• The Return

    Mary Oliver

    Fall 1964

    The deed took all my heart.
    I did not think of you,
    Not till the thing was done.
    I put my sword away,
    And then no more the cold
    And perfect fury ran
    Along my narrow bones,
    And then no more the black
    And dripping corridors
    Held anywhere the shape
    That I had come to slay.
    Then, for the first time,
    I saw in the cave’s belly,
    The dark and clotted webs,
    The green and sucking pools,
    The rank and crumbling walls,
    The maze of passages.

    And I thought then
    Of the far earth,
    Of the spring sun
    And the slow wind,
    And a young girl.
    And I looked then
    At the white thread.

    Hunting the minotaur,
    I was no common man
    And had no need of love.
    I trailed the shining thread
    Behind me, for a vow,
    And did not think of you.
    It lay there, like a sign,
    Coiled on the hull’s great hoof
    And back into the world.
    Half blind with weariness
    I touched the thread and wept.
    O, it was frail as air.

    And I turned then
    With the white spool
    Through the cold rocks,
    Through the black rocks,
    Through the long webs,
    And the mist fell,
    And the webs clung,
    And the rocks tumbled,
    And the earth shook.

    And the thread held.

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