Reading time: Approximately 3 minutes
"A Quiet Occurrence” first appeared in Issue 16 of Tahoma Literary Review. Many of us knew Mary Oliver’s work by the time of her passing in January 2019, and this gentle exploration by Alan Perry is dedicated to her memory. What first caught my attention is Perry’s approach in images, even as the lines in his work waterfall with a staggered indentation. This spacing acts much as the water in the poem, traveling slowly across the page with the sadness many of us felt in losing a poetic icon. But rather than end with irredeemable loss, “A Quiet Occurrence” centers each image in Oliver’s ability to find the unexpected in front of her, while simultaneously celebrating all that is still to come. Could there be a better way to honor her life than to remember that her words continue, in each of us?
A Quiet Occurrence
for Mary Oliver
By Alan Perry
In now voiceless woods I hear
only rain that slips off branches,
puddling along trails
as if from weeping trees.
But waterfalls still cascade
in spring-leaps from cliffs,
wild geese fly out toward amazement
and mushrooms consume wet darkness.
Paths appear on half-lit leaves
flooring the forest
as each footprint leads a rabbit
to forage for nourishment.
Near a black river,
I hunt for the pencil
she left at the next turn
and the paper with lines
she coaxed into living.
Alan had this to say about "A Quiet Occurrence":
I’m frequently moved by the passing of individuals who made a unique statement during their lives. Poet Mary Oliver’s legacy is truly memorable, bringing her sense of place, nature and humanity to those who enjoy her work. The more I read her poetry, the greater my appreciation for the many ways she described beauty in her surroundings, and a love of life in the world she explored. This poem attempts to capture—in the briefest of terms—her loss, her sense of the environment, and her gentle means of finding new inspiration in the woods she loved.
Alan Perry's debut chapbook, Clerk of the Dead, was a finalist and honorable mention in the Cathy Smith Bowers poetry competition and will be published in early 2020. He is a Senior Poetry Editor for Typehouse Literary Magazine, and his poetry has appeared in Heron Tree, Sleet Magazine, Gyroscope Review and elsewhere, including several anthologies. He was nominated for a Best of the Net, and holds a BA in English from the University of Minnesota. Alan and his wife divide their time between a suburb of Minneapolis, MN and Tucson, AZ.