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by Mary Oliver

Flare Death Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Section.Line)

Quote #4

I bury her
in a box
in the earth
and turn away. (5.10-13)

We think this image pretty well encapsulates what our speaker is saying about loss: she gives her mother the respect of a burial, but then moves on. She doesn't want to spend the rest of her life hanging around the graveyard. Fair enough, speaker. Fair enough.

Quote #5

May they sleep well. May they soften. (6.9)

Is there a life after death? Does "soften" just refer to decomposition? (Gross.) And what about that word sleep? Our speaker doesn't say a lot about life after death in this poem, but there are little hints. She mentions God in the first section, but in a pretty noncommittal way: the poem is not rain dropped from the purse of God. Then there's this line, which leaves the door cracked for some sort of existence after death (what's the point of wishing that they sleep well otherwise?). But then again, maybe it's just a saying. We're certainly not going to commit if she's not!

Quote #6

Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
    like the diligent leaves. (12.9-10)

Moving from the dead stump to being green like the leaves seems to represent moving from death to life. Or moving from thoughts of what's been lost (the tree that used to be where the stump was) to taking part in the living world. (Green leaves are the live ones, after all!)

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