The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver
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—
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?
Last night at our semimonthly covenant group meeting at Eileen's apartment, we closed with this poem by Mary Oliver. Eileen who is in her 90th year, nearly blind and very hard of hearing recited the poem from memory and she got as far as the grasshopper flinging itself out of the grass when the tears began to flow out of me; one of those moments of uncontrollable emotion. The tears came from a place I could not identify. I was surprised and caught off guard. I love this poem but it has never made me cry. Was it the way Eileen so beautifully recited the poem, enunciating every word? Was it the question about our "one wild and precious life"? Was it because the entire meeting had me on edge, thinking about what is ahead of me?
I left the meeting quickly, embarrassed by the tears and cried the whole way home in the car. It's rare that I can't identify the source of my tears. Curiously, I didn't feel overwhelming sad and these weren't tears of joy either. I'll continue to ponder this.
Enjoy this most moving of poems by one of the greatest poets of our time.