Mary Oliver


Oliver, Mary. Thirst. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2007. Paperback: 9780807068977.


“This collection of forty-three new poems introduces two new directions in Mary Oliver’s work. Grappling with grief at the death of her beloved partner of over forty years, she strives to experience sorrow as a path to spiritual progress, grief as part of loving and not its end. And within these pages she chronicles for the first time her discovery of faith, without abandoning the love of the physical world that has been a hallmark of her work for four decades.”



“… If you will, you can become all flame. —From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers


“My work is loving the world” (1)

“my work, / which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished” (1)

Walking Home from Oak-Head

“I’ll stand in the doorway / stamping my boots and slapping my hands, / my shoulders / covered with stars” (3)

When I Am Among the Trees

“I am so distant from the hope of myself, / in which I have goodness, and discernment, / and never hurry through the world / but walk slowly, and bow often” (4)

“‘It’s simple,’ they say, / ‘and you too have come / into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled / with light, and to shine’” (4)

Musical Notation: 1

“Clouds are not only vapor, but shape, mobility, silky sacks of nourishing rain” (7)

When the Roses Speak, I Pay Attention

“‘As long as we are able to / be extravagant we will be / hugely and damply / extravagant. Then we will drop / foil by foil to the ground. This / is our unalterable task, and we do it / joyfully’” (9)


“God, how did it ever come to you to / invent Time?” (18)

More Beautiful than the Honey Locust Tree Are the Words of the Lord

“she was born into the poem that God made, and called the world” (31)

The Place I Want to Get Back To

“Such gifts, bestowed / can’t be repeated” (36)


“this isn’t / a contest but the doorway / into thanks, and a silence in which / another voice may speak” (37)


“Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe / the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move, maybe / the lake far away, where once he walked as on a blue pavement, / lay still and waited, wild awake” (45)

“Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not / keep the vigil, how they must have wept, / so utterly human, knowing this too / must be a part of the story” (45)

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