'Flare' by Mary Oliver

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Welcome to the silly, comforting poem.

It is not the sunrise,
which is a red rinse,
which is flaring all over the eastern sky;

it is not the rain falling out of the purse of God;

it is not the blue helmet of the sky afterward,

or the trees, or the beetle burrowing into the earth;

it is not the mockingbird who, in his own cadence,
will go on sizzling and clapping
from the branches of the catalpa that are thick with blossoms,
that are billowing and shining,
that are shaking in the wind.


You still recall, sometimes, the old barn on your
great-grandfather's farm, a place you visited once,
and went into, all alone, while the grownups sat and
talked in the house.
It was empty, or almost. Wisps of hay covered the floor,
and some wasps sang at the windows, and maybe there was
a strange fluttering bird high above, disturbed, hoo-ing
a little and staring down from a messy ledge with wild,
binocular eyes.
Mostly, though, it smelled of milk, and the patience of
animals; the give-offs of the body were still in the air,
a vague ammonia, not unpleasant.
Mostly, though, it was restful and secret, the roof high
up and arched, the boards unpainted and plain.
You could have stayed there forever, a small child in a corner,
on the last raft of hay, dazzled by so much space that seemed
empty, but wasn't.
Then--you still remember--you felt the rap of hunger--it was
noon--and you turned from that twilight dream and hurried back
to the house, where the table was set, where an uncle patted you
on the shoulder for welcome, and there was your place at the table.


Nothing lasts.
There is a graveyard where everything I am talking about is,

I stood there once, on the green grass, scattering flowers.


Nothing is so delicate or so finely hinged as the wings
of the green moth
against the lantern
against its heat
against the beak of the crow
in the early morning.

Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop
of self-pity.

Not in this world.


My mother
was the blue wisteria,
my mother
was the mossy stream out behind the house,
my mother, alas, alas,
did not always love her life,
heavier than iron it was
as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,
oh, unforgettable!

I bury her
in a box
in the earth
and turn away.
My father
was a demon of frustrated dreams,
was a breaker of trust,
was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.
He followed God, there being no one else
he could talk to;
he swaggered before God, there being no one else
who would listen.
this was his life.
I bury it in the earth.
I sweep the closets.
I leave the house.


I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.

It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.

I give them--one, two, three, four--the kiss of courtesy,
of sweet thanks,
of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.
May they sleep well. May they soften.

But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.
I will not give them the responsibility for my life.


Did you know that the ant has a tongue
with which to gather in all that it can
of sweetness?

Did you know that?


The poem is not the world.
It isn't even the first page of the world.

But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.

It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.


The voice of the child crying out of the mouth of the
grown woman
is a misery and a disappointment.
The voice of the child howling out of the tall, bearded,
muscular man
is a misery, and a terror.


Therefore, tell me:
what will engage you?
What will open the dark fields of your mind,
like a lover
at first touching?


there was no barn.
No child in the barn.

No uncle no table no kitchen.

Only a long lovely field full of bobolinks.


When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

This is the dark bread of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Flare by Mary Oliver: A Poem of Self-Discovery and Spiritual Awakening

Are you looking for a poem that speaks to your soul? Do you crave a literary work that illuminates the mysteries of life and invites you to contemplate your existence? Look no further than "Flare" by Mary Oliver, a timeless poem that celebrates the beauty of nature, the complexity of human emotions, and the power of self-discovery and spiritual awakening.

At first glance, "Flare" may seem like a simple ode to a natural phenomenon, the flare of the sun on a winter day. The poem begins with a vivid description of the scene: "1. Welcome to the silly, comforting / poem. It is not the sunrise / which is a red rinse / nor is it the moonlight" (lines 1-4). The speaker sets the tone of the poem as "silly" and "comforting," suggesting that the poem aims to entertain and soothe the reader. However, the speaker also emphasizes that the poem is not about the sunrise or the moonlight, which are more commonly associated with poetic inspiration. Instead, the poem focuses on a moment of unexpected beauty, the flare of the sun, which "dazzles / the snow to whiteness" (lines 5-6).

But as the poem progresses, it becomes clear that "Flare" is not just about the beauty of nature, but also about the mystery of human existence. The speaker uses the image of the flare to explore the fleetingness of life and the inevitability of death. "2. Nor is it the snow itself, pale and silver, / nor the bare twig of the trees scrawled across / the icy blue sky" (lines 7-9). Here, the speaker suggests that even the most beautiful and enduring things in life, like the snow and the trees, are subject to change and decay. The image of the "bare twig" evokes a sense of vulnerability and fragility, as if the trees are exposed to the harshness of the elements. The icy blue sky also creates a sense of coldness and emptiness, as if the world is indifferent to human suffering.

Yet, despite the bleakness of the scene, the speaker finds hope and joy in the flare. "3. It is simply a country scene that once seen / cannot be unseen. Believe me, / I have tried" (lines 10-12). The repetition of the word "seen" creates a sense of urgency and insistence, as if the speaker wants the reader to understand the importance of this moment. The speaker also acknowledges that the scene is not particularly remarkable or extraordinary, but it has a lasting impact on the viewer. The phrase "cannot be unseen" suggests that the image of the flare is imprinted on the speaker's mind and cannot be erased. The speaker's tone here is almost reverential, as if the flare is a symbol of something sacred and mysterious.

As the poem reaches its conclusion, the speaker reveals the deeper meaning behind the flare. "4. One winter afternoon at Pine Point / the sun so low and the light pouring out / so cold, and the trees in silhouette / and the drifts blown up and the shapes / of the rocks showing through the outlines / of the hillside, and the light striking / those same rocks cold pink and perfect, / and the wind howling and the flags snapping / and the owners of the cottage trudging out / wrapped in wool to see what the fuss was about, / it was one of those flare moments frozen / as if by a camera, the mind insisting / on a meaning, a message, / something, something, / and forever, forever, / cannot be explained, / snapped back / like a branch in the wind" (lines 13-29).

