by Mary Oliver
She would fall at my feet, she would draw the black skin
from her gums, in a hideous and wonderful smile –
and I would rub my hands over her pricked ears and her
and I would hug the barrel of her body, amazed at the unassuming
perfect arch of her neck.
It took four of us to carry her into the woods.
We did not think of music,
but anyway, it began to rain
Her wolfish, invitational, half-pounce.
of happiness as she barged
through the pitch pines swiping my face with her
wild, slightly mossy tongue.
Does the hummingbird think he himself invented his crimson throat?
He is wiser than that, I think.
A dog lives fifteen years, if you’re lucky.
Do the cranes crying out in the high clouds
think it is all their own music?
A dog comes to you and lives with you in your own house, but you
do not therefore own her, as you do not own the rain, or the
trees, or the leaves that pertain to them.
Does the bear wandering in the autumn up the side of the hill
think all by herself she has imagined the refuge and the refreshment
of her long slumber?
A dog can never tell you what she knows from the
smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know
Does the water snake with his backbone of diamonds think
the black tunnel on the bank of the pond is a palace
of his own making?
She roved ahead of me through the fields, yet would come back, or
wait for me, or be somewhere.
Now she is buried under the pines.
Nor will I argue it, or pray for anything but modesty, and
not to be angry.
Through the trees there is the sound of wind, palavering.
The smell of the pine needles, what is it but a taste
of the infallible energies?
How strong was her dark body!
How apt her grave place!
How beautiful her unshakeable sleep.
the slick mountains of love break
from New and Selected Poems, Beacon, 2005
Holly Orem 1997-2008