I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars. — Og Mandino

po_Oliver-Mary2cMary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019) was an American poet who has won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The New York Times described her as “far and away, America’s best-selling poet”







 

A CERTAIN SHARPNESS IN THE MORNING AIR
Mary Oliver

In the morning
it shuffles, unhurried,
across the wet fields
in its black slippers,
in its coal-colored coat
with the white stripe like a river
running down its spine—
a glossy animal with a quick temper
and two bulbs of such diatribe under its tail
that when I see it I pray
not to be noticed—
not to be struck
by the flat boards of its anger—
for the whole haul of its smell
is unendurable—
like tragedy
that can’t be borne,
like death
that has to be buried, or burned—
but a little of it is another story—
for it’s true, isn’t it,
in our world,
that the petals pooled with nectar, and the polished thorns
are a single thing—
that even the purest light, lacking the robe of darkness,
would be without expression—
that love itself, without its pain, would be
no more than a shruggable comfort.
Lately, I have noticed, when the skunk’s temper has tilted

in the distance,
and the acids are floating everywhere,
and I am touched, it is all, even in my nostrils and my throat, as the brushing of thorns,
and I stand there
thinking of the old, wild life of the fields, when, as I remember it,
I was shaggy, and beautiful,
like the rose.

=========

THE BUDDHA’S LAST INSTRUCTION
Mary Oliver

“Make of yourself a light,”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal—a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
even green.
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire—
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.

========

THE GARDENS
Mary Oliver

1
Moon rose
full and without
compromise through the good
garden of leaves,
here and there
stars rode flickering
slicks of water
and for certain
the burly trees
hunched toward each other,
their dark mantles
like the fur of animals
touching. It was
summer on earth
so the prayer
I whispered was to no
god but another
creature like me.
Were are you?
The wind stood still.
Lightning flung
its intermittent flares;
in the orchard
something wandered
among the windfalls,
licking the skins,
nuzzling the tunnels,
the pockets of seeds.
Where are you? I called
and hurried out
over the silky
sea of the night, across
the good garden of branches,
leaves, water, down
into the garden
of fire.

2
This skin you wear
so neatly, in which
you settle
so brightly
on the summer grass, how
shall I know it?
You gleam
as you lie back
breathing like something
taken from water,
a sea creature, except
for your two human legs
which tremble
and open
into the dark country
I keep dreaming of. How
shall I touch you
unless it is
everywhere?
I begin
here and there,
finding you,
the heart within you,
and the animal,
and the voice; I ask
over and over
for your whereabouts, trekking
wherever you take me,
the boughs of your body
leading deeper into the trees,
over the white fields,
the rivers of bone,
the shouting,
the answering, the rousing
great run toward the interior,
the unseen, the unknowable
center.

=========

THE NIGHT TRAVELER
Mary Oliver

Passing by, he could be anybody:
A thief, a tradesman, a doctor
On his way to a worried house.
But when he stops at your gate,
Under the room where you lie half-asleep,
You know it is not just anyone—
It is the Night Traveler.
 
You lean your arms on the sill
And stare down. But all you can see
Are bits of wilderness attached to him—
Twigs, loam and leaves,
Vines and blossoms. Among these
You feel his eyes, and his hands
Lifting something in the air.
 
He has a gift for you, but it has no name.
It is windy and wooly.
He holds it in the moonlight, and it sings
Like a newborn beast,
Like a child at Christmas,
Like your own heart as it tumbles
In love’s green bed.
 
You take it, and he is gone.
All night—and all your life, if you are willing—
It will nuzzle your face, cold-nosed,
Like a small white wolf;
It will curl in your palm
 
Like a hard blue stone;
It will liquify into a cold pool
Which, when you dive into it,
Will hold you like a mossy jaw.
A bath of light. An answer.

===========

PRAYING
Mary Oliver

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.