I tied together

a few slender reeds, cut

notches to breathe across and made

such music you stood

shock still and then


followed as I wandered growing

moment by moment

slant-eyed and shaggy, my feet

slamming over the rocks, growing

hard as horn, and there


you were behind me, drowning

in the music, letting

the silver clasps out of your hair,

hurrying, taking off

your clothes.




I can’t remember

where this happened but I think

it was late summer when everything

is full of fire and rounding to fruition

and whatever doesn’t,

or resists,

must lie like a field of dark water under

the pulling moon,

tossing and tossing.




In the brutal elegance of cities

I have walked down

the halls of hotels


and heard this music behind

shut doors.




Do you think the heart

is accountable? Do you think the body

any more than a branch

of the honey locust tree,


hunting water,

hunching toward the sun,

shivering, when it feels

that good, into

white blossoms?


Or do you think there is a kind

of music, a certain strand

that lights up the otherwise

blunt wilderness of the body —

a furious

and unaccountable selectivity?




Ah well, anyway, whether or not

it was in late summer, or even

in our part of the world, it is all

only a dream. I did not

turn into the lithe goat god. Nor did you come running

like that.




Did you?


“Music” from American Primitive

Poems by Mary Oliver

Little Brown & Company, New York 1983

Photo by Robin Whittle