Monthly Archives: March 2015

tender and breakable

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Some Questions You Might Ask

By Mary Oliver

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of an owl?
Who has it, and who doesn’t?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

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mood and desire

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The Whistler

By Mary Oliver

All of a sudden she began to whistle By all of a sudden I mean that for more than thirty years she had not whistled. It was thrilling. At first I wondered, who was in the house, what stranger? I was upstairs reading, and she was downstairs. As from the throat of a wild and cheerful bird, not caught but visiting, the sounds warbled and slid and doubled back and larked and soared.

Finally I said, Is that you whistling? Yes, she said, I used to whistle, a long time ago. Now I see I can still whistle. And cadence after cadence she strolled through the house, whistling.

I know her so well, I think, I thought. Elbow and ankle. Mood and desire. Anguish and frolic. Anger too. And the devotions. And for all that, do we even begin to know each other? Who is this I’ve been living with for thirty years?

This clear, dark, lovely whistler?

http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/01/20/mary-oliver-molly-malone-cook-our-world/

messenger

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Messenger

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 not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly rejoicing 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 sleep dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

By Mary Oliver

edge of the water

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Fluent 2012 by Drea When we look through watery darkness, we find an expansion of golden light.  http://dreajensengallery.artistwebsites.com/featured/fluent-2012-drea-jensen.html

Fluent 2012 by Drea
When we look through watery darkness, we find an expansion of golden light.
http://dreajensengallery.artistwebsites.com/featured/fluent-2012-drea-jensen.html

Alligator Poem

by Mary Oliver
I knelt down
at the edge of the water,
and if the white birds standing
in the tops of the trees whistled any warning
I didn’t understand,
I drank up to the very moment it came
crashing toward me,
its tail flailing
like a bundle of swords,
slashing the grass,
and the inside of its cradle-shaped mouth
gaping,
and rimmed with teeth—
and that’s how I almost died
of foolishness
in beautiful Florida.
But I didn’t.
I leaped aside, and fell,
and it streamed past me, crushing everything in its path
as it swept down to the water
and threw itself in,
and, in the end,
this isn’t a poem about foolishness
but about how I rose from the ground
and saw the world as if for the second time,
the way it really is.
The water, that circle of shattered glass,
healed itself with a slow whisper
and lay back
with the back-lit light of polished steel,
and the birds, in the endless waterfalls of the trees,
shook open the snowy pleats of their wings, and drifted away,
while, for a keepsake, and to steady myself,
I reached out,
I picked the wild flowers from the grass around me—
blue stars
and blood-red trumpets
on long green stems—
for hours in my trembling hands they glittered
like fire.

listening

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MOCKINGBIRDS

by Mary Oliver

This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing
the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing
better to do
than listen.
I mean this
seriously.
In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door
to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,
but gods.
It is my favorite story–
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give
but their willingness
to be attentive–
but for this alone
the gods loved them
and blessed them–
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water
from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,
and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down–
but still they asked for nothing
but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.
Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning–
whatever it was I said
I would be doing–
I was standing
at the edge of the field–
I was hurrying
through my own soul,
opening its dark doors–
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

be a lotus

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First Yoga Lesson

By Mary Oliver

“Be a lotus in the pond,” she said, “opening
slowly, no single energy tugging
against another but peacefully,
all together.”

I couldn’t even touch my toes.
“Feel your quadriceps stretching?” she asked.
Well, something was certainly stretching.

Standing impressively upright, she
raised one leg and placed it against
the other, then lifted her arms and
shook her hands like leaves. “Be a tree,” she said.

I lay on the floor, exhausted.
But to be a lotus in the pond
opening slowly, and very slowly rising—
that I could do.

it’s time

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The Measure
By Mary Oliver

I stopped the car and ran back and across the road
and picked up the box turtle, who only
hissed and withdrew herself into her pretty shell.
Well, goodness, it was early in the morning, not too much traffic.
Rather an adventure than a risk, and anyway
who would give aid to such a shy citizen?
Who wouldn’t complete the journey for it, taking it of course
in the direction of its desire: a pinewoods
where, as I learned, the blueberries ripen early.
Probably she had thought, in the middle of the night-
Ah, it’s time.
Sometimes I think our own lives are watched over like that.
Out of the mystery of the hours and the days
Something says-Let’s give this one a little trial.
Let’s say, put a turtle in the road she’s traveling on, and
in a hurry.
Let’s see how her life is measuring up, that lucky girl.
So much happiness, so much good fortune. Ah, it’s time.