New and Selected 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 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

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

I don't know exactly what a prayer is

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?

~ excerpt from Mary Oliver's The Summer Day
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