The Operating System

POETRY MONTH 30/30/30: Inspiration, Community, Tradition :: DAY 2: Pete Reilly on Mary Oliver

Today we begin the community portion of our Poetry Month: Inspiration, Community, Tradition series with Peter Reilly writing on Mary Oliver‘s poetry and its influence on his work.

PR: Mary Oliver’s gift is to describe the natural world simply, in a way that reveals the deepest secrets of our human heart. She is grounded in the reality of survival – life and death – predator and prey; yet never loses her eye for the eternal, for amazement, and for the magic of transformation.


From “Wild Geese”

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

photo: Brian Reilly

But little by little
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper 
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save 
the only life you could save.

Read more of Oliver’s work here.

photo: Brian Reilly

The Poet Says
Pete Reilly

there is no road.
it does not exist.
sit quietly,
hear the crow;
it will guide you.
the mind is terrible.
left alone
it will destroy you,
put you to sleep,
drown you in words;
avoid it.
rest on the mossy banks of the river,
sleep in the passing clouds,
warm yourself near the fire,
lay your thanks
at the feet of strangers.
Life is final.
dream at night,
dream in daylight,
know when to die.

Peter  Reilly is a recent addition to our community, coming to us via  Ariana Reines‘s wonderful Oppression and Redemption Songs workshop at the Poetry Project (community feeding community…wonderful…!)

Pete has been an educator for most of his life. His essay “When the Classroom Door Swings Inward” was included in the anthology “Being Human at Work”, published by North Atlantic Press. He has had poetry published in Blueline, Bluestem, Blotter, and Perspectives magazines. In addition to poetry, he is presently finishing his second novel, and a non-fiction work, “Teaching From The Inside Out”. He lives and writes in Tompkins Cove, NY, with his wife, Liz.

The photos here were taken by Pete’s son, Brian, who is a student at SUNY Oswego. You can find his flickr HERE.


One Commment

  1. […] DeSilva-Johnson (hey, that’s me!) on Mina/Traver Pam Dick Pete Reilly on Mary Oliver Bill Considine on Elinor Nauen Tishon Woolcock on Orhan Veli Kanik Caits Meissner on Adam Falkner […]

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