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Gannets

by Mary Oliver

I am watching the white gannets
blaze down into the water
with the power of blunt spears
and a stunning accuracy–
even though the sea is riled and boiling
and gray with fog
and the fish
are nowhere to be seen,
they fall, they explode into the water
like white gloves,
then they vanish,
then they climb out again,
from the cliff of the wave,
like white flowers–
and still I think
that nothing in this world moves
but as a positive power–
even the fish, finning down into the current
or collapsing
in the red purse of the beak,
are only interrupted from their own pursuit
of whatever it is
that fills their bellies–
and I say:
life is real,
and pain is real,
but death is an imposter,
and if I could be what once I was,
like the wolf or the bear
standing on the cold shore,
I would still see it–
how the fish simply escape, this time,
or how they slide down into a black fire
for a moment,
then rise from the water inseparable
from the gannets’ wings.

 

 

From NEW AND SELECTED POEMS by Mary Oliver. Copyright © 1992 by Mary Oliver. Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press, Boston.

 

Mary Oliver was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984 for AMERICAN PRIMITIVE. Her poems, "Humpbacks" and "Gannets" are included in her book NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, f for which she received the 1992 National Book Award for Poetry.

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