Poetry · Reviews

“Thirst” by Mary Oliver

“When I first found you I was
filled with light, now the darkness grows
and it is filled with crooked things, bitter
and weak, each one bearing my name.”

I must start by saying that I believe the title of this collection of poems is beyond appropriate. Thirst is a tree of forty three branches seeking answers from a sky they know to be everlastingly out of reach.

Mary Oliver is painfully aware that one backward step after one step forward won’t bring you to where you were before. Even if taken with exceptional precision, there is absolutely no way back. We crave the moment in its infinitude, not in its physicality or geographical capacity.

She is moving. You can tell that she is trying not to stop, not to have a break for a breath become eternity. Sometimes blindly, other times looking back over her shoulder, she is carrying on. Some of the doors that were before wide open to everything now hide walls of bricks behind, though. She bumps into them, into accidental revelations that impel her step. There is no wrong path, just path.

Even though I must confess that I did not enjoy some of her more religious poems as much as the others, I understand, and respect, their existence.

Going through Mary Oliver’s body of work, back and forth in time, is an incredible experience. It’s remarkable how you can feel her reaching out, further and further, into the universe. It’s amazing how you can feel her changing, sometimes subtly, other times rather brusquely, even if always kindheartedly. She has filled my year with beauty, leading me through a spectrum of emotions that seem to have awoken me in more ways than one. I couldn’t be more grateful for her existence.

“Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.”


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