Mary Oliver’s ‘The Summer Day’

As we cast off the shackles of a long winter, nature urges us to pay closer attention. In ‘The Summer Day’, Mary Oliver takes notice of the tiniest of details, like the ‘pale forearms’ of a grasshopper. However, as Oliver noted in her book Our World:

Attention without feeling is only a report. An openness—an empathy—is necessary if the attention is to matter.


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?

Listen to the poet read ‘The Summer Day’ here.

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  • Milena
    May 8, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Hi, Mia,
    May be the descriptions of the grasshopper’s movements is a beautiful metaphor for the human soul- so eager to fly, so eager to liberate itself after the sweet treat…
    Thank you for this so real, life-awakening picture after our winter.