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“When Death Comes” | A Tribute to Mary Oliver

By Jerusha Gray

I found out this morning that one of my all-time favorite poets died.

Mary Oliver, the badass pen toting poet died.

I’m still processing and my heart is in shock.

Her work is one of the landmarks on the way to my own.

She showed me that it could be done, and on my own god damn terms.

”Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”  – Mary Oliver 1981

Mary put her life into her words and for that I am so deeply grateful.

There is a Mary shaped hole in the world right now.

A gap that will never be filled in quite the same way again.

There is no one right way to respond to loss. I will not, however, send my “thoughts and prayers.”  instead, I send her words out into the ether this morning… along with my own.

Mary,

You didn’t write your words for me, but they felt like mine all the same.

Your work changed me.

Thank you.

Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935 – January 17th, 2019)

Not nearly long enough.

When Death Comes

–by Mary Oliver (Oct 03, 2006)

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 measle-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 into my arms.

When it’s 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 simply having visited this world.

–Mary Oliver

 

Jerusha Gray

Jerusha Gray is insatiably curious. This curiosity, coupled with a brain that never shuts up, drives her to paint and draw, read prodigiously, make music, write, and sing in grocery stores.

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