A Poem by Mary Oliver

I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to adjust to “the new reality” – the struggle to get to a post-Covid19 world. Because the pandemic isn’t over, although a lot of people are trying to pretend that it is.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019 ) was a prolific American poet who was born in Ohio, and won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. The New York Times called her “America’s best-selling poet.”

Unfortunately, too many Americans think they don’t like poetry. They probably had bad experiences with poetry in school. I had a bad experience with e. e. cummings because of a truly awful English teacher in high school, and I didn’t give him another chance until a several years later, when a friend of mine coaxed me into reading some of her favorite e. e. cummings poems.

If ever there was a poet who could overcome the traumas suffered in bad English classes, it’s Mary Oliver. Her poems are clear and direct, deceptively simple. She connects us with the natural world with a child’s sense of wonder, and the wisdom of a real grown-up.

And I think this particular poem of hers also has something to say about our transitional “new reality.”

To read Mary Oliver’s poem ‘Heavy’ click:


by Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had his hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel,
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it–
books, bricks, grief–
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

“Heavy” from Thirst: Poems by Mary Oliver, © 2006 by Mary Oliver – Beacon Press

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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2 Responses to A Poem by Mary Oliver

  1. Great choice of poem for this topic!

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