Evening Poetry, May 24

Logos

by Mary Oliver

Why worry about the loaves and fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don’t worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.

You can find this poem in Why I Wake Early.

Evening Poetry, May 16

Lingering In Happiness

by Mary Oliver

After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground

where it will disappear–but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes. The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole’s tunnel;

and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

You can find this poem in Why I Wake Early.

Evening Poetry, April 1

I Want to Write Something So Simply

by Mary Oliver

I want to write something

so simply

about love

or about pain

that even

as you are reading

you feel it

and as you read

you keep feeling it

and though it be my story

it will be common,

though it be singular

it will be known to you

so that by the end

you will think–

no, you will realize–

that it was all the while

yourself arranging the words,

that it was all the time

words that you yourself,

out of your own heart

had been saying.

You can find this poem in Evidence.

Evening Poetry, March 31

Moments

by Mary Oliver

There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled,

Like, telling someone you love them.

Or giving your money away, all of it.

Your heart is beating, isn’t it?

You’re not in chains, are you?

There is nothing more pathetic than caution

when headlong might save a life,

even, possibly, your own.

You can find this poem in Felicity.

Evening Poetry, January 5

Of Time

by Mary Oliver

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.

You can find this poem in Swan: Poems and Prose Poems.

Evening Poetry, January 3

What Can I Say

by Mary Oliver

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 it 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.

You can find this poem in Swan: Poems and Prose Poems.

Evening Poetry, December 20

We Shake With Joy

by Mary Oliver

We shake with joy, we shake with grief.

What a time they have, these two

housed as they are in the same body.

You can find this poem in Evidence.

Evening Poetry, December 13

White-Eyes

by Mary Oliver

In winter
    all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.

So, it’s over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he’s done all he can.

I don’t know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—

which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.

Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 2002)

Evening Poetry, November 14

I know this is Mary Oliver’s most loved, widely quoted, and repeated poem, but these are words that live with me. Especially during dark days when depression or despair weigh so heavy my heart can hardly bear it. In my head, I hear her saying, “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting…” and it gives me courage to continue. To work through the painful things, to wonder at what cannot be explained, to remember that I have–as we all do– a “place in the family of things”.

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

You can find this poem in Owls and Other Fantasies.

Evening Poetry, November 2

After Her Death

by Mary Oliver

I am trying to find the lesson

for tomorrow. Matthew something.

Which lectionary? I have not

forgotten the Way, but, a little,

the way to the Way. The trees keep whispering

peace, peace, and the birds

in the shallows are full of the

bodies of small fish and are

content. They open their wings

so easily, and fly. So. It is still

possible.

I open the book

which the strange, difficult, beautiful church

has given me. To Matthew. Anywhere.

You can find this poem in Thirst.