Such Silence

American poet Mary Oliver passed away two days ago. In preparation for my blog that follows my work time in Java, Indonesia, i am posting two of her poems from her vast body of work. Poetry can be life saving. Mary Oliver’s poetry has been among that field of being to me. And, i imagine, continues to be. I thank her often. And pause. I wonder if she now is in that space where she left us with the questions in her poems.


Butterfly in Java, Indonesia




As deep as I ever went into the forest

I came upon an old stone bench, very, very old,

and around it a clearing, and beyond that

trees taller and older than I had ever seen.


Such silence!

It really wasn’t so far from a town, but it seemed

all the clocks in the world had stopped counting.

So it was hard to suppose the usual rules applied.


Sometimes there’s only a hint, a possibility.

What’s magical, sometimes, has deeper roots

than reason.

I hope everyone knows that.


I sat on the bench, waiting for something.

An angel, perhaps.

Or dancers with the legs of goats.


No, I didn’t see either. But only, I think, because

I didn’t stay long enough.




Photos taken of trees in Java, Indonesia




Angels are wonderful but they are so, well, aloof.

It’s what i sense in the mud and the roots of the 

trees, or the well, or the barn, or the rock with

its citron map of lichen that halts my feet and 

makes my eyes flare, feeling the presence of some

spirit, some small god, who abides there.


If I were a perfect person, I would be bowing


I’m not, though I pause wherever I feel this

holiness, which is why I’m often so late coming

back from wherever I went.


Forgive me.




Both poems are in ‘Blue Horses’, by Mary Oliver, 2014


Below is a short excerpt of a reading by Mary Oliver and a conversation with Coleman Barks. I love this. Maybe you do too. At the end of the clip you can find links to the full conversation.



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