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Director Barbara Osuch's LibraryLife

The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver died Thursday. She was 83.
Red Bird” & “Red Bird Explains Himself” is a beautiful pair of poems that open and close Oliver’s 2008 book Red Bird:

Red Bird

Red bird came all winter

Firing up the landscape

As nothing else could.

Of course I love the sparrows,

Those dun-colored darlings,

So hungry and so many.

I am a God-fearing feeder of birds,

I know he has many children,

Not all of them bold in spirit.

Still, for whatever reason-

Perhaps because the winter is so long

And the sky so black-blue,

Or perhaps because the heart narrows

As often as it opens-

I am grateful

That red bird comes all winter

Firing up the landscape

As nothing else can do.


Red Bird Explains Himself

“Yes, I was the brilliance floating over the snow
and I was the song in the summer leaves, but this was
only the first trick
I had hold of among my other mythologies,
for I also knew obedience: bringing sticks to the nest,
food to the young, kisses to my bride.

But don’t stop there, stay with me: listen.

If I was the song that entered your heart
then I was the music of your heart, that you wanted and needed,
and thus wilderness bloomed there, with all its
followers: gardeners, lovers, people who weep
for the death of rivers.

And this was my true task, to be the
music of the body.  Do you understand?  for truly the body needs
a song, a spirit, a soul.  And no less, to make this work,
the soul has need of a body,
and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable
beauty of heaven
where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes,
and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart.”

from Red Bird, Mary Oliver, Beacon Press, © 2008 by Mary Oliver