Poetry Monday : Sleeping in the Forest by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of our most beloved modern poets. Her writing deals with the natural world and with the big stories and big emotions that can be conveyed in the process of describing something as simple as a single fish. Her poetry is wise and clear and possesses great depth. She has published dozens of books and lived much of her adult life in Provincetown, Massachusetts before moving to Florida after the death of her partner, the photographer Molly Malone Cook. You can read more about her at The Poetry Foundation website. I found this poem in the anthology Poems to Live By In Uncertain Times, which is edited by Joan Murray, and which I bought, like so many other poetry books I own, at the Smith Family Bookstore in Eugene, Oregon. 

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth
remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

— Mary Oliver

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