GHOSTS

Mary Oliver

 

 

1

 

Have you noticed?

 

2

 

Where so many millions of powerful bawling beasts

lay down on the earth and died

it's hard to tell now

what's bone, and what merely

was once.

 

The golden eagle, for instance,

has a bit of heaviness in him;

moreover the huge barns

seem ready, sometimes, to ramble off

toward deeper grass.

 

3

 

1805

near the Bitterroot Mountains:

a man named Lewis kneels down

on the prairie watching

a sparrow's nest cleverly concealed in the wild hyssop

and lined with buffalo hair. The chicks,

not more than a day hatched, lean

quietly into the thick wool as if

content, after all,

to have left the perfect world and fallen,

helpless and blind

into the flowered fields and the perils

of this one.

 

4

In the book of the earth it is written:

nothing can die.

 

In the book of the Sioux it is written:

they have gone away into the earth to hide.

Nothing will coax them out again

but the people dancing.

 

5

Said the old-timers:

the tongue

is the sweetest meat.

 

Passengers shooting from train windows

could hardly miss, they were

that many.

 

Afterwards the carcasses

stank unbelievably, and sang with flies, ribboned

with slopes of white fat,

black ropes of bloodóhellhunks

in the prairie heat.

 

6

Have you noticed? how the rain

falls soft as the fall

of moccasins. Have you noticed?

how the immense circles still,

stubbornly, after a hundred years,

mark the grass where the rich droppings

from the roaring bulls

fell to the earth as the herd stood

day after day, moon after moon

in their tribal circle, outwaiting

the packs of yellow-eyed wolves that are also

have you noticed? gone now.

 

7

Only once, and then in a dream,

I watched while, secretly

and with the tenderness of any caring woman,

a cow gave birth

to a red calf, tongued him dry and nursed him

in a warm corner

of the clear night

in the fragrant grass

in the wild domains

of the prairie spring, and I asked them,

in my dream I knelt down and asked them

to make room for me.