Mary Oliver: Why I Wake Early

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Why I Wake Early
by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

 

 

photo Rose Cook

Snowy Night by Mary Oliver

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Snowy Night                          by Mary Oliver

 

 

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
tossed
an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which,
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. But, anyway,
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something,
and sweeter? Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night,
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world,
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl,
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow,
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning.

 

 

photograph Rose Cook

Mary Oliver ‘Mysteries, Yes’

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Mysteries, Yes        Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

 

 

 

photograph Rose Cook

Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Praying’

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Praying

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.

~ Mary Oliver ~

 

 

photograph Rose Cook

A poem for the summer solstice

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The Summer Day                                by Mary Oliver

 

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?




photograph Rose Cook

In celebration of International Womens’ day

 

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The Lark                       Mary Oliver

And I have seen,
at dawn,
the lark
spin out of the long grass

and into the pink air —
its wings,
which are neither wide
nor overstrong,

fluttering —
the pectorals
ploughing and flashing
for nothing but altitude —

and the song
bursting
all the while
from the red throat.

And then he descends,
and is sorry.
His little head hangs
and he pants for breath

for a few moments
among the hoops of the grass,
which are crisp and dry,
where most of his living is done —

and then something summons him again
and up he goes,
his shoulders working,
his whole body almost collapsing and floating

to the edges of the world.
We are reconciled, I think,
to too much.
Better to be a bird, like this one —

an ornament of the eternal.
As he came down once, to the nest of the grass,
“Squander the day, but save the soul,”
I heard him say.

 

 

photo Rose Cook