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A Poem by Mary Oliver


   
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Poet's Choice

By Robert Hass
August 23, 1998

Here's something for summer while it's still with us, from the most recent book by a much-admired and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver of Provincetown, Mass.:

Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun's brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can't hear

anything, I can't see anything --
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker --
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing --
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet --
all of it
happening
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn's beautiful body
is sure to be there.

From West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver. Published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. Copyright 1997 by Mary Oliver. Reprinted by permission.

Robert Hass, former U.S. poet laureate, is the author, most recently, of the collection "Sun Under Wood."

 
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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