Poetry Thursday ... when the time comes to let go ...

Blackwater Woods

This week's totally optional idea on Poetry Thursday is to write about or share a poem about time, however we interpret that concept. I am being lazy this week (actually, I am being overwhelmed with work projects this week) so I am posting someone else's poem instead of writing my own.

I was first introduced to Mary Oliver's poetry during a massage session. My massage therapist read me the poem, Wild Geese ... and I found myself weeping -- tears of both sadness and acceptance for my own life's journey -- on her massage table.

That was over 20 years ago. The next year, I was asked to read something at a friend's memorial service and I chose Oliver's poem, In Blackwater Woods. Since then I have grown to admire and respect Mary Oliver -- to love her poetry and to wish that she would be honored as the Poet Laureate of the U.S. someday. I can think of no one I would rather see honored that way.

So, today I want to share one of those first two poems of Oliver's -- the one that I felt ) and still feel) most connected to, In Blackwater Woods.

I have made several mixed media collages specifically to illustrate this poem. I hope you enjoy reading this poem in this context, even if you have read it hundreds of times before ... or if you have never come across Oliver's poems, I am honored to introduce you to her work:

Dusk at Blackwater Wood, originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails are bursting
and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Poem by Mary Oliver

for more about Mary Oliver and a few of her poems, check out the page about her at the Academy of American Poets.

Check out other Poetry Thursday posts about TIME, by clicking this button:


jim said...

Wonderful introduction, a beautiful Oliver poem, and then your haunting, amber-rained images bind it all together. How generous, your sharing.

wendylou who? said...

I stand in awe of greatness.

Maureen/RavenGrrl said...

thanks, Jim and wendy, for heading over to a not-very-regular PT blog post ... and for letting me know you enjoyed this -- both the poem and the illustrations.

Mary Oliver is one of the world's great poets, for sure.

twitches said...

I can't believe you posted this poem! This is my all-time favorite poem of any poem in the world! I knew as soon as you spoke of letting go which one it would be. I want that last stanza on my tombstone, actually. I try to live by those words, and have ever since I read them.

RavenGrrl said...

twitches, I love it when that kind of thing happens -- that you knew right away from one word which poem it would be, that you love it so much (I have a hard time saying all time favorite of eery poem i've ever read but it's definitely in my top 3 ... and has been since I first chose to read it at my friend's service) but how cool is that that we have the same taste?
overlapping lives. nice to meet you.
-- Maureen

twitches said...

PS - I've added your photo to my poem, with linky. :) Thanks sooo much for offering it - how kind of you!

RavenGrrl said...

Twitches, you are very welcome to the apple tree pic.

kerrdelune said...

I have always loved this poem and the accompanying images are marvellous.

LauraHinNJ said...

Any time I come across one of her poems I think I must get to the library and read more. Thanks for the inspiration.

Maureen/RavenGrrl said...

Thank you Kerrdelune -- it's great to "see" you again over here, even though I myself have been lax about blogging. I am not surprised you love this poem -- it suits you.

And Laura, I think once you have had one of Mary Oliver's poetry books checked out of your library, you'll want to have several on you personal library shelf -- permanently. '-) You might want to bypass the library and go straight to half.com or eBay. lol.

pepektheassassin said...

I do know and love Mary Oliver. Thank you (again!) for a wonderful poem and wonderful photographs as well!