Mary Oliver





A Visitor

My father, for example, 
who was young once
and blue-eyed, 
returns
on the darkest of nights
to the porch and knocks
wildly at the door, 
and if I answer
I must be prepared
for his waxy face, 
for his lower lip
swollen with bitterness. 
And so, for a long time, 
I did not answer, 
but slept fitfully
between his hours of rapping. 
But finally there came the night
when I rose out of my sheets
and stumbled down the hall. 
The door fell open

and I knew I was saved 
and could bear him, 
pathetic and hollow, 
with even the least of his dreams
frozen inside him, 
and the meanness gone. 
And I greeted him and asked him
into the house, 
and lit the lamp, 
and looked into his blank eyes
in which at last
I saw what a child must love, 
I saw what love might have done
had we loved in time.



spoken = Susannah Wood