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, May 11

North Country

by Mary Oliver

In the north country now it is spring and there

is a certain celebration. The thrush

has come home. He is shy and likes the

evening best, also the hour just before

morning; in that blue and gritty light he

climbs to his branch, or smoothly

sails there. It is okay to know only

one song if it is this one. Hear it

rise and fall; the very elements of your soul

shiver nicely. What would spring be

without it? Mostly frogs. But don’t worry, he

arrives, year after year, humble and obedient

and gorgeous. You listen and you know

you could live a better life than you do, be

softer, kinder. And maybe this year you will

be able to do it. Hear how his voice

rises and falls. There is no way to be

sufficiently grateful for the gifts we are

given, no way to speak the Lord’s name

often enough, though we do try, and

especially now, as that dappled breast

breathes in the pines and heaven’s

windows in the north country, now spring has come,

are opened wide.

You can find this in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.

Evening Poetry, April 30

Wild, Wild

by Mary Oliver

This is what love is:

The dry rose bush the gardener, in his pruning, missed

Suddenly bursts into bloom.

A madness of delight; an obsession.

A holy gift, certainly,

But often, alas, improbable.

Why couldn’t Romeo have settled for someone else?

Why couldn’t Tristan and Isolde have refused

The shining cup

Which would have left peaceful the whole kingdom?

Wild sings the bird of the heart in the forests

Of our lives.

Over and over Faust, standing in the garden, doesn’t know

Anything that’s going to happen, he only sees

The face of Marguerite, which is irresistible.

And wild, wild sings the bird.

You can find this in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.

Evening Poetry, April 25

Invitation

by Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

You can find this poem in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.

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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.