I Brake for Poetry

May 07, 2007 by susan
Blue Iris

In honor of Mary Oliver, reading tonight in Minneapolis.

Some Questions You Might Ask

by Mary Oliver
Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it, and who doesn't?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another.
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it, and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it, and not the camel?
Come to think of it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

Posted in


Poet (not verified) | May 7, 2007 - 7:28pm

For Susan--

Something nice from Mary Oliver to start tomorrow


Salt shining behind its glass cylinder.
Milk in a blue bowl. The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow.
The way she makes her curvaceous response to the small, kind gesture.
Then laps the bowl clean.
Then wants to go out into the world
where she leaps lightly and for no apparent reason across the lawn,
then sits, perfectly still, in the grass.
I watch her a little while, thinking:
what more could I do with wild words?
I stand in the cold kitchen, bowing down to her,
I stand in the cold kitchen, everything wonderful around me


Perhansa (not verified) | May 7, 2007 - 7:47pm

There's a reason animism is the worlds' oldest religious belief system. The poets recognize it--the world is full of soul...wonder and awe are inevitable. Thanks to you both for these gems.

"Don't explain, look." - Wittgenstein


susan | May 8, 2007 - 2:27pm

Thanks to you both! And might I add, Mary Oliver was poet, teacher, and humorist all in one, and I was lucky to take in two dazzling readings, the second this a.m. to a small group at the Loft Literary Center. Maybe the reason I like shy people is because when they let you in, the self they've been preserving has a glowing richness to it, it's not all bleached and drained by years of clamor and light. Between the heady redolence of the purloined lilacs and Mary Oliver's odes to astonishment, I'm having a hard time returning to Bush-world. No rush, it'll catch up with me soon enough.