Poem for July


By Mary Oliver

Something came up
out of the dark.
It wasn’t anything I had ever seen before.
It wasn’t an animal
or a flower,
unless it was both.

Something came up out of the water,
a head the size of a cat
but muddy and without ears.
I don’t know what God is.
I don’t know what death is.

But I believe they have between them
some fervent and necessary arrangement.

melancholy leaves me breathless.

Later I was in a field of sunflowers.
I was feeling the heat of midsummer.
I was thinking of the sweet, electric
drowse of creation,

when it began to break.

In the West, clouds gathered.
In an hour the sky was filled
with the sweetness of rain and the blast of lighting.
Followed by the deep bells of thunder.

Water from the heavens! Electricity from the source.
Both of them mad to create something.

The lightning brighter than the flowers.
The thunder without a drowsy bone in its body.

Instructions for living:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

Two or three times in my life I discovered love.
Each time it seemed to solve everything.
Each time it solved a great many things
but not everything.
Yet left me as grateful as if it had indeed, and
thoroughly, solved everything.

God, rest in my heart
and fortify me,
take away my hunger for answers,
let the hours play upon my body

like the hands of my beloved.
Let the cathead appear again –
the smallest of your mysteries,
some wild cousin of my own blood probably –
some cousin of my own wild blood probably,
in the black dinner-bowl of the pond.

Death waits for me, I know it, around
one corner or another.
This doesn’t amuse me.
Neither does it frighten me.

After the rain, I went back into the field of sunflowers.
It was cool, and I was anything but drowsy.
I walked slowly, and listened

to the crazy roots, in the drenched earth, laughing and growing.

From Red Bird (2008)

Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019). A wonderful poet who found solace in nature. The New York Times described her as, “far and away the country’s best selling poet.” She won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The poem I have chosen is one I found recently, and it filled me with spiritual life and light and, beautiful “instructions for living a life”. I hope you enjoy. Poem and words contributed by Isla Blair.