Hot Chocolate and Mary

The leaves of an elm splash
dappled sunlight on the forest
floor. A chill lingers in the
air so we share hot chocolate
from a thermos, pour the creamy
liquid into insulated mugs.

Age does not prevent her
from sprawling on the earth
she loves so passionately.
She leans against the tree’s
stout trunk, says, “I’m yours.”

My mouth is dry like when
the dentist stuffs it full of
cotton rolls. Disbelief numbs
me till she laughs—a sound
as real as songs of her beloved
birds that sing their prayers
in unison from the surrounding
branches and marshy meadows.

“I’m yours,” she says again,
reminding me I’m here to do
the interview I’ve wished for,
nurtured in my imagination
since I discovered her.

“Your life,” I coax, knowing
that but a single word suffices.

As for myself
I swung the door open and there was
The wordless singing world. And I ran for my life.

“You ran to it?”

“Yes, immersed myself in beauty.”
While on and on the sparrow sings.

“And aging? If you don’t mind, that is.”

In the deep fall, don’t you imagine the leaves think
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth…?”

…and what shall I wish for myself but,
being so struck by the lightning of years
to live with what is left, loving.

“Any regrets?”

There wasn’t
time enough for all the wonderful things
I could think of to do

In a single day…

“If you could choreograph your death?”

…Maybe on a midsummer night’s eve,
And without fanfare.

“About death?”

So it is
if the heart has devoted itself to love, there is
not a single inch of emptiness. Gladness gleams
all the way to the grave.

“And after?”

If there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet,
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of grass
and the weeds.

She takes her leave.
I watch her walk across the fields,
stopping to listen
or to follow the flight of a heron.
She’s alone now
with Percy her dog
and memories of having lived well.



I would do just about anything to spend an hour with Mary Oliver, a poet who has touched my life and my writing so deeply. This is an imagined interview. The responses in italics are all snippets of her poetry chosen from the Volume “New and Selected Poems, Volume Two.” I wrote this in response to Claudia’s prompt on Saturday but didn’t have time to develop it beyond an idea. So here it is, linked to dVerse Poets Open Link Night. The mics are open Tuesday, 3:00 EST. Check it out!


41 thoughts on “Hot Chocolate and Mary

  1. Timoteo says:

    So creative. truly enjoyed it.


  2. janehewey says:

    wonderful. your flow is seamless and spare. the beauty here is plucked with songful reverence. what a great write, Victoria- shining your skills with form and imagery. a pure delight to read.


  3. clawfish says:

    I have only read a little of Mary Oliver but this has me yearning to read more


  4. Warmed me to my toes. Thank you I needed to pull my head out today. Yes wonderful world we live in.


  5. I knew it wasn’t our Mary when you said the dog’s name was Percy:)


  6. ManicDdaily says:

    Hey Victoria — I kind of took this as the other Mary at first! A bit of a disconnect for me and yet it also worked in and odd way as the idea of devotion to beauty in the deepest sense is so true here. Lovely. Thanks. k.


  7. What a touching, powerful ‘interview.’ What a delight to read.


  8. This is absolutely wonderful! I knew it was Mary Oliver even before reading your notes and without recognising the excerpts. (Hey, this interviewer asks great questions!) 🙂


  9. Julie Laing says:

    Hello, Victoria! It’s so good to be back on your pages again. This is a lovely piece. I particularly liked the bit related to the “songs of her beloved birds”–it made me think of my grandmother. But I believe it was my mother who gave me my first collection of Oliver’s verse. Again, lovely.


  10. Talon says:

    I loved the set-up and how you incorporated Mary’s words. Just beautiful.


  11. Jeff says:

    An intriguing blend of her and you and in the end the product a fitting tribute to one who so inspires.
    It is tender, filled with wonder.


  12. Poet Laundry says:

    Captivating! As that actual interview would be!


  13. Rowan Taw says:

    I’ve just bought my first MO book of poems – your poem makes me eager to start it.


