Lindsay Lewis

English/ ESL consultant: Word worker, writer, teacher, mentor and poet. Author of This Won’t Hurt a Bit! on writing clear content.

Mary Oliver: Beyond the Snow Belt | Mary Oliver, Coronavirus, poetry, literature,

Mary Oliver: An award winning poet who understands.


Mary Oliver’s poem Beyond the Snow Belt is appropriate for our current situation. In fact, it’s always relevant. She speaks with compassion and clarity about our greatest vice- human indifference. Please think about Migrant workers in India and around the world who are walking for four or five days with no water or food to return to their villages.


 Beyond the Snow Belt

Beyond the Snow Belt by Mary Oliver

Over the local stations, one by one,
Announcers list disasters like dark poems
That always happen in the skull of winter.
But once again the storm has passed us by:
Lovely and moderate, the snow lies down
While shouting children hurry back to play,
And scarved and smiling citizens once more
Sweep down their easy paths of pride and welcome.And what else might we do? Les us be truthful.
Two counties north the storm has taken lives.
Two counties north, to us, is far away, –
A land of trees, a wing upon a map,
A wild place never visited, – so we
Forget with ease each far mortality.

Peacefully from our frozen yards we watch
Our children running on the mild white hills.
This is the landscape that we understand, –
And till the principle of things takes root,
How shall examples move us from our calm?
I do not say that is not a fault.
I only say, except as we have loved,
All news arrives as from a distant land.


With a disparate tone, Oliver draws attention to our ambivalence to disaster. Unless we are personally suffering, we show little concern for the plight of others. Her double negative ” I do not say that it is not a fault” is intentional- highlighting our foibles, yet she maintains the cold, factual tone that people seem indifferent to the hardships and deaths of others who are merely statistics. Remember that each person has a face- a mother, a father, family, loved ones…. her poem is a stark reminder and timeless in its message, never more important than now. 



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