Saturday, January 19, 2019

bloody crossings, flaring winds

In MFA school, I once took a class devoted to Anne Sexton, Mary Oliver, & Sharon Olds. This week, when Mary Oliver died, it found me thinking of her work and why perhaps she's never been a favorite. I should be drawn to her work as someone who likes nature in poems and women poets in general.  I greatly appreciate endlessly her long and stable career....and that use of nature, which is always lush and descriptive, and beautifully attenuated to sound. But but like many poets of her generation & style, there was always, the pat wrap up.  The I came, I saw, I had an epiphany of so much verse.  Compare it to Louise Gluck, who does it less, but still sometimes, or Jorie Graham, who barely does it at all.

Which is not to say, there isn't something still to be appreciated in this sort of work.  In honor of her passing, below is my favorite Oliver piece.

Wolf Moon

by Mary Oliver

Now is the season
of hungry mice,
cold rabbits,
lean owls
hunkering with their lamp-eyes
in the leafless lanes
in the needled dark;
now is the season
when the kittle fox
comes to town
in the blue valley
of early morning;
now is the season
of iron rivers,
bloody crossings,
flaring winds,
birds frozen
in their tents of weeds,
their music spent
and blown like smoke
to the stone of the sky;
now is the season
of the hunter Death;
with his belt of knives,
his black snowshoes,
he means to cleanse
the earth of fat;
his grey shadows
are out and running - under
the moon, the pines,
down snow-filled trails they carry
the red whips of their music,
their footfalls quick as hammers,
from cabin to cabin,
from bed to bed,
from dreamer to dreamer.

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