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Such Singing in the Wild Branches



A Poem by Mary Oliver


It was spring

and I finally heard him

among the first leaves—

then I saw him clutching the limb


in an island of shade

with his red-brown feathers


all trim and neat for the new year.

First, I stood still


and thought of nothing. Then I began to listen.

Then I was filled with gladness— and that's when it happened,


when I seemed to float, to be, myself, a wing or a tree—

and I began to understand what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass stopped for a pure white moment while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising, and in fact it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing—

it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers, and also the trees around them, as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds in the perfect blue sky—all of them


were singing. And, of course, so it seemed, so was I.

Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn't last


For more than a few moments. It's one of those magical places wise people like to talk about.

One of the things they say about it, that is true,


is that, once you've been there, you're there forever.

Listen, everyone has a chance. Is it spring, is it morning?


Are there trees near you, and does your own soul need comforting?

Quick, then—open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song may already be drifting away.

— Mary Oliver

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