Evening Poetry, January 3

Starlings in Winter

by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

You can find this in Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays.

Evening Poetry, November 9

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When

by Mary Oliver

When it's over, it's over, and we don't know
any of us, what happens then.
So I try not to miss anything.
I think, in my whole life, I have never missed
the full moon
or the slipper of its coming back.
Or, a kiss.
Well, yes, especially a kiss.

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

Evening Poetry, November 1

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 Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.

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Evening Poetry, October 4

Don’t Hesitate

by Mary Oliver

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

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

Evening Poetry, September 26

How I Go To The Woods

by Mary Oliver

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.

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

Evening Poetry, August 24

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, August 7

The Lover of Earth Cannot Help Herself

by Mary Oliver

In summer,
through the fields
of wild mustard,
then goldenrod,

I walk, brushing
the wicks
of their bodies
and the bright hair

of their heads –
and in fact
I lie down
that the little weightless pieces of gold

may flood over me,
shining in the air,
falling in my hair,
touching my face –

ah, sweet-smelling
glossy and
colorful world,
I say,

even as I begin
to feel
my left eye then the right
begin to burn

and twitch
and grow very large –
even as I begin,
to weep,

to sneeze
in this irrepressible
seizure
of summerlove.

You can find this poem in Why I Wake Early.

Affiliate statement: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through the link and make a purchase I will receive a small compensation with no extra cost to you. This helps keep my blog running. Thank you!

Evening Poetry, August 6

I Know Someone

by Mary Oliver

I know someone who kisses the way

a flower opens, but more rapidly.

Flowers are sweet. They have

short, beautific lives. They offer

much pleasure. There is

nothing in the world that can be said

against them.

Sad, isn’t it, that all they can kiss

is the air.

Yes, yes! We are the lucky ones.

You can find this poem in Felicity.

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.