Poetry Sunday: Invitation by Mary Oliver

I dip into poetry throughout the week. I do it quite randomly, without a plan or agenda. But I am often astonished to find that the poem I have randomly chosen is exactly the one that I needed at that particular moment. And so it was when I landed on this poem by Mary Oliver a few days ago. She writes:
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
Yes, exactly.


by Mary Oliver

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles
for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,
or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air
as they strive
not for your sake
and not for mine
and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude –
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,
do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.
It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.


  1. You are the second person this week to bring Mary Oliver to my attention. Within an hour so, at first light, goldfinches will be on my bird feeders and they will remind me of this exquisite verse. Were they able to read it themselves I am sure they would mightily pleased. I must look to find a book of her work.

    1. Mary Oliver wrote lovely and insightful poetry about the natural world. I think you would probably enjoy her work. As for the goldfinches, they do not arrive here until late November or early December, often around the time of our Thanksgiving. One more reason to be thankful.

  2. What a lovely poem! Thanks for sharing.


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