Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mary

It's the birthday of poet Mary Oliver.



FALL

the black oaks
fling their bronze fruit
into all the pockets of the earth
     pock pock

they knock against the thresholds
the roof the sidewalk
fill the eaves
     the bottom line

of the old gold song
of the almost finished year
what is spring all that tender
     green stuff

compared to this
falling of tiny oak trees
out of the oak trees
     then the clouds

gathering thick along the west
then advancing
then closing over
     breaking open

the silence
then the rain
dashing its silver seeds
     against the house


THE KINGFISHER

The kingfisher rises out of the black wave
like a blue flower, in his beak
he carries a silver leaf. I think this is
the prettiest world--so long as you don't mind
a little dying, how could there be a day in your whole life
that doesn't have its splash of happiness?
There are more fish than there are leaves
on a thousand trees, and anyway the kingfisher
wasn't born to think about it, or anything else.
When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, the water
remains water--hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could believe.
I don't say he's right. Neither
do I say he's wrong. Religiously he swallows the silver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough and easy cry
I couldn't rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back
over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.


EVERY MORNING
                   
I read the papers,
I unfold them and examine them in the sunlight.
The way the red mortars, in photographs,
arc down into neighborhoods
like stars, the way death
combs everything into a gray rubble before
the camera moves on. What
dark part of my soul
shivers: you don't want to know more
about this. And then: you don't know anything
unless you do. How the sleepers
wake and run to the cellars,
how the children scream, their tongues
trying to swim away--
how the morning itself appears
like a slow white rose
while the figures climb over the bubbled thresholds,
move among the smashed cars, the streets
where the clanging ambulances won't
stop all day--death and death, messy death--
death as history, death as a habit--
how sometimes the camera pauses while a family
counts itself, and all of them are alive,
their mouths dry caves of wordlessness
in the smudged moons of their faces,
a craziness we have so far no name for--
all this I read in the papers,
in the sunlight,
I read with my cold, sharp eyes.

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