Poem For The Weekend #66

A poem, for your end-of-weekend (if we’re to rephrase our definition of Monday, just a tad), by the abidingly wonderful Mary Oliver about her partner of forty years, and the realisation that we can never know another – even those closest to us – as fully as we desire. And perhaps that’s a magic all of its own. 

The Whistler

All of a sudden she began to whistle. By all of a sudden
I mean that for more than thirty years she had not
whistled. It was thrilling. At first I wondered, who was
in the house, what stranger? I was upstairs reading, and
she was downstairs. As from the throat of a wild and
cheerful bird, not caught but visiting, the sounds war-
bled and slid and doubled back and larked and soared.

Finally I said, Is that you? Is that you whistling? Yes, she
said. I used to whistle, a long time ago. Now I see I can
still whistle. And cadence after cadence she strolled
through the house, whistling.

I know her so well, I think. I thought. Elbow and an-
kle. Mood and desire. Anguish and frolic. Anger too.
And the devotions. And for all that, do we even begin
to know each other? Who is this I’ve been living with
for thirty years?

This clear, dark, lovely whistler?

  • What a beautiful poem! Thank you for sharing this. Ahhh I just love your blog! x

    • Ahh, Laura! Thank you so much. It’s such a heart-wrenching poem, right? x

  • I adore Mary Oliver, but had never read this poem before. Goodness me, how beautiful (my hairs are standing on end).

    You always have such wonderful poems on here – where do you find them? (Do you have any collections you can recommend, or do you just try to read a poem a day? I should get back into to that habit. I felt very ‘alive’ the summer I filled with poems).

    • Me neither – such an underrated one. I had no idea she’d been in a 30-year relationship with a woman until I read and researched this one. Glorious. I subscribe to the Poems a Day daily email, which is lovely, and otherwise love flicking through the Staying Alive anthologies. Lots of heart-wrenchers in there xx