Friday, May 8, 2009

Today's poem - Trout Lilies by Mary Oliver

Trout Lilies
by Mary Oliver

It happened I couldn't find in all my books
more than a picture and a few words concerning
the trout lily,

so I shut my eyes,
And let the darkness come in
and roll me back.
The old creek

began to sing in my ears
as it rolled along, like the hair of spring,
and the young girl I used to be
heard it also,

as she came swinging into the woods,
truant from everything as usual
except the clear globe of the day, and its
beautiful details.

Then she stopped,
where the first trout lilies of the year
had sprung from the ground
with their spotted bodies
and their six-antlered bright faces,
and their many red tongues.

If she spoke to them, I don't remember what she said,
and if they kindly answered, it's a gift that can't be broken
by giving it away.
All I know is, there was a light that lingered, for hours,
under her eyelids - that made a difference
when she went back to a difficult house, at the end of the day.


  1. oh how i love mary oliver's poetry. thank you for this one, i had forgotten it.


  2. Carole, this book is a really good one! Why I Wake Early - ha! for me it could be why I don't like to wake all that early. :<)

  3. I went looking for blooming trout lilies a few days ago, but found only the speckled leaves. The dutchmen's breeches were blooming, and usually the two coincide. I plan to look again this weekend, but if I've missed them this year, I won't be disappointed now that I've read this poem. How May Oliver brought the sweet joy of wildflower encounters of childhood rushing back. I've been reading a book of her poetry over the past couple of weeks. It is not in front of me, but I think it is called American Primitive.

  4. Oh.
    She's just magnificent, isn't she?
    The real thing.

  5. I'll never look at the trout lilies again without thinking of this poem. My April 29 post has mention of and photos of the trout lilies I found growing in the natural areas of our neighborhood, if you care to take a look. Thank you for the poem.

  6. Aisling, what a nice comment. I think the poem is just wonderful - the way 'difficult' just jumps out as such a surprise at the end.

    Pamela, I so like - 'the real thing.'

    Donna, I'll be over to see. Thank you for letting me know.

  7. Such a coincidence! I was reading through a copy of Why I Wake Early this past Thursday!!

  8. Les, that's amazing. Great minds, my dear! I love that book, and plan to post more of the poems over time.

  9. I've never seen Trout Lilies before - we don't have them over here. They look delightful.
    (Dying to try your watercress and leek soup recipe).

  10. Scriptor S. I'll be interested to hear how you like it!

  11. I guess I'm one of the last ones on the list to know what a trout lily is.-Thanks for the id.

  12. Larry, the thanks go to my handy-dandy Peterson Wildflowers guide! :<) I've been using it for a few years, and when I see something I mark it in the index so I'll remember the next year.


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