What Mary Oliver Knows

Mary Oliver knows how to be alone

I want to walk in the woods with Mary

Or spend a while

Laying in the grass

Listening to the whole earth singing


This is what Mary knows:

We are never alone


When she sees the geese flying overhead

She hears a message from God

She says we don’t have to be good

She says we are already loved


I want to know what Mary knows

That beauty is a thing to be seen

Not owned

That love and possession aren’t the same

That beauty isn’t a thing at all, but a revelation

That the songbirds don’t seek to cage or be caged

But only to send their notes skyward

Their simple prayer

The clearest announcement

Just be

Just be

Just be


For Mark

He was 75

He wore an old sweater and good shoes

He had horn-rimmed reading glasses that hid his glinty eyes

It had all the effect of painting him an elder hipster


He danced tango with his much younger wife

He made inappropriate jokes during class

Like me, he was bored

Thrice married, supporting his step-children through college

I couldn’t tell if his own children were estranged


I couldn’t find his obituary but

I did read the article about the accident

A motorcycle seems risky at 75

But then again, so does a third wife


The truck hit him from the side, and

He was thrown from the bike

He died on the side of a Southern California Highway

And isn’t that just like him,

To dance on out of this world and into the next?


He said, don’t go to Argentina with a beautiful woman

Unless, of course, you want to fall in love


But I didn’t need to go to Argentina

I went to St Louis

I sat by an older man in a corporate training class

He teased me and checked his stock portfolio while

We were supposed to be paying attention and instead

We just barely survived fake-nice Linda together


I fell in love with the way he loved life

And made fun of the inspirational sayings in my planner


I hope he wasn’t cold and

I hope he didn’t hurt and

I hope he’s dancing tango with an angel

Right now




Modern Window Dressing

I’ve become so attuned to that which isn’t real

And with each injection and photo filter, I too, drift into that ethereal space

To know and be deeply known is what I say I want

But I fear that I am already gone, floating atop a wave of likes and manicured selfies

Updating my status while my children try to get my attention

I don’t understand why “be here now” is the hardest commandment to keep

I don’t understand why “tell me about yourself” is the hardest question to answer