The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver


About Russell Boyle

Russell Boyle is a mathematics teacher, writer, and poet. His poetry anthologies are titled The Beginning, Footprints and Loneliness. Russell is the author of the Year 7 to 8 Mathematics Short-Answer Tasks, the Year 7 to 10 Mathematics Multiple-Choice Tasks, the Year 9 to 10 Extended-Response Tasks, the solutions to the Year 12 VCAA Mathematics Exams and the Web-Programming For Beginners series of courses. Sample poems and questions may be downloaded from
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6 Responses to The Journey by Mary Oliver

  1. cindy knoke says:

    Oh, she is so wonderful! Thank you for introducing her to me.
    “by Mary Oliver
    is where
    in the pinewoods
    in the moments between
    the darkness

    and first light
    two deer
    came walking down the hill
    and when they saw me

    they said to each other, okay,
    this one is okay,
    let’s see who she is
    and why she is sitting

    on the ground like that,
    so quiet, as if
    asleep, or in a dream,
    but, anyway, harmless”
    This is it exactly. Uncanny that she wrote this. And you remembered it.
    Thank you.

  2. I love Mary Oliver! Thanks for reading my latest, and for the like:-)

  3. indytony says:

    I think you are right. This is a great poem to accompany Iris Dement’s song “When My Morning Comes Around”. Great stuff.

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