Memoir Poetry Writing

Reading Mary Oliver in a Pandemic

I’m reading Mary Oliver again
and for the first time, too, it seems,
meeting once more my kindred
in these quieter, solitary days —
only she likes dogs and I’m allergic, so
I think of the love I’ve shared with cats
and superimpose that over
what she so easily offers on the page,
allowing me to sink my feet
deep into the sand of beaches we love,
find borrowed respite and fresh salt air
as she walks and they walk and we walk.

This is not unlike my general effort of late,
translating dogs into cats,
crumbs into cake, lemons into aid,
finding devotion somewhere
in the twists and turns of what is,
of here and now, of no I don’t love dogs but I do love you,
and damn it someone should write that down
to remember before it’s too late.

Like Mary did:
gathered up all of her words
her favorite words, her treasured words
her words so precious and important
they required devotion
in this heavy record
of everything she wanted to say
and everything she held in silence



is all we can offer each other.

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne upon reading Devotions by Mary Oliver. Photo from Pexels.