When Death Comes, By MARY OLIVER


When death comes

like the hungry bear in autumn;

when death comes and takes all the bright coins

from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;

when death comes

like the measle-pox;

when death comes, like an iceberg between

shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door of curiosity,


what is it going to be like, that cottage

of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything

as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common

as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music

in the mouth,

tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something

precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridgegroom, taking the world

into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing

and frightened,

or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited

this world.

From “New and Selected Poems” (Beacon Press: $20; 255 pp.), reviewed on this page. 1992 by Mary Oliver. Reprinted by permission.