Dec 132009
 

by Mary Oliver

1.

I rose this morning early as usual, and went to my desk
But it’s spring,

and the thrush is in the woods,
somewhere in the twirled branches, and he is singing.

And so, now, I am standing by the open door.
And now I am stepping down onto the grass.

I am touching a few leaves.
I am noticing the way the yellow butterflies
move together, in a twinkling cloud, over the field.

And I am thinking: maybe just looking and listening
is the real work.

Maybe the world, without us,
is the real poem.

2.

For how many years have you gone through the house
    shutting the windows,
while the rain was still five miles away

and veering, o plum-colored clouds, to the north,
away from you

and you did not even know enough
to be sorry,

you were glad
those silver sheets, with the occasional golden staple,

were sweeping on, elsewhere,
violent and electric and uncontrollable–

and will you find yourself finally wanting to forget
all enclosures, including

the enclosure of yourself, o lonely leaf, and will you
dash finally, frantically,

to the windows and haul them open and lean out
to the dark, silvered sky, to everything

that is beyond capture, shouting
I’m here, I’m here! Now, now, now, now, now.

3.

I dreamed
I was traveling

from one country
to another

jogging
on the back
of a white horse
whose hooves

were the music
of dust and gravel
whose halter
was made of the leafy braids

of flowers,
whose name
was Earth.
And it never

grew tired
though the sun
went down
like a thousand roses

and the stars
put their white faces
in front of the black branches
above us

and then
there was nothing around us
but water
and the white horse

turned suddenly
like a bolt of white cloth

opening
under the cloth cutter’s deft hands

and became
a swan.
Its red tongue
flickered out

as it perceived
my great surprise
my huge and unruly pleasure
my almost unmanageable relief. . . .

4.

“‘Whoever shall be guided so far towards the mysteries of love, by
contemplating beautiful things rightly in due order, is approaching the last
grade. Suddenly he will behold a beauty marvellous in its nature, that very
Beauty, Socrates, for the sake of which all the earlier hardships had been
borne: in the first place, everlasting, and never being born nor perishing,
neither increasing nor diminishing; secondly, not beautiful here and ugly
there, not beautiful now and ugly then, not beautiful in one direction and
ugly in another direction, not beautiful in one place and ugly in another
place. Again, this beauty will not show itself like a face or hands or any
bodily thing at all, nor as a discourse or a science, nor indeed as residing in
anything, as in a living creature or in earth or heaven or anything else,
but being by itself with itself always in simplicity; while all the beautiful
things elsewhere partake of this beauty in such manner, that when they are
born and perish it becomes neither less nor more and nothing at all
happens to it. . . .’”

5.

What secrets fly out of the earth
when I push the shovel-edge,
when I heave the dirt open?

And if there are no secrets
what is that smell that sweetness rising?

What is my name,
o what is my name
that I may offer it back
to the beautiful world?

Have I walked
long enough
where the sea breaks raspingly
all day and all night upon the pale sand?

Have I admired sufficiently the little hurricane
of the hummingbird?

the heavy
thumb
of the blackberry?

the falling star?

6.

Count the roses, red and fluttering.
Count the roses, wrinkled and salt.
Each with its yellow lint at the center.
Each with its honey pooled and ready.
Do you have a question that can’t be answered?
Do the stars frighten you by their heaviness
    and their endless number?
Does it bother you, that mercy is so difficult to
    understand?
For some souls it’s easy; they lie down on the sand
    and are soon asleep.
For others, the mind shivers in its glacial palace,
    and won’t come.
Yes, the mind takes a long time, is otherwise occupied
than by happiness, and deep breathing.
Now, in the distance, some bird is singing.
And now I have gathered six or seven deep red,
    half-opened cups of petals between my hands,
and now I have put my face against them
and now I am moving my face back and forth, slowly,
    against them.
The body is not much more than two feet and a tongue.
Come to me, says the blue sky, and say the word.
And finally even the mind comes running, like a wild thing,
    and lies down in the sand.
Eternity is not later, or in any unfindable place.
Roses, roses, roses, roses.

7.

Even now
I remember something

the way a flower
in a jar of water

remembers its life
in the perfect garden

the way a flower
in a jar of water

remembers its life
as a closed seed

the way a flower
in a jar of water

steadies itself
remembering itself

long ago
the plunging roots

the gravel the rain
the glossy stem

the wings of the leaves
the swords of the leaves

rising and clashing
for the rose of the sun

the salt of the stars
the crown of the wind

the beds of the clouds
the blue dream

the unbreakable circle.

from Mary Oliver, The Leaf and the Cloud.

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