You’re healed then / from the night

Mary Oliver: Morning at Great Pond

It starts like this:
forks of light
slicking up
out of the east,
flying over you,
and what’s left of night –
its black waterfalls,
its craven doubt –
dissolves like gravel
as the sun appears
trailing clouds
of oink and green wool,
igniting the fields,
turning the ponds
to plates of fire.
The creatures there
are dark flickerings
you make out
one by one
as the light lifts –
great blue herons,
wood ducks shaking
their shimmering crests –
and knee-deep
in the purple shallows
a deer drinking:
as she turns
the silver water
crushes like silk,
shaking the sky,
and you’re healed then
from the night, your heart
wants more, you’re ready
to rise and look!
to hurry anywhere!
to believe in everything.

Mary Oliver is one of the great living American poets. Her work shines with an extraordinary poetic sensibility, a unique sense of how lines and rhythms work. This poem is from her 1983 collection American Primitive, one of her best books, but she continues to write intriguing poetry. Her three most recent collections explore a strong spirituality and epiphanies that seem close to mysticism. It’s strong work, maybe her strongest in years.

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First Languages

Metrical poetry is about: breath. Breath as an intake and a flow. Breath as a pattern. Breath as an indicator, perhaps the most vital one, of mood. Breath as our own personal tie with all the rhythms of the natural world, of which we are a part, from which we can never break apart while we live. Breath as our first language.

First paragraph of Mary Oliver’s Rules for the Dance