flaring and hissing


By Mary Oliver

Here in my head, language

keeps making its tiny noises.

How can I hope to be friends

with the hard white stars

whose flaring and hissing are not speech

but pure radiance?

How can I hope to be friends

with the yawning spaces between them

where nothing, ever is spoken?

Tonight, at the edge of the field,

I stood very still, and looked up,

and tried to be empty of words.

What joy was it, that almost found me?

What amiable peace?…

Once, deep in the woods,

I found the white skull of a bear

and it was utterly silent-

and once a river otter, in a steel trap,

and it too was utterly silent.

What can we do

but keep on breathing in and out,

modest and wiling, and in our places?

Listen, listen, I’m forever saying.

Listen to the river, to the hawk, to the hoof,

to the mockingbird, to the jack-in-the-pulpit-

then I come up with a few words, like a gift.

Even as now

Even as the darkness has remains the pure, deep darkness.

Even as the stars have twirled a little, while I stood here,

looking up,

one hot sentence after another.

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