In Memory of Mary Oliver

by Mary Oliver


In winter
all the singing is in
the tops of the trees
where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
shoves and pushes
among the branches.
Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
but he’s restless—
he has an idea,
and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
as long as he stays awake.
But his big, round music, after all,
is too breathy to last.

So, it’s over.
In the pine-crown
he makes his nest,
he’s done all he can.

I don’t know the name of this bird,
I only imagine his glittering beak
tucked in a white wing
while the clouds—

which he has summoned
from the north—
which he has taught
to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
into the world below
like stars, or the feathers
of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
that is asleep now, and silent—
that has turned itself
into snow.


American poet Mary Oliver died yesterday, 17 January 2019, at age 83. We who loved her still have her books to read and treasure. May she rest in peace. ~ JO


Celebrating just over fifty years of holy matrimony, I am blessed to be a mother of two and grandmother of seven. Much of my writing speaks to the culture and tradition of the Deep South, where I spent the first thirty-five years of my life before relocating to the Pacific Northwest. As a poet and essayist, I’ve published both online and in print media. I launched this INVITATION TO THE GARDEN blog the summer of 2017 on I look forward to hearing your stories, too!

7 thoughts on “In Memory of Mary Oliver”

  1. Dear Jo, we mourn the loss of Mary Oliver too. We were exchanging our favourite poems of hers today. Mine is Wild Swans. Her ability to voice the thoughts of so many was a wonderful gift. Thanks for a lovely tribute.


    1. You’re welcome, Robyn. I’m surprised that PBS News Hour tonight didn’t even mention Mary Oliver, let alone show an footage of any previous — albeit rare — interviews. Oh, well, maybe next week? ~ Jo

      On Fri, Jan 18, 2019 at 6:40 PM Invitation to the Garden wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary Oliver’s work is simple and pure, but more than mere pretty words. She writes the essence, allowing her solitary walks in nature — whether in the woods, along a river, or at the seashore — guide her thoughts. I think you may enjoy reading her. WILD GEESE and BLUE IRIS are to that come to mind. You’ll find many others, as she was quite prolific!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Albert. That really is a lovely picture of Mary Oliver, and Billy Collins is another favorite poet of mine. Interesting the contrast between the two lines of people waiting for their books to be signed. I would have gushed over each one. Of course, Billy Collins being who he is, he has to poke a bit of fun at himself. That’s part of his charm. Mary Oliver, on the other hand, speaks to the solitude in me as I observe nature around me. She’s not funny at all. Just serene. ~ Jo

      On Sat, Feb 2, 2019 at 2:41 PM Invitation to the Garden wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

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