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God is speaking to me today, through Mary Oliver….

March 22, 2009

I went to church and all, but it seems to me that lately God speaks most loudly to me through Mary Oliver.  Here’s something that smacked me between the eyes when I got home from grocery shopping today, and was spending a few quiet moments reflecting (read this as reading alone in the bathroom…the only place I can truly, occassionally, be alone.)



Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman’s boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don’t you?


I wanted
the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close, and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of the song
where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery;
I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was

for a little while.


It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don’t know what they were,
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.


Also I wanted
to be able to love.  And we all know
how that one goes,
don’t we?



the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.


You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it’s the same old story —
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.


And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.


And probably,
if they don’t waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2009 4:02 pm

    Mary Oliver’s poetry is sometimes just what the Divine ordered. It has been used to speak to me lately as well.

    I think one could read this particular poem for hours on end and not get to all of it. It is deep. Thanks for sharing.

    (My mother used to hide in the bathroom for hours with her books and cigarettes while we pounded on the door for her to come out. Now, even though all of her children are in middle age, she still hides out there. Some habits are hard to break.)

  2. episcopalifem permalink*
    March 22, 2009 4:05 pm

    ((((((((Laura)))))))) Heee…moms have their ways, that’s for sure!

  3. Sherry permalink
    March 22, 2009 4:39 pm

    Oh thanks. Such love sentiments. Just what I needed today. I may have to check out more about her!

  4. March 22, 2009 7:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Eileen. My long-time favorite is “Wild Geese.”

    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.

  5. March 22, 2009 8:57 pm

    Oh yes – this is lovely, beautiful.

  6. episcopalifem permalink*
    March 22, 2009 9:04 pm

    I almost posted that one Doxy….I’m reading New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1, and all those goodies are in there!

  7. March 24, 2009 6:55 pm

    I’ve been reading Mary Oliver too for my devotional time. It’s what I need this year.

    And I’ve got my husband doing it too. tee hee

  8. jadz permalink
    April 6, 2010 5:35 pm

    I got a ? about the dogfish is it real it looks like a trout

  9. healing2 permalink
    June 16, 2010 2:50 pm

    Love Mary Oliver- first read her in high school and she has influenced my writing heavily.

    @jadz- no that picture is not a dogfish- it’s a trout with a dog’s face photo shopped onto it. A dogfish is actually a small shark.

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