The Sea by Mary Oliver

Stroke by

stroke my

body remembers that life and cries for

the lost parts of itself—-

fins, gills

opening like flowers into

the flesh—-my legs

want to lock and become

one muscle, I swear I know

just what the blue-gray scales


the rest of me would

feel like!

paradise! Sprawled

in that motherlap,

in that dreamhouse

of salt and exercise,

what a spillage

of nostalgia pleads

from the very bones! how

they long to give up the long trek

inland, the brittle

beauty of understanding,

and dive,

and simply

become again a flaming body

of blind feeling

sleeking along

in the luminous roughage of the sea’s body,


like victory inside that

insucking genesis, that

roaring flamboyance, that


beginning and

conclusion of our own.

Poem from Mary Oliver: New And Selected Poems Volume One
Winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize
pp.172-173 Beacon Press, Boston www.beaconpress.org

This poem originally appeared in American Primitive by Mary Oliver (published by Little, Brown and Company).

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