“White-Eyes” by Mary Oliver
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
In winter all the singing is in the tops of the trees where the wind-bird with its white eyes shoves and pushes among the branches. Like any of us he wants to go to sleep, but he's restless— he has an idea, and slowly it unfolds from under his beating wings as long as he stays awake But his big, round music, after all, is too breathy to last. So, it's over. In the pine-crown he makes his nest, he's done all he can. I don't know the name of this bird, I only imagine his glittering beak tucked in a white wing while the clouds— which he has summoned from the north— which he has taught to be mild, and silent— thicken, and begin to fall into the world below like stars, or the feathers of some unimaginable bird that loves us, that is asleep now, and silent— that has turned itself into snow.
Copyright 2002 by Mary Oliver.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Editor of POETRY. Copyright 2002 by Mary Oliver. For further permissions information, contact The Poetry Foundation, 1030 North Clark Street, Suite 420, Chicago, IL 60610.
About the Poet
Mary Oliver (1935- ) is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. She has published several poetry collections, including Dog Songs: Poems (Penguin Books, 2015).
Learn more about Mary Oliver at The Poetry Foundation.