I love lots of Mary Oliver’s poetry. She sees and describes nature in a way that puts me RIGHT there with her. And of course her poems are never just about nature–there’s always something to tie the poem into our daily lives–the goals we set, the decisions we make. Here’s one that floors me with its language. Swans are always depicted as white and graceful and beautiful. But here there’s the bondage of its wings (love that!), the shrill dark music, the knifing down black ledges…Delicious:
Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air –
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music – like the rain pelting the trees – like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds –
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
© Mary Oliver. From The Paris Review # 124, Fall, 1992