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Likely Stories -- 12 Moons by Mary Oliver


Mary Oliver is a national treasure and I hold her wonders in my heart

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

Mary Oliver recently passed, and I find myself missing her magnificent works. The Twelve Moons is another of her priceless works.

I begin with my favorites as I usually do. SPRING. In April the Morgan was bred. I was chased away. I heard the cries of the horses where I waited, And the Laughter of the men. Later the farmer who owned the stallion Found me and said, ‘She’s done. You tell your daddy he owes me fifty dollars.’ I rode her at home at her leisure And let her, wherever she wanted, Tear with her huge teeth, roughly, Blades from the fields of spring.

STONE POEM. Most are standing, Flat, like tongues, Still full of poems, and back-fence gossip. Some are ponderous, pressed To the earth, the length of bones. Good-by, they say. Good riddance. A few are ornate, piled And corniced, like little houses For rich men sleeping. Here and there a lamb Of granite lifts its granite Eyes above the grass.

BATS. In the blue air the bats float touching no leaf. Science has shown how they capture their prey – months, mosquitoes – in the middle of flight in the fold of a wing, and how they hang by the millions, socially, in caves. But the night still comes the unexplained figure slipping in and out of bedrooms, in and out the soft throats of women. For science is only the golden boat on the dark river such fur on the cheeks, such teeth of blood, where women dream beneath the kiss.

SWAMP.  Muskrats float like small bears, then drive down To the mud. Sour as old milk It wits, gray nightmare, To rise up with every turbulence. Some birds with sharp wings fly over, And schools of fish Flash through the shallows, and stands Or rusty cattails Rattle like scrap metal. But it’s not These who set nervousness clanging in the blood—It’s the unseen Creepers, the venomous crawlers, the lurkers, squirmers; The mute, the heavy, The slow.

STORM.  The temperature Cruises down zero, Meets at the crosses under To the dark side Of winter. Soon I have to scrap frost away To watch it withdrawing Into itself, along the minuses, All evening. Heaven Help us! I say. But Heaven Is full of spitting snow, And the deer lying In the pine grove outside of town, The foxes plunging home, Even the crows, plumb as black rock in the cold trees, Are beginning to shiver. But they Can hear the wreck of the storm. Patient As stones or leaves or clumps of slay, What saves them is thinking that dying Is only floating away into The life of the snow.

FLOWER MOON—HOW SHE TRAVELS. She moves only by night and on a south wind, The wild ducks are her envoys, flying ahead, scouting the ponds, summoning turtles and dragonflies out of the beds of roots and mood. The wagon she hauls with her is full of new leaves which she sprinkles over the trees as she passes, crying out the words necessary to birth; and small fish she shakes into ditches and streams; and once I saw her lift from her wagon the Flower Moon, round and full and milk-white as a woman’s breast, and she kissed it, she sang to it, she tossed it high above the trees, then gave another to the shining river.

Mary Oliver is a national treasure and I hold her wonders in my heart. I only need two more books to complete my set of her marvelous works. 10 Stars!

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