Mourning Mary Oliver

unnamedAs so many others have, I’ve been mourning the death of Mary Oliver this past week. I have re-read many of her poems, discovered new ones, and re-listened to her On Being interview. I have felt simultaneously comforted and bereft. Oh, what a voice we have lost.

Then, when browsing through some past posts, I rediscovered this one from the Thursday after the election. Yeah. That election. It features my then college-aged daughter seeking comfort in Mary Oliver, trying to spread love, and netting some Emily Dickinson. Re-reading it moved me once again to tears and reminded me how much our world has changed in the past few years. Sigh.

Here’s the Mary Oliver poem my daughter quoted from in the linked post:


Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles…

(click here for the rest of this poem)

While Mary Oliver’s words live on and continue to offer a path through the crazy, her death adds to my growing feeling of overwhelming loss and unease. I feel like there’s an insidious malignancy gaining ground and I’ve just lost a critical and powerful ally. So I turn again and again to poetry, to nature, and often to her words for comfort. Again and again.

Image result for it is a serious thing just to be alive

This week’s Poetry Friday Round up is hosted by Tara Smith at her blog Going to Walden. When I read the poem she shared today, a powerful and disturbing Linda Pastan poem, I was struck by how it resonated with the linked post I was sharing and with my own feelings.

Bird Nest



Recently, I found an empty bird nest tucked into the top of a rose bush. I thrilled to touch it, imagining some bird selecting and weaving each thread, instinctively constructing a home. The outside was loosely woven and rougher, with strips of grape vine, maybe? The inner nest cavity was tighter, made with a softer material. Such care was invested in this home and its selected location, safely nestled amidst the thorns. As I ran my finger over it, I thought of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, “With Thanks to the Field Sparrow, Whose Voice is so Delicate and Humble.”

Image result for mary oliver with thanks to the field

Using her work as an inspiration, I wrote this:

With Thanks to the Unknown Bird,
Whose Nest is so Carefully Constructed

I do not live happily
within the harshness of our times
The talk is crass and crude
the politics of hatred and division
Violence stalks the streets
and walks our school halls
The world weeps
Yesterday, in the crown of a blooming rose bush,
I came upon your hidden nest
gently I held it between my hands
marveling at the intricate construction
moved by the knowledge that
within this nest
you warmed your eggs and tended your young
From this nest
your brood took flight into summer skies
My fingers traced the woven fibers
I took comfort in the reminder that
such wonders still happen
within our world

©2018 M. Hogan

For more poetry this week, visit Sylvia Vardell’s blog, Poetry for Children. She’s hosting Poetry Friday Roundup and sharing her (and Janet Wong’s) new book, “Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud.” Be sure to stop by and get an overview of this wonderful soon-to-be-released book!