Thursday, January 17, 2019

When Death Comes

Mary Oliver

September 10, 1935 - January 17, 2019

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
~ Mary Oliver ~

Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose work focused on spirituality, nature and New England, died Thursday in Florida. She was 83.
Oliver was born in Ohio in 1935. She published her first collection, "No Voyage and Other Poems," in 1963. Over 20 volumes of poetry would follow, including "American Primitive," which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, and "New and Selected Poems," which garnered the National Book Award in 1992.
Many of Oliver's poems are set in New England, where she spent much of her adult life. She moved to Florida in 2005 after the death of her partner, Molly Malone Cook.
In addition to nature, her poetry was infused with spirituality. In a 2012 interview with NPR, she said, "I think one thing is that prayer has become more useful, interesting, fruitful, and ... almost involuntary in my life. And when I talk about prayer, I mean really ... what Rumi says in that wonderful line, 'there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.' I'm not theological, specifically, I might pick a flower for Shiva as well as say the hundredth [psalm]."