The Black River of Loss

Do you have a favourite poet? I’ve loved W B Yeats since I was a child, and I loved visiting his grave in Sligo earlier this year.
But a few years ago I came across a poem by Mary Oliver and every time I read one of her poems, it moves my spirit and I want to share this one with you.

Are you facing loss just now? I don’t know if that’s loss of a person, career, place, particular dreams or hopes, health, or the definition of who you thought you were, but what I do know is that loss comes to us all, and these words might just help you get through the days ahead.

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
everything
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.

© Mary Oliver

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