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Likely Stories : Thirst, by Mary Oliver

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

According to Wikipedia.  “Mary Jane Oliver passed on January 17, 2019.  She was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.  Her work is inspired by nature, rather than the human world, stemming from her lifelong passion for solitary walks in the wild.  In 2007 she was declared to be the country's best-selling poet.” (Wikipedia) I felt a kinship with her works, and I miss her every day.


As always, it is a tough row to pick out a sample—among her works—and do justice to her vision.  Here is my favorite in this collection: “Messenger” “My work is loving the world. / Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbirds—equal seekers of sweetness. / Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plumbs. / Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. // Are my boots old?  Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?  Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, // which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished. / The phoebe, the delphinium.  The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.  Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here, // which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug up clam, telling them all, over and over, how it is that we live forever.” (1). To my way of thinking this is the best pastoral poem I have ever read.

Here is another, “A Pretty Song” “From the complications of loving you I think there is no end or return.  No answer, no coming out of it. / Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?  This isn’t a playground, this is earth, our heaven for a while. / Therefore, I have given precedence to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods that hold you in the center of my world. / And I say to my body: grow thinner still. And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song.  And I say to my heart: rave on.” (22)

I am a dog lover through and through.  Here is “Percy (Six)” “You’re like a little wild thing that was never sent to school. / Sit, I say, and you jump up. / Come, I say, and you go galloping down the sand to the nearest dead fish with which you perfume your sweet neck. / It is summer.  How many summers does a little dog have? // Run, run, Percy. / This is our school.” (60). My Labs share in those same gleeful days.

Mary Jane Oliver’s latest work, Thirst, wonderful collection for poetry fans for many years to come.  For all of her works, and for all we remember, 10 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!