I have been to the sea for a week. It settles me deep in to  my contemplative self, and here is a poem which I recalled while I was there. It is by Mary Oliver, who writes so well of the mystery of the soul, and reminds us of the redeeming value of paying close attention to the world (in this case, to sound). As ever, she ends with a reminder of the constant necessity for love. This poem is called Bone.



Understand, I am always trying to figure out

what the soul is,

and where it is hidden,

and what shape

and so, last week, 

when I found on the beach

the ear bone

of a pilot whale that may have died

hundreds of years ago, I thought

maybe I was close

to discovering something

for the ear bone



is the portion that lasts longest

in any of us, man or whale; shaped

like a squat spoon 

with a pink scoop where

once, in the lively swimmer’s head,

it joined its two sisters

in the house of hearing,

it was only

two in inches long

and thought: the soul

might be like this

so hard, so necessary



yet almost nothing.

Beside me

the grey sea

was opening and shutting its wave-doors,

unfolding over and over

its time ridiculing roar;

I looked but I couldn’t see anything

through its dark-knit glare;

yet don’t we all know, the golden sand

is there at the bottom,

though our eyes have never seen it,

nor can our hands ever catch it



lest we would sift it down

into fractions, and facts


and what the soul is, also

I believe I will never quite know.

Though I play at the edges of knowing,

truly I know

our part is not knowing,

but looking, and touching, and loving,

which is the way I walked on,


through the pale pink morning light.




Mary Oliver

Version 2

2 Replies to “Bone”

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