Evening Poetry, January 21

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.

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 2

Song For Autumn

by Mary Oliver

Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for

the birds that will come—six, a dozen—to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
stiffens and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its long blue shadows. The wind wags
its many tails. And in the evening
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

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

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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, September 13

Praying

by Mary Oliver

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

You can find this in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, September 12

I Don’t Want to Lose

by Mary Oliver

I don't want to lose a single thread
from the intricate brocade of this happiness.
I want to remember everything.
Which is why I'm lying awake, sleepy
but not sleepy enough to give it up.
Just now, a moment from years ago:
the early morning light, the deft, sweet
gesture of your hand
  reaching for me.

You can find this in Felicity by Mary Oliver.

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Evening Poetry, September 10

Seven White Butterflies

by Mary Oliver

Seven white butterflies
delicate in a hurry look
how they bang the pages
   of their wings as they fly

to the fields of mustard yellow
and orange and plain
gold all eternity
   is in the moment this is what

Blake said Whitman said such
wisdom in the agitated
motions of the mind seven
    dancers floating

even as worms toward
paradise see how they banter
and riot and rise
    to the trees flutter

lob their white bodies into
the invisible wind weightless
lacy willing
    to deliver themselves unto

the universe now each settles 
down on a yellow thumb on a 
brassy stem now
    all seven are rapidly sipping

from the golden tower who
would have thought it could be so easy?

You can find this in West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems.

Evening Poetry, August 29

Messenger

by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

You can find this in Thirst.

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.

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