the Dark

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,

feels something—

a yearning

for which we have no name

but which we may remember,

years later,

in the darkness,

upon some other empty road.

Just Around the House, Early in the Morning

Though I have been scorned for it,

let me never be afraid to use the word
beautiful
.

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.

Tom Dancer’s Gift of a Whitebark Pine Cone

You never know
  what opportunity
    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,
    or Wyoming.
      I took it home

and did what I supposed
  he was sure I would do—
    I ate it,
      thinking

how it had traveled
  through that rough
    and holy body.
      It was crisp and sweet.

It was almost a prayer
  without words.
    My gratitude
      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.

Passing the Unworked Field

Queen Anne’s lace
      is hardly
            prized but
all the same it isn’t
            idle look
                          how it
            stands straight on its
thin stems how it
            scrubs its white faces
                 with the
rags of the sun how it
              makes all the
                      loveliness
                            it can.

For Example

Okay, the broken gull let me lift it
from the sand.

Let me fumble it into a box, with the
lid open.

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
   punched me.

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
summer morning.

The gull beat the air with its good wing.

I kept my eyes on the road.

Percy Wakes Me (Fourteen)

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
needed me,
   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.

BOOK: The Swan
11.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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