Mary Oliver

Don't Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don't hesitate.
Give in to it.
There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be.
We are not wise, and not very often kind.
And much can never be redeemed.
Still, life has some possibility left.
Perhaps this is its way of fighting back,
that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world.
It could be anything,
but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins.
Anyway, that's often the case.
Anyway, whatever it is, don't be afraid of its plenty.
Joy is not made to be a crumb.
~ Mary Oliver, "Don't Hesitate," in SWAN: POEMS AND PROSE POEMS

West Wind

There is life without love. It is not worth a bent penny, or a scuffed shoe...When you hear, a mile away and still out of sight, the churn of the water as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the sharp rocks—when you hear that unmistakable pounding—when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long fall plunging and steaming—then row, row for your life toward it.

~ Mary Oliver from "West Wind" in NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, VOL. 2

The Uses of Sorrow

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
~ Mary Oliver in "The Uses of Sorrow" from THIRST

One or Two Things

The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening

to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,
and never once mentioned forever...

~ Mary Oliver from "One or Two Things" in NEW AND SELECTED POEMS: VOLUME ONE

The Ponds

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

~ Mary Oliver from "The Ponds" in NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, VOL. ONE

God’s other name

I am thinking, or trying to think, about all the
Imponderables for which we have
no answers, yet endless interest all the
Range of our lives...
Mystery, after all, is God’s other name...

But, but---
excuse me now, please; it’s morning, heavenly bright,
and my irrepressible heart begs me to hurry on
Into the next exquisite moment.
~ Mary Oliver from "Trying to Be Thoughtful in the First Brights of Dawn" in SWAN

Why I Wake Early

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.

~ Mary Oliver from "Why I Wake Early" in WHY I WAKE EARLY

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn...

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what will it be like, that cottage of darkness?...

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement...
When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real...

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
~ Mary Oliver, excerpts from "When Death Comes" in NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, VOL. 1

The dream of my life

The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river
And stare at the light in the trees —
To learn something by being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention.

~ Mary Oliver

The light is everything

I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

~ from "The Ponds" by Mary Oliver
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