A Poem of Roses

summer roses

The Poet Visits the Museum of Fine Arts

by Mary Oliver


For a long time

I was not even

in this world, yet

every summer


every rose

opened in perfect sweetness

and lived

in gracious repose,


in its own exotic fragrance,

in its huge willingness to give

something, from its small self,

to the entirety of the world.


I think of them, thousands upon thousands,

in many lands,

whenever summer came to them,



out of the patience,

to leaf and bud and look up

into the blue sky

or, with thanks,


into the rain

that would feed

their thirsty roots

latched into the earth -


sandy or hard, Vermont or Arabia,

what did it matter

the answer was simply to rise

in joyfulness, all their days.


Have I found any better teaching?

Not ever, not yet.

Last week I saw my first Botticelli

and almost fainted,


and if I could I would paint like that

but am shelved somewhere below, with a few songs

about roses: teachers, also, of the ways

toward thanks, and praise.

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