Swan Quotes

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Swan: Poems and Prose Poems Swan: Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver
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Swan Quotes (showing 1-14 of 14)
How I go to the woods

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. (Don't Hesitate)”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“The sweetness of dogs (fifteen)

What do you say, Percy? I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise. Full tonight.
So we go

and the moon rises, so beautiful it
makes me shudder, makes me think about
time and space, makes me take
measure of myself: one iota
pondering heaven. Thus we sit,

I thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! How rich
it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up into
my face. As though I were
his perfect moon.”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“When

When it’s over, it’s over, and we don’t know
any of us, what happens then.
So I try not to miss anything.
I think, in my whole life, I have never missed
The full moon
or the slipper of its coming back.
Or, a kiss.
Well, yes, especially a kiss.”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“On the beach, at dawn:
Four small stones clearly
Hugging each other.

How many kinds of love
Might there be in the world,
And how many formations might they make

And who am I ever
To imagine I could know
Such a marvelous business?

When the sun broke
It poured willingly its light
Over the stones

That did not move, not at all,
Just as, to its always generous term,
It shed its light on me,

My own body that loves,
Equally, to hug another body.”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“The poet dreams of the mountain

Sometimes I grow weary of the days, with all their fits and starts.
I want to climb some old gray mountains, slowly, taking
The rest of my lifetime to do it, resting often, sleeping
Under the pines or, above them, on the unclothed rocks.
I want to see how many stars are still in the sky
That we have smothered for years now, a century at least.
I want to look back at everything, forgiving it all,
And peaceful, knowing the last thing there is to know.
All that urgency! Not what the earth is about!
How silent the trees, their poetry being of themselves only.
I want to take slow steps, and think appropriate thoughts.
In ten thousand years, maybe, a piece of the mountain will fall.”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“Percy wakes me (fourteen)

Percy wakes me and I am not ready.
He has slept all night under the covers.
Now he’s eager for action: a walk, then breakfast.
So I hasten up. He is sitting on the kitchen counter
Where he is not supposed to be.
How wonderful you are, I say. How clever, if you
Needed me,
To wake me.
He thought he would a lecture and deeply
His eyes begin to shine.
He tumbles onto the couch for more compliments.
He squirms and squeals: he has done something
That he needed
And now he hears that it is okay.
I scratch his ears. I turn him over
And touch him everywhere. He is
Wild with the okayness of it. Then we walk, then
He has breakfast, and he is happy.
This is a poem about Percy.
This is a poem about more than Percy.
Think about it.”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“In your hands

The dog, the donkey, surely they know
They are alive.
Who would argue otherwise?

But now, after years of consideration,
I am getting beyond that.
What about the sunflowers? What about
The tulips, and the pines?

Listen, all you have to do is start and
There’ll be no stopping.
What about mountains? What about water
Slipping over rocks?

And speaking of stones, what about
The little ones you can
Hold in your hands, their heartbeats
So secret, so hidden it may take years

Before, finally, you hear them?”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“The poet dreams of the classroom

I dreamed
I stood up in class
And I said aloud:

Teacher,
Why is algebra important?

Sit down, he said.

Then I dreamed
I stood up
And I said:

Teacher, I’m weary of the turkeys
That we have to draw every fall.
May I draw a fox instead?

Sit down, he said.

Then I dreamed
I stood up once more and said:

Teacher,
My heart is falling asleep
And it wants to wake up.
It needs to be outside.

Sit down, he said.”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“How heron comes

It is a negligence of the mind
not to notice how at dusk
heron comes to the pond and
stands there in his death robes, perfect
servant of the system, hungry, his eyes
full of attention, his wings
pure light”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“Sing, if you can sing, and it not still be
musical inside yourself.”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“Tom Dancer’s gift of a whitebark pine cone

You never know
What opportunity
Is going to travel to you,
Or through you.

Once a friend gave me
A small pine cone-
One of a few
He found in the scat

Of a grizzly
In Utah maybe,
Or Wyoming.
I took it home

And did what I supposed
He was sure I would do-
I ate it,
Thinking

How it had traveled
Through that rough
And holy body.
It was crisp and sweet.

It was almost a prayer
Without words.
My gratitude, Tom Dancer,
For this gift of the world
I adore so much
And want to belong to.
And thank you too, great bear”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
“I Worried"

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.”
Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
tags: poetry

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