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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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, 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.