Mary Oliver Mondays: A Lesson from Late Summer #Poetry #Summer #Roses #MaryOliver

Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina on

Summer draws to a close, a new week begins, and I return to the deepening ground of Mary Oliver’s poetry. Hear the invitation to spend our lives “on some / unstinting happiness,” but not according to the world’s definition. Rather, the simple overlooked gifts that poets like Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry capture so beautifully. Help me, Lord, to live fully and cease asking the “foolish question[s].” (Pay special attention to that last stanza!)

Roses, Late Summer by Mary Oliver

What happens
to the leaves after
they turn red and golden and fall
away? What happens

to the singing birds
when they can't sing
any longer? What happens
to their quick wings?

Do you think there is any
personal heaven
for any of us?
Do you think anyone,

the other side of that darkness,
will call to us, meaning us?
Beyond the trees
the foxes keep teaching their children

to live in the valley.
So they never seem to vanish, they are always there
in the blossom of light
that stands up every morning

in the dark sky.
And over one more set of hills,
along the sea,
the last roses have opened their factories of sweetness

and are giving it back to the world.
If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

From Mary Oliver: Devotions – The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, published by Penguin Press, New York, 2017: pgs. 322-323.

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