Out of the Blackness Every Morning

Albert Bierstadt, "Sunrise"

Albert Bierstadt, “Sunrise”

Easter Sunday

I have periodically turned to Mary Oliver to provide Easter poems, even though she seldom speaks overtly about religion. A number of her lyrics reenact the progress of Easter week, from dark suffering to miraculous release and ecstatic union with the divine. In “The Sun,” Oliver’s main focus is on the moment of transcendence.

“Sun” invites a religious pun, which a poet like John Donne takes full advantage of in “Hymn to God the Father”:

[S]wear by Thyself, that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore ;
And having done that, Thou hast done;
I fear no more.

Oliver’s sun doesn’t have the Jesus reference but shines just as bright. “Have you ever felt for anything/such wild love?” she asks.

“The Sun” gives us a choice: we can either stand, emptied and receptive, and allow to sun to reach out and warm us. Or we can turn from this world and go crazy “for power, for things.”

Easter morning calls upon us to get our priorities straight.

The Sun

By Mary Oliver

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful

than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon

and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it glides again

out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower

streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance–
and have you ever felt for anything

such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure

that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you

as you stand there
or have you too
turned from this world–

or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?


Other Mary Oliver poems for Easter

Far off the Bells Rang through the Morning

A Breathing Palace of Leaves

The Silver Water Crushes Like Silk 

Dazzled by Dreams of the Body

Stepping Over Every Dark Thing

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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