Mary Oliver and Odilon Redon


“Make of yourself a light,”

said the Buddha,

before he died.

I think of this every morning

as the east begins

to tear off its many clouds

of darkness, to send up the first

signal — a white fan

streaked with pink and violet,

even green.

An old man, he lay down

between two sala trees,

and he might have said anything,

knowing it was his final hour.

The light burns upward,

it thickens and settles over the fields.

Around him, the villagers gathered

and stretched forward to listen.

Even before the sun itself

hangs, disattached, in the blue air,

I am touched everywhere

by its ocean of yellow waves.

No doubt he thought of everything

that had happened in his difficult life.

And then I feel the sun itself

as it blazes over the hills,

like a million flowers on fire —

clearly I’m not needed,

yet I feel myself turning

into something of inexplicable value.

Slowly, beneath the branches,

he raised his head.

He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.

Mary Oliver

Odilon Redon (Buddha in His Youth)

~ gratitude to Louis Osofsky for this pairing of poem and painting

    • snowbirdpress
    • September 25th, 2011

    Oh, how I love Mary Oliver! When I read this poem of hers I think we are all lights…but each of us are a different color light…a different wave lenght and it takes all of us together to make true light…
    Mary Oliver always makes me think a little deeper and a little more out of my abilities…. Sure glad she has made her light shine!

    • Ever since I read Oliver’s first book, “American Primitive” back in 1979, maybe, I kept track of her poems — one of the greatest, and for all time, I think. Glad we’re both beaming over her.

      The light today is soft and even, muted. Real nice. Take care of your light, dear Merrill. ~ Donna

    • snowbirdpress
    • September 25th, 2011

    My all time favorite poem of Mary’s is “Mindful”… Hope you have it…if not I’ll send it to you.

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