One of my Favorite Poems

Heavy by Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hands in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poems and this is one of her poems that resonates a lot with me. There have been many wonderful moments so far this summer, but also grief. I have been missing Fran (always) and Rachel, who committed suicide in April, and been thinking a lot about my student, Sarah, who died accidentally in the shower a week after Rachel.

Also my housemate’s dad was just diagnosed with cancer and it is not looking good. Sometimes it feels like the grim reaper hangs around behind my back. I am hoping he stays away this time.

Still amid the grief, there is always laughter and admiration for the world, as Oliver writes. And thankfully the grief is not as sharp and heavy as it used to be.

Cover image: Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash



  1. Just wanted to reply to say I’m thinking of you. How awful. Sounds like it’s been a rough few months. I’ve missed your writing.

    • Hi K, thanks for stopping by and for all your comments. I am hoping to write more soon, about the good parts of the summer too, like visiting family in England and a trip to Hawaii. Of course it is always important to put into words too the hard parts of life. Thanks for reading! ❤

  2. Hi Jessica, What a lovely poem. They did a special on Mary Oliver here in Alaska, last summer on Public Radio. I started reading her poems…wonderful! We miss Rachel so. In everything we do we think of her. Sometimes I smile and sometimes the tears come….again. I’ve been picking strawberries and blueberries and she is with me….how she loved to pick berries here. We do well in public now, but at the end of the day when we reflect, the tears still come. She was my daughter and my best friend. So hard to have lost both. I’m so sorry for the sorrow in your life. I have learned what a mighty force grief is. Bless you. Jon and I still smile as we remember all the sweet faces of Rachel’s friends who we were lucky enough to have met in Maryland. Thank you for the lovely posting…………Julie (Rachel’s mom)

    • Hi Julie,
      Thank-you for stopping by. You and Jon have often been on my mind while I think about Rachel. Grief is definitely a special kind of sorrow; and something that never fully goes away, but as I have found it does become easier to carry with time. Although everyone experiences grief differently, I think that all of us who have experienced it are on a similar journey with each other.

      I am so glad that we were able to meet you, Jon and Rachel’s brothers and have often thought about those gatherings, particularly the evening spent at the chapel’s garden, with Sam singing, Bru sharing her letter, me sharing Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, and walking the labyrinth together.

      I wish you all peace, and that the laughter and smiles outweigh the tears. Know that all of Rachel’s friends still miss her and think of her a lot. Berry-picking sounds wonderful; I have many memories of picking berries as a child on our friend’s farm. All the best, Jessica

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