clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world

Like black blossoms


by Mary Oliver

In April
The ponds open
like black blossoms.

The Moon
swims in every one,
there’s fire
everywhere: frogs shouting
their desire,
their satisfaction. What
we know: that time
chops at us all like an iron
hoe, that death
is a state of paralysis. What
we long for: joy
before death, nights
in the swale– everything else
can wait but not this thrust
from the root
of the body. What

we know: we are more
than blood– we are more
than our hunger and yet

We belong
to the moon and when the ponds
open, when the burning
begins the most
thoughtful among us dreams
of hurrying down
into the black petals,
into the fire,
into the night where time lies shattered,
into the body of another.

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets. She has such a particular voice, able to pierce into the heart of nature and find such humanity, as well as humility, there. She is a master of the metaphor, using images of flowers and trees, bears and bees, to reach inside her soul and pull out our brokenness, our desires, our longing to be one with the spirit of all things. Her poetry has moved me for as long as I have known it, many years now.

There were times when I wished that I too could write wonderful, lyrical poetry. I even tried now and again. I have realized that it is an artform which is simply beyond me.  My love of writing takes on the form of prose naturally, and the discipline of paring, whittling, and refining words into lyric poetry is simply too difficult for me to do it well. But my appreciation of the master poets, both men and women, is unbounded.

I admit I am a product of my epoch. The old poets of renown, the Shelleys, Keats, and Wordsworths of history cannot hold my attention for very long. I am a terrible scholar and horrid student by now. Give me modern verses, short phrases, contemporary language, please! I am perhaps a reverse snob: I have no patience for flowery, middle English; for language which my brain must stretch to comprehend. Give me the moderns, the ones I can read and get without huge effort! And may the Gods of Classical Poetry have mercy on my soul.

Dear Readers, forgive me my indolence and reverse snobbery. Thank goodness I am not about to enter a freshman college English literature course in September. The eighteen year olds of the world have plenty of healthy brain cells, brimming with curiosity and capacity to absorb the wonderful delights of Eighteenth century English lyric poetry without me. Leave me my twentieth and twenty-first century prose poetry please!  (and feel free to berate  and scold me if you are one of the scholarly types and find yourself shocked at my shameless honesty.)

So in the spirit of this, my simple desire for plainly beautiful poetic language, here is an excerpt from an Anne Sexton poem, Welcome Morning.

 All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning

and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table

in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
dies young.


Author: SingingBones

When we sing over the bones, we are calling the wild nature, the instinctive soul back, singing it alive again. To live with our wildness intact, is the greatest gift a woman can give herself. "It is the holy poetry and singing we are after." C.P. Estes

9 thoughts on “Like black blossoms

  1. Not only are we dear friends, but we have the same taste in poets! Mary Oliver long ago won my heart and her poetry speaks to me like no other. As you say, she captures the essence of soul … our pain as well as our joy and longing.


  2. I agree with you about poetry – clear, concise, unmuddled is my choice too.


  3. Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets, too. But I’m not that familiar with Anne Sexton yet… Like you, I admire poets, especially the ones who use nature in their metaphors, but haven’t got what it takes to write it myself. Love that frog!


  4. Nothing wrong with shameless honesty!

    I began my poetic education backwards, too–no introduction to poets in school, so I met them in college in contemporary poetry courses and never “got” Keats, Ovid, Wordsworth, Hardy (et al).

    However, much (MUCH) later, in grad school as a grownup (40+ years old), I did some scholarly study and learned a good deal from those dead white guys under the tutelage of enlightened and intelligent mentors.

    Been a fan of Oliver’s since 1979…I love these lines in the first poem:

    everything else
    can wait but not this thrust
    from the root
    of the body.

    She nails it, doesn’t she?


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