Here, the speaker describes the scene in greater detail, painting a picture of a winter day at Pine Point, where the sun is low, the wind is howling, and the owners of the cottage are curious about the flare. The image of the "rocks cold pink and perfect" creates a sense of harmony and balance, as if the natural world is in perfect alignment with the flare. The phrase "forever, forever" emphasizes the lasting impact of the moment, as if the experience is eternal and infinite. The repetition of the word "something" suggests that the speaker is searching for a deeper meaning behind the flare, something that cannot be put into words but is felt on a spiritual level.

Finally, the speaker concludes the poem with a powerful metaphor: "snapped back / like a branch in the wind" (line 30). This image captures the ephemeral nature of the flare, which is both fleeting and enduring. Like a branch that bends and snaps in the wind, the flare represents the fragility and resilience of human life. The speaker suggests that the flare is a reminder to live in the present moment, to appreciate the beauty of life even in the midst of hardship and suffering. The poem invites the reader to reflect on their own experiences of self-discovery and spiritual awakening, to seek meaning and purpose in the world, and to embrace the mystery and wonder of existence.

In summary, "Flare" by Mary Oliver is a masterpiece of poetic expression, combining vivid imagery, powerful metaphors, and deep insights into the human condition. The poem celebrates the beauty of nature, the complexity of human emotions, and the power of self-discovery and spiritual awakening. The flare symbolizes the fleetingness of life, the inevitability of death, and the eternal mystery of existence. The poem invites the reader to contemplate their own experiences of awe and wonder, to embrace the mystery of life, and to live in the present moment with gratitude and joy. If you are looking for a poem that will inspire and uplift you, "Flare" is the perfect choice.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Flare: A Poem of Illumination and Self-Discovery

Mary Oliver, one of the most celebrated poets of our time, has gifted us with a plethora of beautiful and thought-provoking poems. Among them, "Flare" stands out as a masterpiece of illumination and self-discovery. In this 2000-word analysis, we will delve deep into the poem's meaning, structure, and language, and explore how it speaks to our innermost selves.

The poem begins with a simple yet powerful statement: "My heart's aflutter!" This exclamation sets the tone for the rest of the poem, conveying a sense of excitement and anticipation. The speaker is clearly experiencing something profound, something that is causing her heart to race and her senses to awaken.

As we move into the second stanza, we learn that the source of this excitement is a "flare" that has appeared in the sky. The speaker describes it as "a single / cell / from the body of / light." This metaphorical language is typical of Oliver's style, as she often uses nature as a way to explore deeper truths about the human experience. Here, the flare represents a moment of illumination, a sudden burst of insight that illuminates the darkness of our ignorance.

The third stanza is where the poem really takes off, as the speaker begins to reflect on the significance of this flare. She asks herself, "What does it mean?" and then answers her own question: "It means / the world is still full / of miracles / that haven't / forgot how to / surprise us." This is a powerful statement, one that reminds us that even in our darkest moments, there is always the possibility of wonder and awe. The world is full of miracles, and we just need to be open to them.

The fourth stanza is perhaps the most enigmatic of the poem, as the speaker describes the flare as "a new / white flower / appearing / on the tip / of a cactus." This image is both beautiful and strange, as it seems to suggest that the flare is both fragile and resilient, like a flower growing in the harsh desert environment. It also hints at the idea of transformation, as the cactus is transformed by the appearance of the flower.

In the fifth stanza, the speaker reflects on her own response to the flare, describing herself as "a hummingbird / who has just / discovered / the red / feeder." This image is both playful and profound, as it suggests that the speaker is experiencing a moment of intense joy and excitement, much like a hummingbird feeding on nectar. It also suggests that the speaker is discovering something new and life-giving, something that will sustain her in the days to come.

The sixth and final stanza brings the poem to a close, as the speaker reflects on the fleeting nature of the flare. She describes it as "a spark / from a match / being struck / in a darkened room," a moment of illumination that is quickly extinguished. But even as the flare fades away, the speaker is left with a sense of wonder and gratitude. She concludes the poem with the beautiful lines: "Oh, I could break / into gratefulness / at any moment."

So what does all of this mean? At its core, "Flare" is a poem about illumination and self-discovery. The flare represents a moment of insight, a sudden burst of understanding that illuminates the darkness of our ignorance. It reminds us that even in our darkest moments, there is always the possibility of wonder and awe. The world is full of miracles, and we just need to be open to them.

But the poem is also about the fleeting nature of these moments of illumination. Like the flare, they are often brief and transitory, quickly fading away into the darkness. But even as they fade, they leave us with a sense of wonder and gratitude, reminding us of the beauty and mystery of life.

The structure and language of the poem are also worth exploring. The poem is written in free verse, with no set rhyme or meter. This gives the poem a sense of spontaneity and freedom, as if the speaker is simply allowing her thoughts and emotions to flow freely. The language is also simple and direct, with no unnecessary words or flourishes. This simplicity allows the images and ideas to speak for themselves, without the need for elaborate metaphors or poetic devices.

Overall, "Flare" is a beautiful and thought-provoking poem that speaks to the deepest parts of our selves. It reminds us that even in our darkest moments, there is always the possibility of wonder and awe. It encourages us to be open to the miracles of the world, and to embrace moments of illumination and self-discovery whenever they arise. And it reminds us that even as these moments fade away, we can still be grateful for the beauty and mystery of life.

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