When Death Comes

After writing about the concept of memento mori, I stumbled across several of Mary Oliver’s poems that kept me thinking. Perhaps they will keep you thinking too.

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world in my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up having simply visited this world.

Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems

What will help to prevent you from having simply visited this world? How can you cultivate a feeling of being married to amazement? How can you take the world in your arms?

Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems

(3) Comments

  1. eshalaev
    eshalaevFeb 03, 2011

    These are all important and great lines:
    When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
    I was a bride married to amazement.

    Nice to know you, Sandra.

  2. Bryan
    BryanFeb 03, 2011

    *snap *snap *snap…. I dig,

    So have you been enjoying these precious moments? How are you celebrating these moments, I find it to be quite simple in theory but difficult in practice.

    I love the idea of embracing death, its really distracting me from work right now…but that is OK.

  3. drssanger
    drssangerFeb 03, 2011

    So long as you’re enjoying the distraction from work, it’s all good, right?

    And yes, simple in theory, difficult as heck in practice. But good to reflect on, nonetheless.

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