Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mary Oliver: "Winter and the Nuthatch"

Once or twice and maybe again, who knows,
the timid nuthatch will come to me
if I stand still, with something good to eat in my hand.
The first time he did it
he landed smack on his belly, as though
the legs wouldn't cooperate. The next time
he was bolder. Then he became absolutely
wild about those walnuts.

But there was a morning I came late and, guess what,
the nuthatch was flying into a stranger's hand.
To speak plainly, I felt betrayed.
I wanted to say: Mister,
that nuthatch and I have a relationship.
It took hours of standing in the snow
before he would drop from the tree and trust my fingers.
But I didn't say anything.

Nobody owns the sky or the trees.
Nobody owns the hearts of birds.
Still, being human and partial therefore to my own successes—
though not resentful of others fashioning theirs—

I'll come tomorrow, I believe, quite early.

"Winter and the Nuthatch" by Mary Oliver, from Red Bird: Poems. © Beacon Press, 2008.  

Photography credit: "A White-breasted Nuthatch surprised my wife with a visit," detail from an image by fotogordo (originally color).



  1. I love Mary Oliver. I love the way she sometimes teases herself in her poems. She seems like such a real person.

  2. Such a very human impulse she expresses at the end! Love her description of the crash landing.


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