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In winter
     all the singing is in
          the tops of the trees
               where the wind-bird

with its white eyes
     shoves and pushes
          among the branches.
               Like any of us

he wants to go to sleep,
     but he's restless—
          he has an idea,
               and slowly it unfolds

from under his beating wings
     as long as he stays awake
          But his big, round music, after all,
               is too breathy to last.

So, it's over.
     In the pine-crown
          he makes his nest,
                he's done all he can.

I don't know the name of this bird,
     I only imagine his glittering beak
          tucked in a white wing
               while the clouds—

which he has summoned
     from the north—
          which he has taught
               to be mild, and silent—

thicken, and begin to fall
     into the world below
          like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird

that loves us,
     that is asleep now, and silent—
          that has turned itself
               into snow.

—Mary Oliver

Copyright 2002 by Mary Oliver.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Editor of POETRY. Copyright 2002 by Mary Oliver. For further permissions information, contact The Poetry Foundation, 1030 North Clark Street, Suite 420, Chicago, IL 60610.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Mary Oliver (1935- ) is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. She has published several poetry collections, including Dog Songs: Poems (Penguin Books, 2015).

Learn more about Mary Oliver at The Poetry Foundation.