my favorite poem of all time.



 In Singapore, in the airport, 
A darkness was ripped from my eyes. 
In the women’s restroom, one compartment stood open. 
A woman knelt there, washing something 
in the white bowl. 

 Disgust argued in my stomach 
and I felt, in my pocket, for my ticket. 

 A poem should always have birds in it. 
Kingfishers, say, with their bold eyes and gaudy wings. 
Rivers are pleasant, and of course trees. 
A waterfall, or if that’s not possible, a fountain 
rising and falling. 
A person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem. 

 When the woman turned I could not answer her face. 
Her beauty and her embarrassment struggled together, and 
neither could win. 
She smiled and I smiled. What kind of nonsense is this? 
Everybody needs a job. 

 Yes, a person wants to stand in a happy place, in a poem. 
But first we must watch her as she stares down at her labor, 
which is dull enough. 
She is washing the tops of the airport ashtrays, as big as 
hubcaps, with a blue rag. 
Her small hands turn the metal, scrubbing and rinsing. 
She does not work slowly, nor quickly, like a river.
 Her dark hair is like the wing of a bird. 

I don’t doubt for a moment that she loves her life. 
And I want to rise up from the crust and the slop
and fly down to the river. 
This probably won’t happen. 
But maybe it will. I
f the world were only pain and logic, who would want it? 

 Of course, it isn’t. 
Neither do I mean anything miraculous, but only
 the light that can shine out of a life. I mean
 the way she unfolded and refolded the blue cloth, 
The way her smile was only for my sake; I mean 
the way this poem is filled with trees, and birds.

-Mary Oliver

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