Mary Oliver was a poet in a world that routinely and ruthlessly crushes poetic vision. She possessed a gentle spirit exquisitely above the petty, soul-defying and self-absorbed epoch we reside in, a world thoughtlessly divorced from the natural world of which it is born of and sustained by. Hers was a vision of connection and invitation.
“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.” – from Wild Geese (1986)
“I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything — other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion — that standing within this otherness — the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books — can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.” – from Staying Alive (1995)
When Death Comes by Mary Oliver (2005)
“When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
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 find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
~ Mary Oliver
Mary did not merely visit this world, she wove her words into its very fabric.
Rest in peace (September 10, 1935 – January 17, 2019).