Author Archives: virtualartistaltar

break your heart

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Drea Art
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Lead by Mary Oliver

Here is a story
to break your heart.
Are you willing?
This winter
the loons came to our harbor
and died, one by one,
of nothing we could see.
A friend told me
of one on the shore
that lifted its head and opened
the elegant beak and cried out
in the long, sweet savoring of its life
which, if you have heard it,
you know is a sacred thing.,
and for which, if you have not heard it,
you had better hurry to where
they still sing.
And, believe me, tell no one
just where that is.
The next morning
this loon, speckled
and iridescent and with a plan
to fly home
to some hidden lake,
was dead on the shore.
I tell you this
to break your heart,
by which I mean only
that it break open and never close again
to the rest of the world.


how you pray

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Drea Art
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virtualartistaltar.com

Five AM in the Pinewoods by Mary Oliver

I’d seen
their hoofprints in the deep
needles and knew
they ended the long night

under the pines, walking
like two mute
and beautiful women toward
the deeper woods, so I

got up in the dark and
went there. They came
slowly down the hill
and looked at me sitting under

the blue trees, shyly
they stepped
closer and stared
from under their thick lashes and even

nibbled some damp
tassels of weeds. This
is not a poem about a dream,
though it could be.

This is a poem about the world
that is ours, or could be.
Finally
one of them— I swear it!—

would have come to my arms.
But the other
stamped sharp hoof in the
pine needles like

the tap of sanity,
and they went off together through
the trees. When I woke
I was alone,

I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray.


haystack of light

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Drea Art
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Mindful by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less


kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle


in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,


to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over


in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,


the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,


the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help


but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light


of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?


inventions of holiness

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Drea Art
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virtualartistaltar.com

The Wren From Carolina by Mary Oliver

Just now the wren from Carolina buzzed

through the neighbor’s hedge

a line of grace notes I couldn’t even write down

much less sing. 

Now he lifts his chestnut colored throat

and delivers such a cantering praise–

for what?

For the early morning, the taste of the spider, 

for his small cup of life

that he drinks from every day, knowing it will refill.

All things are inventions of holiness.

Some more rascally than others. 

I’m on that list too,

though I don’t know exactly where.

But, every morning, there is my own cup of gladness,

and there’s that wren in the hedge, above me,

with his blazing song.


expressive of mirth

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Drea Art
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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.


so many mysteries

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Drea Art
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Long Afternoon At The Edge Of Sister Pond by Mary Oliver

As for life,
I’m humbled,
I’m without words
sufficient to say

how it has been hard as flint,
and soft as a spring pond,
both of these
and over and over,

and long pale afternoons besides,
and so many mysteries
beautiful as eggs in a nest,
still unhatched

though warm and watched over
by something I have never seen –
a tree angel, perhaps,
or a ghost of holiness.

Every day I walk out into the world
to be dazzled, then to be reflective.
It suffices, it is all comfort –
along with human love,

dog love, water love, little-serpent love,
sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds
flying among the scarlet flowers.
There is hardly time to think about

stopping, and lying down at last
to the long afterlife, to the tenderness
yet to come, when
time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,

and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.
As for death,
I can’t wait to be the hummingbird,
can you?


bold in spirit

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Drea Art
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virtualartistaltar.com

Red Bird by Mary Oliver

Red bird came all winter
Firing up the landscape
As nothing else could.

Of course I love the sparrows,
Those dun-colored darlings,
So hungry and so many.

I am a God-fearing feeder of birds,
I know he has many children,
Not all of them bold in spirit.

Still, for whatever reason-
Perhaps because the winter is so long
And the sky so black-blue,

Or perhaps because the heart narrows
As often as it opens-
I am grateful

That red bird comes all winter
Firing up the landscape

As nothing else can do.


the music restarted

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Drea Art
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virtualartistaltar.com

Heart Poem by Mary Oliver

My heart, that used to pump along so pleasantly,
has come now to a different sort of music.

There is someone inside those red walls, irritated
and even, occasionally, irrational.

Years ago I was part of an orchestra; our conductor
was a wild man. He was forever rapping the music-
stand for silence. Then he would call out some
correction and we would begin again.

Now again it is the wild man.

I remember the music shattering, and our desperate
attentiveness.

Once he flung the baton over our heads and into
the midst of the players. It flew over the violins
and landed next to a bass fiddle. It flopped to the
floor. What silence! Then someone picked it up
and it was passed forward back to him. He rapped
the stand and raised his arms. Then we all breathed
again, and the music restarted.


the rain spoke to me

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Drea Art
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Last Night the Rain Spoke To Me by Mary Oliver

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,

what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again

in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,

smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches

and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing

under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,

and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment,
at which moment

my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars

and the soft rain—
imagine! imagine!
the wild and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.


when death comes

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Your healing energy is missed Roberto Gomez
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When Death Comes by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.