Tag Archives: Mary Oliver

She took the world into her arms.

In the poem “When Death Comes,” Mary Oliver wrote:

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.

Today death came to Mary. May God have mercy and grant her rest! Her love and thankfulness for life and the world watered my own heart through the few poems by her I have known.

For me, it’s a blessedly rainy day, and I am re-posting in memory of her a poem about rain, and much more.

Lingering in Happiness

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.

–Mary Oliver

in our places

What can we do
but keep on breathing in and out,
modest and willing, and in our places?

– Mary Oliver, from the poem “Stars”

I’m taking these lines out of context, because they are the ones that jumped out at me when I randomly took a book of Oliver’s poems off a shelf this afternoon. If many of my behaviors of late seem random and fruitless and perplexed, at least I do breathe in and out. That is an excellent case of something I do that I can’t really take credit for; God has programmed me to do it. He gives each of us life and breath, and I’m thankful.

One day last week I was given another gift, when Kristi at Thoughts from Thicket House sent me the link to a hymn, “In the Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful.” She actually linked me to the German “Meine Hoffnung und Meine Freude,” (My Hope and My Joy) which I like even more. I spent two days singing those hymns from morning till night; there is something about the simplicity and redundancy of the lines and melody that I needed as a prayer to carry me along.

I’m in my place, I know it. And I’m working at the willing part.

U horse + G
Wandering on White Horse Hill in England – 2005 (by Pippin)

Dampness is married to gravity.

Lingering in Happiness

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.

–Mary Oliver

Clouds fall like feathers.

The whole nation has been colder than usual, I hear. I’m glad to live where it doesn’t normally snow, as I feel too old to deal with the work it requires. Still, I have experienced some snowfalls from time to time in my life and I appreciate the imagery in this poem.

White-Eyes

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.

–Mary Oliver

Source: Poetry (October 2002), and the Poetry Foundation’s collection of Winter Poems.