Turtle

by Mary Oliver

Now I see it–
it nudges with its bulldog head
the slippery stems of the lilies, making them tremble
and now it noses along in the wake of the little brown teal

who is leading her soft children
from one side of the pond to the other; she keeps
close to the edge
and they follow closely, the good children–

the tender children,
the sweet children, dangling their pretty feet
into the darkness.
And now will come–I can count on it–the murky splash

the certain victory
of that pink and gassy mouth, and the frantic
circling of the hen while the rest of the chicks
flare away over the water and into the reeds, and my heart

will be most mournful
on their account. But, listen,
what’s important?
Nothing’s important

except that the great and cruel mystery of the world,
of which this is a part,
not be denied. Once,
I happened to see, on a city street, in summer,

a dusty, fouled turtle plodding along–
a snapper–
broken out I suppose from some backyard cage–
and I knew what I had to do–

I looked it right in the eyes, and I caught it–
I put it, like a small mountain range,
into a knapsack, and I took it out
of the city, and I let it

down into the dark pond, into
the cool water,
and the light of the lilies,
to live

This Is the One

by Mary Oliver

The bear
  who shuffles
    over the hillsides
      filling himself

with berries
  until his tongue is purple
    (which, remember, is
      a royal color)--

the bear
  who circles the cabin,
    who will not steal the honey,
      who will not rifle the knapsack

of the sleeping camper--
  the one
    who sits by himself
      by the river,

who sings to himself
  the secret song
    no one has ever heard--
      the bear

who yawns
  with the cavernous mouth
    of a shaggy god--
      who, when he sees me

is solidly silent
  and rises
    on the mass of his legs,
      disdainful and free

as anything on earth
  could ever be--
    this is the bear
      I want to see.

Snow Geese by Mary Oliver

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!
    What a task
      to ask

of anything, or anyone,

yet it is ours,
    and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.

One fall day I heard
  above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound
I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was

a flock of snow geese, winging it
    faster than the ones we usually see,
and, being the color of snow, catching the sun

so they were, in part at least, golden. I

held my breath
as we do
sometimes
to stop time
when something wonderful
has touched us

as with a match
which is lit, and bright, 
but does not hurt
in the common way,
but delightfully,
as if delight
were the most serious thing
you ever felt.

The geese
flew on.
I have never 
seen them again,

Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.
Maybe I won't.
It doesn't matter.
What matters
is that, when I saw them,
I saw them
as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.

Coyote in the Dark, Coyotes Remembered by Mary Oliver

The darkest thing
met me in the dark.
It was only a face
and a brace of teeth
that held no words,
though I felt a salty breath
sighing in my direction.
Once, in an autumn that is long gone,
I was down on my knees
in the cranberry bog
and heard, in that lonely place,
two voices coming down the hill,
and I was thrilled
to be granted this secret,
that the coyotes, walking together
can talk together,
for I thought, what else could it be?
And even though what emerged
were two young women, two-legged for sure
and not at all aware of me,
their nimble, young women tongues
telling and answering,
and though I knew
I had believed something probably not true,
yet it was wonderful
to have believed it.
And it has stayed with me
as a present once given is forever given.
Easy and happy they sounded,
those two maidens of the wilderness
from which we have–
who knows to what furious, pitiful extent–
banished ourselves.


From the book The Truro Bear and Other Adventures

Messenger by Mary Oliver


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird--
  equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
  keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
  astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
  and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
  to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
  that we live forever.


From the book Thirst

Luke by Mary Oliver

When I receive updates from the Writers Almanac, I read the poem first, before looking at the author’s name. I read through this little poem and immediately loved it. I then looked to see who the author was. Duh!.. ha, of course it was Mary Oliver!

From: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/


I had a dog
   who loved flowers.
         Briskly she went
              through the fields,

yet paused
   for the honeysuckle
         or the rose,
              her dark head

and her wet nose
   touching
         the face
              of every one

with its petals
   of silk,
         with its fragrance
              rising

into the air
   where the bees,
         their bodies
              heavy with pollen,

hovered—
   and easily
         she adored
              every blossom,

not in the serious,
   careful way
         that we choose
              this blossom or that blossom—

the way we praise or don't praise—
   the way we love
         or don't love—
              but the way

we long to be—
   that happy
         in the heaven of earth—
              that wild, that loving. 

“Daisies” by Mary Oliver, Not Stanley Kunitz

Last night I had in my hand what I thought was a book of poetry by Stanley Kunitz. As I read the poem I was gratified that I had finally found another poem, besides “Layers” and “The Snakes of September” by Kunitz, that resonated for me. As I closed the book to look for a post-it strip to mark the poem with, I realized that I had actually grabbed a Mary Oliver book. Poor Stanley. At least I reached for you. At least I tried. You’re still revered and your book, Passing Through, is still the National Book Award Winner.

Meanwhile, here is Daisies by Mary Oliver


It is possible, I suppose, that sometime
   we will learn everything
there is to learn: what the world is, for example,
   and what it means.  I think this as I am crossing
from one field to another, in summer, and the
   mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either
knows enough already or knows enough to be
   perfectly content not knowing. Song being born
of quest he knows this: he must turn silent
   were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead

oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly
   unanswered. At my feet the white-petaled daisies display
the small suns of their center-piece, their--if you don't
   mind my saying so--their hearts. Of course
I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and
   narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know. 
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
   to see what is plain; what the sun
lights up willingly; for example--I think this
   as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch--
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
   daisies for the field. 

           
                       (Mary Oliver)
 

From Mary Oliver’s Book Here
Buy Stanley Kunitz’s book here

Luna by Mary Oliver

 
 
In the early curtains
  of the dusk
    it flew,
      a slow galloping

This way and that way
  through the trees
    and under the trees.
      I live

in the open mindedness
  of not knowing enough
    about anything
      It was beautiful.

It was silent.
  It didn't even have a mouth.
    But it wanted something,
      it had a purpose

and a few precious hours
  to find it,
    and I suppose it did.
      The next evening

it lay on the ground 
  like a broken leaf
    and didn't move,
      which hurt my heart

which is another small thing
  that doesn't know much.
    When this happened it was about
      the middle of summer,

which also has its purposes
  and only so many precious hours.
    How quietly,
      and not with any assignment from us,

or even a small hint
  of understanding,
    everything that needs to be done
      is done.

(Mary Oliver)

From the book “Why I Wake Early” by Mary Oliver

“Mysteries, Yes” by 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.


From the book Evidence by Mary Oliver