by Mary Oliver

Page 5

I live on Cape Cod, Provincetown which is a very gorgeous and beautiful and sea kind of place and I have a sort of slow take, I think-I went to Provincetown, I've looked for the inland things there. Now I'm beginning to write more poems about things that pertain to the sea. This is a poem in several parts. It's in the new book, a pause between the sections. It's called "Dogfish," and for those of you who are inland, the dogfish is a shark, but quite a small shark, I've seen them no longer than this. They can get a little bigger, quite harmless really to people, to swimmers.

Some kind of relaxed and beautiful thing
kept flickering in with the tide
and looking around.
Black as a fisherman's boot,
with a white belly.

If you asked for a picture I would have to draw a smile
under the perfectly round eyes and above the chin,
which was rough
as a thousand sharpened nails.

And you know
what a smile means,
don't you?


I wanted
the past to go away, I wanted
to leave it, like another country; I wanted
my life to close and open
like a hinge, like a wing, like the part of a song where it falls
down over the rocks: an explosion, a discovery; I wanted
to hurry into the work of my life; I wanted to know,
whoever I was, I was

for a little while.


It was evening, and no longer summer.
Three small fish, I don't know what they were
huddled in the highest ripples
as it came swimming in again, effortless, the whole body
one gesture, one black sleeve
that could fit easily around
the bodies of three small fish.


Also I wanted
to be able to love. And we all know
how that one goes,
don't we?



the dogfish tore open the soft basins of water.


You don't want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don't want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.
And anyway it's the same old story-
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.


And look! look! look! I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is bulging toward them


And probably,
if they don't waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it.

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Last updated on March 10, 2008
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