In summer 2017 I was living at Holden Village, a retreat center in the North Cascades of Washington state. I was halfway through a year of touring around the world, teaching, writing, and facilitating. Looking back, I see it was a grieving process enmeshed with a try at creative action, order, sense-making and world-making amidst desperation.

That summer I felt tired and restless. So I started running on dirt paths in the direct, dusty sunlight. And my friend Molly & I started a weekly writing group. On July 27, 2017, here was the prompt Molly brought:
“We give & take from other writers; what writers are inspiring us right now?”

The below poem is verbatim from that group meeting, sitting, free-writing in the seafoam green journal I had purchased in Ghana in February. The poem had no title. Today, I named it.

A Final Walk
By Anna Czarik-Neimeyer, 7.27.17

Mary Oliver has me. She has me
in the ease of her prose.
I can picture her and her partner
together in a prairie cabin with a fire

and in the early mornings Mary
maybe kisses her on the forehead
at 4:30am, brushes gray hairs
off her brow.

Honestly, she probably doesn’t do that.

She probably wakes early
stretches on the side of the bed
slowly
in her baggy shirt with holes
then rises slowly, a bit sore

She pulls on mucking boots
and knots her hair into a long braid

she probably

has a pair of denim jeans
that have holes and paint
and years of poems in them

And she pulls on her collared coat
which has seen the shadows
of so many wild geese

and you can probably see her deer path
little outlets
where she has knelt

to kiss the ground
or smell the grass
little prayer places
little noticings

as day breaks
she simply watches

and her hair blows
and her face is sad
sad with knowing

with seeing beauty
with years left
years of quiet

years of handwritten letters
that will someday be catalogued

I imagine her prairie
I imagine the grasshopper
I can feel her hands closing
around coffee cups, 30 years old, and tin

Her love twists her head from the stove
When Mary returns

and saying
“How was the walk?”

And Mary said,
It was Light.

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One thought on “Mary Oliver: A Final Walk

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