  14. Love the interview…and am a fan of Mary too.

    In the deep fall, don’t you imagine the leaves think
    how comfortable it will be to touch
    the earth…?”

    That captured Mary Oliver so well for me!


  15. Pamela says:

    Victoria, this is beautiful. Mary was a fine poet and she spoke of her unison with earth with such a natural ease. A wonderful read.



  16. WabiSabi says:

    Oh this is a wonderful tribute to one of my favorite modern poets! Her simple love of the earth and everything in it resonates in all of her poems and , like her, I hope to lie down in autumn when the leaves fall. Your imagined interview in poetic form is brilliant and does great justice to her poetry! Bravo!


  17. kkkkaty1 says:

    Wonderful rendering of an interview with her…love her leaning against the tree..the dialogue is simply riveting..


  18. this is fantastic…I can feel her presence throughout… not just in her poetic lines, but in your questions too.


  19. I like the relaxed start, the hot chocolate easing me into the interview.


  20. A wonderful concept for your poem tonight, thank you!


  21. Oh I agree – how wonderful to be able to spend time with her – So loved the quotes interspersed – just a really beautiful poem – K


  22. Mary says:

    Victoria, I love what you did with Claudia’s prompt, glad you posted it today. I enjoyed the Mary Oliver quotes. Your meeting seems quite real to me. I feel I got to know a bit more about Mary Oliver AND about you from this poem. And so true that there is never enough time to do all that one would want to do!


  23. yelena says:

    absolutely beautiful Victoria…this verse touched me very deeply…


  24. A wonderful idea well executed. I’m sure Mary would be pleased. What writer does not delight in such homage?!


  25. kelly says:

    This is fabulous… yes, just exactly how I would imagine her answers to flow. She is such an inspiration, as a poet, and as a person.


  26. L says:

    So enjoy your breadth and depth here.


  27. ayala says:

    A wonderful conversation…love this!


  28. What a fantastic conversation… and I love how you brought the prompt from saturday into the open link… great one.


  29. Laurie Kolp says:

    Oh, this is lovely and seemed so real, Victoria. I’m a fan of hers, too.


  30. Tony Maude says:

    I love the apprehensive beginning – that’s so true to life for any of us getting to meet someone who we’ve admired from afar – and the way you’ve woven her poetry into yours using her lines to provide answers to your questions. Fab-u-lous Victoria!


  31. Oh, Victoria, this is gorgeous. I would love to interview Mary Oliver…what you have done here is such a perfect homage.


  32. Tino says:

    Simply awesome stuff. Totally unique and so rich in descriptions, I can almost sense the place where you conducted this interview. To use snippets of her own work as answers is inspirational.


  33. viv blake says:

    What a great idea, to imagine an interview with an admired poet. Her views on ageing chime with my own, and I resolve to seek her work to read for myself.

    Are you lucky enough still to have elm trees in America? I do so miss them since the Dutch Elm Disease wiped them out in the sixties and seventies. Their shapes were unmistakably regal.


  34. I live and breathe for love and will continue to do so till i leave earth …
    This is such a wonderful poem so true to a dearest heart … Thanks for sharing Ms. Slotto


  35. claudia says:

    oh victoria, really like this much…what a cool convo.. i don’t know that much about her but just listening to the two of you made me def. curious to check out more of her what she says about death…with the leaves..just a gorgeous image


  36. Jueseppi B. says:

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat.Com™ and commented:
    Beautiful post from Ms. Victoria C. Slotto. Thank you for sharing.


  37. brian miller says:

    this is so good victoria…from you own apprehension at the beginning of the interview to the weave of her words …smiles…it was the answer to the question of aging…both of them that really struck me…this is one that will stick with me…you made something special here…smiles.


  38. Jamie Dedes says:

    A lovely fantasy and a dear homage. I like it very much and fancy that Mary would be honored and like it as well.


  39. jmgoyder says:

    This is fantastic!


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