Wednesday, February 22, 2012


By Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Until Monday I had never heard of Mary Oliver. Despite having won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, as well as numerous other awards and fellowships, Oliver failed to make any reading list in my English classes. The canon lives! (though its components are all long dead).

I would have much preferred her work to the rather soporific Romantics. Alas.

I start a new life in two weeks. I'm young (though even half-perfect is questionable) and I'm open to astonishment.

Hey there, moth, I'm leaving town. Let's rejoice.