From the edge of the woods
her face, alert, liquid eyes, so soft,
she is holding her breath
to make sure I will move on
and cause her no harm.
Our extinction is already assured.
Only 50 years ago, 2.7 billion populated this world-
now 7.7 and climbing with each second hand twitch.
We are consuming everything without a care in the world.
And the world is ready to shake us off like fleas,
to resume her natural earthly course
of morning sunrises and evening moons
and stars that will outshine anything we have ever created.
And I hope those soft liquid eyes will look again over this recovered land
and make her way in perfect fearless strides.
KODAK Digital Still Camera
i paint frescoes on the walls of the old church
where the congregation all say their prayers
out back under stone
inside stained glass shards
evenly before the shadow of the once and future
altars altered by dust and age
ashes to ashes
we all fall down
I like to sleep in a dark room
and there is nowhere dark tonight
with that great vernal moon moving about the night sky.
I can almost hear her, a subtle shirring sound
like I think the workings of an old swiss watch would sound,
tiny golden gears and levers and the motion of a tiny pendulum
gliding so softly back and forth.
I can feel the tidal pull of her deep in my body,
like I imagine a pregnancy would feel
in my old woman uterus-less body,
a body that has never felt that urgent pull
of life in a moonful belly, swollen with light,
never holding an amniotic sluiced child
seconds from her rising up, born moonfaced,
howling moonsongs of all animal young.
Moon light is gliding across the water
as easily as Jesus,
what was he thinking, this moon of a Man-God,
to walk across the stormy sea
and reach out to calm
moon pulled waves under his nailed soled feet.
Moon man, man in the moon, but I know she is a woman.
Only a woman walks from window to window
in the middle of the night,
checking on her children and pulling
her light cotton robe around her shoulders,
padding on worn through soled slippers
that make the faintest shirring sound
gliding so softly against the floor.
my curiosity is piqued
in this greening season of new
this beginning season seeded in hay fields
and birds nests
where everyone raises their faces
to the warming sun
making plans and lists of things to do
but I feel only
not cloaked in sad grays and cold blues
but with eyes wide to the possibilities
of this shedding dead wood
and indeliberate falling away
into the warm vernal sun
The sound of boat or plane
from this distance, I can’t tell which.
The sky resolves into water
from this distance, I can’t tell which
and does it matter.
The leaping fish, rising into the air,
the diving bird, swimming in the sea-
am I fish or fowl in this melodrama?
Rising into the air, breathing salty seas,
feathers, wet and glistening
The soul swims in its own tide,
rising and falling at heavens ebb.
reflections of a thousand moons
in the eye of the lake
the window of old snow
the mirror of the wind
the spoon of the cloud
in a bucket
a bird bath
a polished sliver of petrified wood
on a crystal
a crackerjack ring
a brass button from an old coat
within a raindrop
a clear blue sky
the glass of the frame
where your photo smiles
the door where once you stood
the life you lived
for a thousand moons
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.
from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver