Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Poems for a Sunny Day: Mary Oliver

What a beautiful day! A beautiful day to lounge in the sun, relax, soak up the light. One of those beautiful days you just want to sit and look at it all day, let it seep into your soul. 

And what better poet to read than Mary Oliver on such a day? Her poems really exhibit and explore how beautiful a day it really is, or can be, if we stop to take account of it all,  be attentive and appreciative, really look - 'Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around as though with your arms open.' 

So since reading her today, that's what I've been trying to do. Sitting still in the sunny golden afternoon, looking and marvelling with my arms open.  I saw six pigeons frolick and splash about in the neighbourhood fountain, watched the blue sky haze with heat, lay on the grass, admired the flowers that have sprung up everywhere, got sunburned and listened to the birds singing and the green greening and the clouds drifting and came to the conclusion that yes, this really is a precious life. 

Mary Oliver's luminous sentiments are everywhere to behold, even in the chants of passers-bys' 'beautiful day!' greetings. The simple lyrics of these poems describe something so simple it  sometimes eludes us: to enjoy life.  So don't forget it. And sunny days remind us everytime.

Enjoying the sun, 



Such Singing in the Wild Branches - Mary Oliver

It was spring
and finally I heard him
among the first leaves—
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness—
and that's when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree—
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing—
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfectly blue sky— all, all of them

were singing.
And, of course, yes, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn't last

for more than a few moments.
It's one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you've been there,
you're there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then— open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away.

Peonies - Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
   to break my heart
     as the sun rises,
        as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open--
   pools of lace,
      white and pink--
       and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
    into the curls,
      craving the sweet sap,
        taking it away

to their dark, underground cities--
   and all day
      under the shifty wind,
       as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
   and tip their fragrance to the air,
     and rise,
       their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
    gladly and lightly,
      and there it is again--
        beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
    Do you love this world?
      Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
       Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
   and softly,
      and exclaiming of their dearness,
       fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
    their eagerness
      to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
        nothing, forever? 

The Summer Day - 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? 


  1. A great choice of poems for a day like today:) I love the Mary Oliver badge you've used too!

    1. Thank you very much! The badge I found by googling, I couldn't resist it, it's a perfect accompaniment to the poems.

  2. It's a blessing to be able to see, and fully enjoy the beauty around you.
    Yes, Mary Oliver certainly knows how to squeeze the juice out of every emotion and thought, as I've mentioned she is one of my favorites.
    Keep that joy flowing!

    1. It is indeed. And she certainly does know all about joy. Thank you Esther!


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