One of Mary Oliver's supreme gifts is her ability to find language for rapture as she responds to nature and our place within it. Even as she gazes into putrid swamps and the brutal food chain, she finds beauty and light. She explores and celebrates the mystery of our deaths. With her precise imagery, Oliver transposes the chaos of death's threat into a world of symmetry and amazement.
Fig tree dominates the garden, gray and knobby against gray fog, its bare branches grotesque. Like the old, bent parishioners my father would visit, taking me along, a child. They stroked my hands, my woolen dress, reached out with cloudy eyes.
This tree reaches everywhere, as though light can be caught. Slow sun drains through, stirs a wing. Then one morning I see them, green tips of figs hard as emeralds escaping from every knuckled grasp.
The boy was thrown against the ground, his arms flung wide so I could see under the bent grille of the farmer’s truck his narrow chest rise and fall—so I could hear between the swish of passing cars that click of breath and bone.
Even now I watch the rain—but there was no rain— spark against the road. I see his hair— but from where I stood his face was turned— soaked against the ripe fruit of his cheek. Listen,
the bus had stopped for gas. I left my seat and walked across the empty lot hoping for a sink to rinse my mouth. I remember the black field beyond the road, the moonless sky and how I strained to tell heaven from earth.
Truth is, that morning no one was saved. No one lit a cigarette and proclaimed Never again to anything. Strange. How I can see each orange fall from the bed of the truck, thump onto the pavement and roll gently to a stop.