Poetry is such an odd thing. It can feel entirely inaccessible, almost foreign, and then at other times the words a person has put together seem to fit perfectly. The poem is illuminating. It burrows into you and creates a tiny space that wasn’t there before. You remember things you’d forgotten, you consider a new idea, your heart skips a beat as you realise you’ve been recognized. Or, as with this one, it prompts you to ask yourself a question. One that slinks into you like a silver fox, makes a nest and won’t leave you alone… or is that just me?
It’s a joy, actually, to be quizzed by a poem. They are kindly, benign creatures for the most part. Be careful of the ones that haven’t been spoken aloud in a while though; they might be hungry.
This a poem by Mary Oliver that I’ve always loved and came across again last night. I marvel at her work. Read it aloud. Relish the sound of the words. I dare you.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down–
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?