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Flare Analysis

Author: poem of Mary Oliver Type: poem Views: 11

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Welcome to the silly, comforting poem.

It is not the sunrise,

which is a red rinse,

which is flaring all over the eastern sky;

it is not the rain falling out of the purse of God;

it is not the blue helmet of the sky afterward,

or the trees, or the beetle burrowing into the earth;

it is not the mockingbird who, in his own cadence,

will go on sizzling and clapping

from the branches of the catalpa that are thick with blossoms,

    that are billowing and shining,

        that are shaking in the wind.


        You still recall, sometimes, the old barn on your

    great-grandfather's farm, a place you visited once,

    and went into, all alone, while the grownups sat and

    talked in the house.

        It was empty, or almost. Wisps of hay covered the floor,

    and some wasps sang at the windows, and maybe there was

    a strange fluttering bird high above, disturbed, hoo-ing

    a little and staring down from a messy ledge with wild,

    binocular eyes.

        Mostly, though, it smelled of milk, and the patience of

    animals; the give-offs of the body were still in the air,

    a vague ammonia, not unpleasant.

        Mostly, though, it was restful and secret, the roof high

    up and arched, the boards unpainted and plain.

        You could have stayed there forever, a small child in a corner,

    on the last raft of hay, dazzled by so much space that seemed

    empty, but wasn't.

        Then--you still remember--you felt the rap of hunger--it was

    noon--and you turned from that twilight dream and hurried back

    to the house, where the table was set, where an uncle patted you

    on the shoulder for welcome, and there was your place at the table.


Nothing lasts.

There is a graveyard where everything I am talking about is,


I stood there once, on the green grass, scattering flowers.


Nothing is so delicate or so finely hinged as the wings

of the green moth

against the lantern

against its heat

against the beak of the crow

in the early morning.

Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop

    of self-pity.

Not in this world.


My mother

was the blue wisteria,

my mother

was the mossy stream out behind the house,

my mother, alas, alas,

did not always love her life,

heavier than iron it was

as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,

oh, unforgettable!

I bury her

in a box

in the earth

and turn away.

My father

was a demon of frustrated dreams,

was a breaker of trust,

was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.

He followed God, there being no one else

he could talk to;

he swaggered before God, there being no one else

who would listen.


this was his life.

I bury it in the earth.

I sweep the closets.

I leave the house.


I mention them now,

I will not mention them again.

It is not lack of love

nor lack of sorrow.

But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.

I give them--one, two, three, four--the kiss of courtesy,

    of sweet thanks,

of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.

May they sleep well. May they soften.

But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.

I will not give them the responsibility for my life.


Did you know that the ant has a tongue

with which to gather in all that it can

of sweetness?

Did you know that?


The poem is not the world.

It isn't even the first page of the world.

But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.

It knows that much.

It wants to open itself,

like the door of a little temple,

so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,

and less yourself than part of everything.


The voice of the child crying out of the mouth of the

    grown woman

is a misery and a disappointment.

The voice of the child howling out of the tall, bearded,

    muscular man

is a misery, and a terror.


Therefore, tell me:

what will engage you?

What will open the dark fields of your mind,

    like a lover

        at first touching?



there was no barn.

No child in the barn.

No uncle no table no kitchen.

Only a long lovely field full of bobolinks.


When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider

the orderliness of the world. Notice

something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket

whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,

shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.

Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,

    like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world

and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.

Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.

And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

This is the dark bread of the poem.

This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.


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