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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?

White Eyes

by Mary Oliver

In winter 

    all the singing is in 

         the tops of the trees 

             where the wind-bird 

with its white eyes 

    shoves and pushes 

         among the branches. 

             Like any of us 

he wants to go to sleep, 

    but he's restless— 

         he has an idea, 

             and slowly it unfolds 

from under his beating wings 

    as long as he stays awake. 

         But his big, round music, after all, 

             is too breathy to last. 

So, it's over. 

    In the pine-crown 

         he makes his nest, 

             he's done all he can. 

I don't know the name of this bird, 

    I only imagine his glittering beak 

         tucked in a white wing 

             while the clouds— 

which he has summoned 

    from the north— 

         which he has taught 

             to be mild, and silent— 

thicken, and begin to fall 

    into the world below 

         like stars, or the feathers 

               of some unimaginable bird 

that loves us, 

    that is asleep now, and silent— 

         that has turned itself 

             into snow.

Black Oaks

by Mary Oliver


Okay, not one can write a symphony, or a dictionary,


or even a letter to an old friend, full of remembrance and comfort.

Not one can manage a single sound though the blue jays carp and whistle all day in the branches, without the push of the wind.


But to tell the truth after a while I'm pale with longing for their thick bodies ruckled with lichen


and you can't keep me from the woods,

from the tonnage


of their shoulders, and their shining green hair.


Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a little sunshine, a little rain.


Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from one boot to another -- why don't you get going?


For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.


And to tell the truth I don't want to let go of the wrists of idleness,


I don't want to sell my life for money,


I don't even want to come in out of the rain.

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