Mary Oliver Reminds Me


Bound by the shared weight of winter,
the empty bird feeder and I
let down our neighbors, as our emptiness
lets in the cold, the sleet and the
wet indifference of early snowfall.
Where is our divinity, our seed,
our stored warmth and harvest?

In the waiting armchair, beside
the banging, hissing radiator,
the words of Mary Oliver remind me
to find that place in myself
that remembers water lilies, golden light,
herons rising, the beating wings of swans,
while my tea cools and my cookie vanishes.

Copyright 2016 Brenda Davis Harsham

Notes: Here, Mary Oliver reminds me:

“In the pinewoods is where the owl floats, and where the white egret paces, in summer, like a winged snake, in the flashing shallows. Here is where two deer approached me one morning, in an unforgettable sweetness, their faces like light brown flowers, their eyes kindred and full of curiosity. The mouth of one of them, and its vibrant tongue, touched my hand” (p. 96).   The “door to the woods is the door to the temple” (p. 98).

— From Oliver’s Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems and Poems (Houghton Mifflin Company, copyright 1999)

Poetry Friday with kids

Happy Poetry Friday and nearly Happy New Year! A nor’easter is stomping through like a careless giant, downing tree limbs and sparking lightning, but I am snug and dry in my favorite armchair, sipping Winter Hours like cognac. Thanks to Donna Smith at Mainely Write who is hosting this last Poetry Party of the year.

A magical New Year to everyone!

83 thoughts on “Mary Oliver Reminds Me

  1. Reblogged this on A Few of My Favorite Things… and commented:
    I love this beautiful poem by Brenda and Mary Oliver’s words—such a wonderful homage to nature. Thank God for that place inside ourselves that is joyful, hopeful and strong.

    It brings to mind one of my favourite Albert Camus quotes, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

    ― Albert Camus

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy New Year, Brenda! That first stanza is just exquisite, and not only because it captures a little of the empty helplessness I feel as I look out at the world right now. Thanks for bringing me your (and Mary’s) encouragement.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s hard not to feel emptied out after the past two months. Turning to poetry, to Mary Oliver is exactly right. Thank you for sharing your lovely poem and these wise words: The “door to the woods is the door to the temple” (p. 98). Happy New Year, Brenda!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed your double worlds of armchair, hissing radiator, tea and disappearing cookie, while you get captured by Mary Oliver’s delight in nature. I’m sure the birds will forgive you for leaving their feeder unattended.

    Happy New Year to you and your family, Brenda!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely response to Mary Oliver, Brenda. I love this, “The ‘door to the woods is the door to the temple'” That’s one of those lines that begs to be tacked up over my desk.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mary Oliver reminds us all to notice things, the ordinary, miraculous things. Like your empty bird feeder symbolizing the cold winter, that emptiness we need to fill.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, my goodness the words take my breath away. The shared weight of winter. Beautiful. Beautiful. I have the book on my wish list and haven’t allowed myself to purchase until I get through a few on my TBR pile. I’d best get cracking. I feel that I need Oliver’s words if this is what they do to a poet.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the shared weight of winter ! Mary Oliver is great at reminding us to be present in our own lives, and to be grateful for the beauty that is all around us. Happy new Year! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Brenda, this is one of my favorites of yours. Your photo is gorgeous and I love the beginning line: “Bound by the shared weight of winter”. The mood of that first stanza is so beautifully crafted. Then, TA DA!!!! Mary Oliver to the rescue! Someone should send that woman a superhero cape! Wishing you a wonderful 2017 and minimal mid-winter doldrums!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Your poem captures that particular mid winter angst beautifully. It is so strange to read it here on a summer evening. It’s funny how you forget just how intense winter can get yet when in the grips of it there seems to be nothing else.

    Liked by 1 person

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