Two Poems for All Soul’s Day 1

The Embrace

You weren’t well or really ill yet either;

just a little tired, your handsomeness

tinged by grief or anticipation, which brought

to your face a thoughtful, deepening grace.


I didn’t for a moment doubt you were dead.

I knew that to be true still, even in the dream.

You’d been out — at work maybe?–

having a good day, almost energetic.


We seemed to be moving from some old house

where we’d lived, boxes everywhere, things

in disarray; that was the story of my dream,

but even asleep I was shocked out of narrative


by your face, the physical fact of your face;

inches from mine, smooth shaven, loving, alert.

Why so difficult, remembering the actual look

of you? Without a photograph, without strain?


So when I saw your unguarded, reliable face,

your unmistakable gaze opening all the warmth

and clarity of you – warm brown tea – we held

each other for the time the dream allowed.


Bless you. You came back, so I could see you

once more, plainly, so I could rest against you

without thinking this happiness lessened anything,

without thinking you were alive again.


  • Mark Doty

A Visitor

My father, for example,

who was young once

and blue-eyed,


on the darkest of nights

to the porch and knocks

wildly at the door,

and if I answer

I must be prepared

for his waxy face,

for his lower lip

swollen with bitterness.

And so, for a long time,

I did not answer,

but slept fitfully

between his hours of rapping.

But finally there came the night

when I rose out of my sheets

and stumbled down the hall.

The door fell open


and I knew I was saved

and could bear him,

pathetic and hollow,

with even the least of his dreams

frozen inside him,

and the meanness gone.

And I greeted him and asked him

into the house,

and lit the lamp,

and looked into his blank eyes

in which at last

I saw what a child must love,

I saw what love might have done

had we loved in time.


– Mary Oliver

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One thought on “Two Poems for All Soul’s Day

  • David

    Interesting Poems, Both About Time. Oliver’s Makes It Clear, In An Ambiguous Way. Doty, Of Course, Only Gives The Image To Chew On, Like a Slice Of Lemon.