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Date(s) - 01/24/2019 - 01/31/2019
12:00 am

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And finally,  a poem by a poet who has left us . . . but left her poems behind

The Spirit Likes to Dress Up

          by Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019)

The spirit

  likes to dress up like this:

   ten fingers,

   ten toes,

shoulders, and all the rest

  at night

   in the black branches,

     in the morning

in the blue branches

  of the world.

   It could float, of course,

     but would rather

plumb rough matter.

  Airy and shapeless thing,

   it needs

     the metaphor of the body,

lime and appetite,

  the oceanic fluids;

   it needs the body’s world,

     instinct

and imagination

  and the dark hug of time,

   sweetness

     and tangibility,

to be understood,

  to be more than pure light

   that burns

     where no one is –

so it enters us –

  in the morning

   shines from brute comfort

     like a stitch of lightning;

and at night

  lights up the deep and wondrous

   drownings of the body

     like a star.

Mary Oliver, who cited Walt Whitman as an influence, is best known for her awe-filled, often hopeful, reflections on and observations of nature. “Mary Oliver’s poetry is an excellent antidote for the excesses of civilization,” wrote one reviewer, “for too much flurry and inattention, and the baroque conventions of our social and professional lives. She is a poet of wisdom and generosity whose vision allows us to look intimately at a world not of our making.” A prolific writer with more than 20 volumes of verse to her credit, Oliver received a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for her collection American Primitive. Her poems — those about nature as well as those on other subjects — are suffused with a pulsating, almost mystical spirituality, as in the work of the American Transcendentalists. Readers are also drawn to Ms. Oliver’s poems by their quality of confiding intimacy; to read one is to accompany her on one of her many walks through the woods or by the shore.