“What We Want” by Mary Oliver

The area in which I live and work is now in hour 46 of what we think is a 48-hour electricity blackout. We “hope” the lights come back at 6pm today. When this dumsor started so many hours ago, I forget when, we thought it would last for the “usual” 12 hours.  There’s been no announcement nor explanation for this extended period.  This is the new normal in customer service from the Electricity Corporation of Ghana. It continues to unsettle; Ghana has been in the grips of electricity load-shedding for years now.

I woke up dejected and feeling rejected. It’s been a trying time — floods and fire last week killed over 200 Ghanaians in Accra— and my nerves, my strength are failing. I so desperately need the magic of poetry but perusing my old favorites was not satisfying. Then I came across the Mary Oliver poem below.  It will do.

Mary Oliver is an American poet. Enjoy.

What We Want

In a poem
people want
something fancy,

but even more
they want something
made plain,

easy to swallow—
not unlike a suddenly
harmonic passage

in an otherwise
difficult and sometimes dissonant

even if it is only
for the moment
of hearing it.

– by Mary Oliver




  1. A nice poem apt for your or should I say our situation. At least my area has about 48 hours lights before it goes off. 🙂 It shall be well, what else can I say? 🙂


  2. Unlike many people, I am not a Mary Oliver fan. However, as you say, this poem will do. If you want to read something different and my favorite author, find the book “Storyteller” by Leslie Marmon Silko from Laguna Pueblo. Great poems, anecdotes, and several superb short stories.


  3. That must be so frustrating, I remember when I visited Lagos for my friends wedding the electricity went out in the neighbourhood and they all said it was because of the wedding, I felt sorry for all the neighbours that had to suffer as well, while they negotiated to get it turned back on!

    Mary Oliver sounds like a must read poet, one I keep hearing of and yet have not read a collection yet, lucky for you she was near at hand.


  4. I’m so sorry to hear about these trials, Kinna – and I hope you have your power restored by now. Unsettling, for sure.

    I love this poem, and it seems perfect for you — and many other — situations. Thanks for posting it. 🙂


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