Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Osprey

Watchful, watchful, the osprey
On the islet in the river
Comely, goodly, the maiden,
A fit mate for our lord
--Shi jing
"The Osprey"
by Mary Oliver
This morning
an osprey
with its narrow
black-and-white face
and its cupidinous eyes
leaned down
from a leafy tree
to look into the lake - it looked
a long time, then its powerful
shoulders punched out a little
and it fell,
it rippled down
into the water -then it rose, carrying,
in the clips of its feet,
a slim and limber
silver fish, a scrim
of red rubies
on its flashing sides.
All of this
was wonderful
to look at,
so I simply stood there,
in the blue morning,
Then I walked away.
Beauty is my work,
but not my only work -
when the fish was gone forever
and the bird was miles away,
I came back
and stood on the shore, thinking -
and if you think
thinking is a mild exercise,
I mean, I was swimming for my life -
and I was thundering this way and that way
in my shirt of feathers -
and I could not resolve anything long enough
to become one thing
except this: the imaginer.
It was inescapable
as over and over it flung me,
without pause or mercy it flung me
to both sides of the beautiful water -
to both sides
of the knife.
--from West Wind (Mariner Books, 1997)

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