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The Lilies Break Open Over the Dark Water

by Mary Oliver

    that mud-hive, that gas-sponge,
        that reeking
            leaf-yard, that rippling

dream-bowl, the leeches'
    flecked and swirling
        broth of life, as rich
            as Babylon,

the fists crack
    open and the wands
        of the lilies
            quicken, they rise

like pale poles
    with their wrapped beaks of lace;
        one day
            they tear the surface,

the next they break open
    over the dark water.
        And there you are
            on the shore,

fitful and thoughtful, trying
    to attach them to an idea —
        some news of your own life.
            But the lilies

are slippery and wild—they are
    devoid of meaning, they are
        simply doing,
            from the deepest

spurs of their being,
    what they are impelled to do
        every summer.
            And so, dear sorrow, are you.

January 1, 2000 in Poems | Permalink