Wild words

What more could I do with wild words?” — Mary Oliver

I’m a cat lover and a morning person, so Mary Oliver‘s “Morning” spoke to me the first time I read it. And each time I revisit the poem, something else strikes me.

Last week, for instance, a student in one of my workshops told me that list-making helps her get started when she’s trying to write a piece. Note how the first few lines of Oliver’s poem, below, work as a list of her morning observations. And note how the cat becomes a metaphor for “wild words,” and how, once again, the most ordinary experiences are sheer poetry. — CL

By Mary Oliver

Salt shining behind its glass cylinder.
Milk in a blue bowl. The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow.
The way she makes her curvaceous response to the small, kind gesture.
Then laps the bowl clean.
Then wants to go out into the world
where she leaps lightly and for no apparent reason across the lawn,
then sits, perfectly still, in the grass.
I watch her a little while, thinking:
what more could I do with wild words?
I stand in the cold kitchen, bowing down to her.
I stand in the cold kitchen, everything wonderful around me.

–Reprinted from New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver; Beacon Press; Boston; 2005.

–Top Photo: Our wonderful cat, Jack, was a “wild thing” from the local animal shelter. —

10 thoughts on “Wild words

  1. We’ve been in the Smokies for a week and I’m just catching up. I’ve been missing our cats and smiled when your sweet cat picture and post came up on the screen. A good welcome home.

  2. Another gem by Mary Oliver that I haven’t read before now. Thank you, Cindy. I love that my Mary Oliver “repetoire” continues to expand. Jack is a keeper:)

  3. So glad you’re enjoying more of Mary Oliver, everyone! I’ll be including more of her work from “Owls and Other Fantasies,” another gorgeous book of her poems and essays. It’s easy to see why she’s a Pulitzer Prize winner.

  4. I once read that Mary Oliver’s work was criticized for it’s simplicity. It’s stating of the obvious.

    I think that can be the point. How do we see , unless we look.

    I’m severely allergic to cats… but appreciate yours from afar!

  5. Beautiful words indeed, but I am not in any way, shape, or form a morning person and I have 2 dogs.
    Mine would read something like this.
    Dirty paw prints on the tile.
    whining to go out…again,
    big yawn from me,
    crap, it’s still raining:)

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