I am going to break one of my cardinal rules which is that talking about poems is a dumb thing to do.
First, I’ll say that this poem often wars in my attention with the Mary Oliver poem that I posted last week as “best poem for Litha,” but that I always wind up thinking that it’s more a poem about mysticism than about summer.
Second, I’ll say that most people love this poem for its closing lines: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious* life?” and those are brilliant lines and I sometimes use them to turn my life around and head it back towards my own true North. But those are not the lines that make me love this poem. The lines that make me love this poem are the ones that first explained to me that (like the man surprised to learn that he’d been speaking prose all this time) I’d been doing mysticism all my life:
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?
And, I love it for Oliver’s particularity: “this grasshopper.”
May it be so for you.
*I always want to read “precious” as “wonderful.” I’m not saying that Ms. Oliver was wrong, but, well, I’m a sucker for alliteration.