A Mary Oliver Morning in New Jersey

Remembering the Pulitzer-winning poet who wrote of things around us

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) by Jill Krementz on on October 8, 2013 at Barnes & Noble in Union Square.

It was a Mary Oliver morning, meaning that a storm was coming and we could see the squirrels frantically digging and searching for more. The sun was hazy, as the clouds began crowding the sky. The dog nosed my bare hand with something that felt like love

It was a Mary Oliver morning, because we stood quietly for a moment to hear birds calling, birds warning, and we listened for the wind that we knew is coming.

It was a Mary Oliver morning because the world around us was made up of trees and animals and incoming storms and of the people who were waiting patiently to observe it all.

The dog’s water bowl was filled with a perfect circle of ice, two Japanese maple leaves frozen inside. One leaf, the larger, seemed to protect the smaller. It was a Mary Oliver morning, although she is gone, because the vast bowl of the sky remains and the rest of us will keep watch on the world around us.

A frozen leaf. (Rebecca Kurson)

Driving Through the Wind River Reservation: A Poem of Black Bear

Mary Oliver, from her book Dream Work

In the time of snow, in the time of sleep.

The rivers themselves changed into links

of white iron, holding everything. Once

she woke deep in the leaves under

the fallen tree and peered

through the loose bark and saw him:

a tall white bone

with thick  shoulders, like a wrestler,

roaring the saw-toothed music

of wind and sleet, legs pumping

up and down the hills.

Well, she thought, he’ll wear himself out

running around like that.

She slept again

while he drove on through the trees,

snapping off the cold pines, gasping,

rearranging over and over

the enormous drifts. Finally one morning

the sun rose up like a pot of blood

and his knees buckled.

Well, she whispered from the leaves,

that’s that. In the distance

the ice began to boom and wrinkle

and a dampness

that could not be defeated began

to come from her, her breathing

enlarged, oh, tender mountain, she rearranged

herself so that the cubs

could slide from her body, so that the rivers

would flow.

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Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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