In Blackwater Woods
by Mary Oliver
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this:
and the black river of loss
whose other side
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.But not forgotten
I think, no matter where you stray,
That I shall go with you a way.
Though you may wander sweeter lands,
You will not soon forget my hands,
Nor yet the way I held my head,
Nor all the tremulous things I said.
You still will see me, small and white
And smiling, in the secret night,
And feel my arms about you when
The day comes fluttering back again.
I think, no matter where you be,
You'll hold me in your memory
And keep my image, there without me,
By telling later loves about me.
Dorothy Parker, American writer and poet (1893 - 1967)
Crossing the bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate (1809 - 1892)
Stop all the clocks,
cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin,
let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
WH Auden, poet (1907 - 1973)
I must go down to the seas again,
to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again,
for the call of the running tide Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
John Masefield, Poet Laureate (1878 - 1967)
Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.
"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here:"
Love said, "You shall be he." "I, the unkind, ungrateful?
Ah, my dear, I cannot look on Thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
"Who made the eyes but I?"
"Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve." "And know you not," says Love,
"Who bore the blame?" "My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat." So I did sit down and eat.
George Herbert, poet, orator and priest (1593 - 1633)
They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it,
death cannot kill what never dies.
Nor can spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same divine principle,
the root and record of their friendship.
If absence be not death, neither is theirs.
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas;
they live in one another still. For they must needs be present,
that love and live in that which is ominipresent.
In this divine glass, they see face to face;
and their converse is free as well as pure.
This is the comfort of friends,
that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are,
in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.
William Penn, Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania (1644 - 1718)
Time by Adrienne Rich
Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.
If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.
Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.
If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily
to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely
but much will blind you
much will evade you
at what cost, who knows?
The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.
Adrienne Rich from Collected Early Poems 1950-1970.
“To live in this world, you must do three things.
You must 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, but not be forgotten.”
(From Mary Oliver’s poem, In the Blackwater Woods)
Let poetry speak to you of loss and love, and to how we are affected by who we love, how we love, and how we experience the losses that being mortal gifts us with. We are woven into this web of living and dying, and can wake up to our own riches and to better understand how intrinsically loss is tied to love.