The First Poem

Mary Oliver

The poppies send up their
orange flares; swaying
in the wind, their congregations
are a levitation

of bright dust, of thin
and lacy leaves.
There isn’t a place
in this world that doesn’t

sooner or later drown
in the indigos of darkness,
but now, for a while,
the roughage

shines like a miracle
as it floats above everything
with its yellow hair.
Of course nothing stops the cold,

black, curved blade
from hooking forward—
of course
loss is the great lesson.

But I also say this: that light
is an invitation
to happiness,
and that happiness,

when it’s done right,
is a kind of holiness,
palpable and redemptive.
Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,
I am washed and washed
in the river
of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—
what can you do
about it—
deep, blue night?

To give some context: this poem was the first poem I'd ever read, so it's only fitting that it should be the first poem I share with all of you. It sucked me right in to the world of poetry, and I've never looked back. It remains my favorite poem by my favorite poet, paired with a lovely Rothko painting to visually embody the words. Enjoy–

 Mark Rothko. No. 36 (Black Stripe). Oil on canvas. 1958.