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, March 18

Swans

by Mary Oliver

They appeared

over the dunes,

they skimmed the trees

and hurried on

to the sea

or some lonely pond

or wherever it is

that swans go,

urgent, immaculate,

the heat of their eyes

staring down

and then away,

the thick spans

of their wings

as bright as snow,

their shoulder-power

echoing

inside my own body.

How could I help but adore them?

How could I help but wish

that one of them might drop

a white feather

that I should have

something in my hand

to tell me

that they were real?

Of course

this was foolish.

What we love, shapely and pure,

is not to be held,

but to be believed in.

And then they vanished, into the unreachable distance.

You can find this in Evidence.

Evening Poetry, March 4

Mozart, for Example

by Mary Oliver

All the quick notes

Mozart didn’t have time to use

before he entered the cloud-boat

are falling now from the beaks

of the finches

that have gathered from the joyous summer

into the hard winter

and, like Mozart, they speak of nothing

but light and delight,

though it is true, the heavy blades of the world

are still pounding underneath.

And this is what you can do too, maybe,

if you live simply and with a lyrical heart

in the cumbered neighborhoods or even,

as Mozart sometimes managed to, in a palace,

offering tune after tune after tune,

making some hard-hearted prince

prudent and kind, just by being happy.

You can find this poem in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, January 28

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 poem in Swan.

Evening Poetry, January 7

On the Beach

by Mary Oliver

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.

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

Evening Poetry, December 1

Mysteries, Yes

by Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous

to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the

mouths of the lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever

in allegiance with gravity

while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds will

never be broken.

How people come, from delight or the

scars of damage,

to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say

“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.

You can find this poem in Evidence.

Evening Poetry, November 19

Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond

by Mary Oliver

As for life,

I’m humbled,

I’m without words

sufficient to say

how it has been hard as flint,

and soft as a spring pond,

both of these

and over and over,

and long pale afternoons besides,

and so many mysteries

beautiful as eggs in a nest,

still unhatched

though warm and watched over

by something I have never seen–

a tree angel, perhaps,

or a ghost of holiness.

Every day I walk out into the world

to be dazzled, then to be reflective.

It suffices, it is all comfort–

along with human love,

dog love, water love, little-serpent love,

sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds

flying among the scarlet flowers.

There is hardly time to think about

stopping, and lying down at last

to the long afterlife, to the tenderness

yet to come, when

time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,

and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.

As for death,

I can’t wait to be the hummingbird,

can you?

You can find this poem in Owls and Other Fantasies.

Evening Poetry, October 7

Sunrise

by Mary Oliver

You can
die for it–
an idea,
or the world. People

have done so,
brilliantly,
letting
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
creating
an unforgettable
fury of light. But

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China,

and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun

blazes
for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
fire.

You can find this poem in Dream Work.

Evening Poetry, August 12

Water

by Mary Oliver

What is the vitality and necessity

of clean water?

Ask the man who is ill, who is lifting

his lips to the cup.

Ask the forest.

You can find this poem in the collection Evidence.