selection from a photograph of the poet by Rachel Giese Brown
Close to the edge. Almost
bunch up and boil down
from the north of the white bear.
This tree-splitting morning
I dream of his fat tracks,
the lifesaving suet.
I think of summer with its luminous fruit,
blossoms rounding to berries, leaves,
handfuls of grain.
Maybe what cold is, is the time
we measure the love we have always had, secretly,
for our own bones, the hard knife-edged love
for the warm river of the I, beyond all else; maybe
that is what it means the beauty
of the blue shark cruising toward the tumbling seals.
In the season of snow,
in the immeasurable cold,
we grow cruel but honest; we keep
if we can, taking one after another
the necessary bodies of others, the many
crushed red flowers.
"Cold Now" appears in the Pulitzer Prize-winning collection American Primitive, first published by Back Bay Books in 1983. The poet was born in Maple Heights, Ohio and currently resides in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Further biography, context, and poems by Mary Oliver can be found at The Poetry Foundation.