In Blackwater Woods

Mary Oliver


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 everything, 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.



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