Evening Star

Mary Oliver


in the woods
snake came
like a whip
like a piece of a circle
like black water
flowing down the hill.
“Watch me,”
it whispered—
then poured
like black water
through the field—
then hurried down,
like black water,
into the mouse’s hole.

And out of this
you might draw
the thinnest of shining threads—

whirl it around and
fling it into the air,
fling it into the air—
again and again it will land on the earth
crimped and cursive, spelling
only the heavy words,
the heart-breaking words—

for, dear God,
we also are down here
in such darkness.


It is easy to fall down on your knees
when the shining rain begins to happen.

It is easy to be thankful
for the bundles of wild roses
ledged along the dune.

It is as easy as if you were yourself a flower in the field,
  the rain tossing you and tossing you,

until you are that flower—
  as torn as muddy as golden as that.


The snake never shuts its eyes.


I have lit candles.
        (Though I am not ready, I am willing.)
I have placed one word next to another
to build something full of praise.
I have admired the hummingbird, dazzling among the lilies.
Also the tooth of the otter, the compost pile,
the first star in the evening sky.
        (Though I am not ready, I am simmering.)


And certainly and easily I can see
how God might be one rose bud,
one white feather in the heron’s enormous, slowly opening wing.
It’s after that 
it gets difficult.


The snake never shuts its eyes.
The mouse sits tight.


The good shepherd of the fields, whoever he is,
has so many wonderful and saucy tricks.

I want to find him,
I want to discover just one more trick.

Oh, nobody runs so hard
as the doubters running over the hot fields,
  crying out for faith,
  looking for it in the high places and the low places,
  looking for it everywhere,

oh, see how I run!


The snake never shuts its eyes.
The mouse sits tight
in the beautiful field.


I went down all alone, to the black pond.
Slow summer day.
No one around.
Not even a bird singing, not a wind awake, nothing.

Yet nothing could ever convince me 
that I was alone.
If God exists he isn’t just butter and good luck—
he isn’t just the summer day the red rose,

he’s the snake he’s the mouse,
he’s the hole in the ground,

for which thoroughness, if anything, I would adore him,
if I could adore him.


Adore him.


The first streak of light in the darkness,
the first bird to sing,
the first whale to rise out of the black water,
the first morning of the spring tide
the first lupine geranium poppy
first sweet corn,
the first afternoon spent outdoors, after illness,

first child 
speaking its first words

first peach on the tree
first grapes
first hand-holding     first kiss

first afternoon of snow
flakes like salt tapping the leaves
then the swirl then the soft clouds tumbling down

first road to the ocean,
first smell of the ocean
first white heron
first abalone,
first crab, iridescent in the seaweed
first mountain
first fern
first egg with a tapping from inside

first rose
red rose    first white rose    opening
itself and no more than itself

and more than itself.


The pickerel
swims up from the pond from its roses of slow decay, and 
looks at me 

What is it I need to know?

The gypsy moths, still caterpillars,
wrench themselves from the milky shreds of birth
and set out on the long journey
in the shining tree.

What is it I don’t know that I need to know?


Think of me
when you see the evening star.
Think of me when you see the wren
  the flowing root of the creek beneath him,
  dark    silver    and cold

Remember me I am the one who told you
he sings for happiness.
I am the one who told you
that the grass is also alive, and listening.

alleluiah alleluiah
sighs the pale green moth 
on the screen door,

alleluiah alleluiah
the red tongues of the white swans
shine out of their black beaks
as they shout
as their wings rise and fall

rise and fall

oh rise and fall

through the thickening flowers of the snow.