The Monday Poem logo


by Mary Oliver

I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It’s like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
full of moonlight.

Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) was a poet who published more than thirty volumes of poetry over five decades, often with a focus on solitude and self-reflection amid scenes from the natural world. Her work is often considered a continuation of the concerns of nineteenth-century American writers, such as Dickinson, Emerson and Thoreau.

Submitted by David Chirico