For Mary

February 14, 2012

a black bear 
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain. 
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities

it is also this dazzling darkness
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her-
her white teeth
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.


Spring by M. Oliver


  1. Such a beautiful poem and image. I had not realized that Mary Oliver is ill, so thank you for this post. Hers is a voice like no other.

  2. Your painting and this poem are so beautiful they've made me cry this gray rainy morning (in the best of ways). Thank you.

  3. This is very beautiful--your image, her poem. I didn't know her but am sad to know she is ill. I searched her on Twitter and there are many beautiful quotes being posted. I will look up her work.

  4. I had just found out last night via Orion magazine that Mary Oliver was very ill. If you are not familiar with her work, you must seek it out! The way she writes of the human/nature connection always leads to such a deep and true place.

  5. I'm so sorry to hear that Mary Oliver is ill. Like Gary Snyder she strikes a chord within me that resonates with "all my relations" (i.e., Mitakuye Oyasin - Your painting complements her poem beautifully!

  6. I am not familiar with Gary Snyder, but will have to check his work out. I am also embarrassed to say that I was not familiar with the phrase "mitakuye oyasin". A beautiful concept and one that Oliver's poetry definitely communicates.

  7. What a wonderful image to accompany Mary's words.

  8. I first discovered Mary Oliver's work while I was at Ragdale, and a poet there recommended her. I've since seen her work surface many times as I've prepped wedding ceremonies -- her lyricism and simplicity lend themselves so beautifully to that milieu. It's very sad to hear that she's ill. Thanks for the reminder of why her words are so imporant, and how she's made such an indelible mark.

  9. I didn't know of Mary Oliver, thanks for introducing her to my life. I'm especially drawn to her connection to Cape Cod.


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