Ophelia, by Sir John Everett Millais, c. 1851-1852 (Tate Gallery, London)

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars


of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,


the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders


of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is


nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned


in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side


is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world


you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it


against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


“In Blackwater Woods” by Mary Oliver, from American Primitive. © Back Bay Books, 1983.