The Sun by Mary OliverHave you ever seen anything in your life more wonderful than the way the sun, every evening, relaxed and easy, floats toward the horizon and into the clouds or the hills, or the rumpled sea, and is gone-- and how it slides again out of the blackness, every morning, on the other side of the world, like a red flower streaming upward on its heavenly oils, say, on a morning in early summer, at its perfect imperial distance-- and have you ever felt for anything such wild love-- do you think there is anywhere, in any language, a word billowing enough for the pleasure that fills you, as the sun reaches out, as it warms you as you stand there, empty-handed-- or have you too turned from this world-- or have you too gone crazy for power, for things?
The Summer Day by Mary Oliver
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean-- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. 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? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
The Swan by Mary Oliver
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver
Hello, sun in my face. Hello, you who made 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 the 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.
Wild Geeseby Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees For a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting- over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
The Kookaburrasby Mary OliverIn every heart there is a coward and a procrastinator. In every heart there is a god of flowers, just waiting to stride out of a cloud and lift its wings. The kookaburras, pressed against the edge of their cage, asked me to open the door. Years later I remember how I didn't do it, how instead I walked away. They had the brown eyes of soft-hearted dogs. They didn't want to do anything so extraordinary, only to fly home to their river. By now I suppose the great darkness has covered them. As for myself, I am not yet a god of even the palest flowers. Nothing else has changed either. Someone tosses their white bones to the dung-heap. The sun shines on the latch of their cage. I lie in the dark,my heart pounding.
The Journeyby Mary Oliver One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice - - - though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. 'Mend my life!' each voice cried. But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations - - - though their melancholy was terrible.It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice, which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do - - -
Determined to save the only life you could save.
Song of the Buildersby Mary Oliver
On a summer morning I sat down on a hillside to think about God - a worthy pastime. Near me, I saw a single cricket; it was moving the grains of the hillside this way and that way. How great was its energy, how humble its effort. Let us hope it will always be like this, each of us going on in our inexplicable ways building the universe.