A Young Man. A Case of Mistaken Identity. A Fatal Head Injury.

In Blackwater Woods

by 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
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.


  1. Mmmm...love those final two stanzas...Mary Oliver's the poet I'm always hearing yoga teachers and others quoting, but have never read except for bits and pieces here and there...really oughtta remedy that one o' these days...

  2. I hope I can when the time comes. Seems I've never been too good about letting go of the past though....need to remedy that one o' these days....

  3. The letting go is the hardest part. What a poem. What a poet. Thank you.

  4. Sadly, life is cheap to some. I can see by the title of your post that you're particularly saddened by a patient's death. I'm sorry.

    Sending you big hugs today, sister.

  5. Melancholy....inspires occasionally...sorry.

  6. A fatal head injury ? I cannot begin to fathom the depth of the tragedies you must see frequently.

    My father, a doctor, explained to me long ago that people who work around health care and cemeteries and morgues and medical examiners and so forth, develop coping mechanisms... I hope that is true.

    Peace of mind to you...

  7. I can see why you cling so fiercely to what is beautiful and full of light.

  8. It always amazes me how poetry speaks to the inner being more clearly than any other media. Thanks for sharing this, on what must have been a very hard week for you.

  9. I hadn't read this.

    So sorry about mortality, that you have to witness.

    Thank you.


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