Mary Oliver on Clouds


All afternoon, sir,
your ambassadors have been turning
into lakes and rivers.
At first they were just clouds, like any other.
Then they swelled and swirled; then they hung very still'
then they broke open. This is, I suppose,
just one of the common miracles,
a transformation, not a vision,
not an answer, not a proof, but I put it
there, close against my heart, where the need is, and its serves

the purpose. I go on, soaked through, my hair
slicked back;
like corn, or wheat, shining and useful.

This is from Mary Oliver's Why I Wake Early, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the Natioanl Book Award. I confess: I did not obtain, or even try to obtain permission to copy this poem. I am not sure what to do about this. I have been buying and reading and loving Mary Oliver's poems for many years. Should I apologize to her for sharing (stealing? borrowing?) her poem on clouds or should I see my blog as free advertising for Mary Oliver who does not need advertising. She packed Seattle's Benaroya Hall last year; she floated on stage--a wisp of a woman in black--and received a very long (almost embarrasingly long) standing ovation--before she had uttered a word. She waited for every exuberant soul in the audience to sit down and then she looked out and up and said, "There certainly are alot of you."

Still, she deserves every penny I have. Perhaps I should put a blank check in the mail and send it to her through her agent or publisher. Somehow, I do not think she would find my money useful in her pursuit of the soul. Instead, I will keep reading her poems every morning and continue to urge everyone to find her poetry--at your local bookstore, at the library, or online. Here is a link to her books on Powells and to Amazon. Googling "Mary Oliver" will yield a bounty of poems and biographical information about this "shining and useful" woman.