Reading Mary Oliver

(For context, please watch video, “Mary Oliver: The Fish,” before reading “Reading Mary Oliver)

I gaze upon the poet;

her words –

ponderless, profound;

deep and dark and blue –

and think,

what such have I to offer

from my humble beginnings

or my sordid past

to justify the title of poet?


To answer the unanswerable?


To defend my consumption

of fish, of fowl, of air, of love?


What gives me the right

to birth words;

to rape words;

to bend words to my will,



And, why do you read them?


Have I,

simply by proclamation

or circumstance,

the inherent right

to deface plume and parchment

with philosophies

pilfered from shadows

or snatched from the sky?


Might those pinched words

have been travelling

to another

much more qualified than I?


Much more deserving?


Might they have been

intended by fate

for Mary Oliver?


Is it possible

that Mary might have

just as wantonly

purloined words from me?


Might Mary be

the impostor; the thief,

and I, perchance, the poet,

plucked bald of words

meant for my pen?


Am I Mary’s fish;

Mary, my fish?


Have we flailed and sucked and died

“in the slow pouring off of rainbows”

in one another’s pail?


Have we consumed one another?

Is now Mary in me?

I in her?

Are we the fish?

Might have

the fish been the real poet all along?


Or has the fish

simply died

in vain

in the pails of two poets

never meant to meet?


© 2017 The Poet Darkling


Published by: The Poet Darkling

The Poet Darkling is an award-winning poet, lyricist, author, editor, and freelance writer. She is currently working on her fifth poetry and monologue anthology, as well as her memoirs. In 2013, The Poet Darkling had the distinct honor of writing an introduction and closing poem for the short story anthology, “Broken Spokes along the Way,” by author Vance R. Farrell. She is also an esteemed member of several writer’s groups, including Writers-Network, and All Poetry, and was featured in the All Poetry anthology “Rewrite Sunlight” in 2017. Born in Chicago, Illinois, The Poet Darkling currently resides in Northeast Tennessee with her family, her pet black widow spider (whom she calls “Walter”), her imaginary muse (whom she hasn’t named), and her many diverse personalities. Since her childhood, The Poet Darkling has survived all manner of physical and sexual abuse, as well as mental illness, drug addiction, and long-term homelessness, and her poetry reflects this. With a steady voice, diverse subject matter, and the singular intent of helping others not only survive the darkness, but thrive there. The Poet Darkling appeals to a wide range of readers. She speaks for the traumatized soldier, the weary mother, the confused teen, the abandoned senior, the disenfranchised minority, the serial killer, and anyone who has suffered heartbreak, addiction, abuse, mental illness, and even the sting of death – and all in perfect rhyme and meter…or not. Following her own doctrine of “Live first; learn later,” The Poet Darkling is currently working on her M.A. in Creative Writing/English, with a concentration in Poetry at Southern New Hampshire University, where she also earned her B.A. in Creative Writing, with a concentration in Poetry and a minor in Professional Writing, graduating summa cum laude in 2017. The Poet Darkling is proud to be a member of the Sigma Tau Delta (Alpha Pi Psi) and Alpha Sigma Lambda (Sigma Psi) honor societies. When she is not writing, or plotting her bid for Poet Laureate of the United States, The Poet enjoys talking to herself, wandering around aimlessly and poking dead critters with sticks.

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