by James Wright
It's a well-known fact that many people (including you?) talk to their plants. Why is that? Talking to a pet makes sense because the words generally elicit some response; but houseplants, unlike dogs, are typically unresponsive to phrases such as "walkie walkies" or "bacon snax." Still, plants, like poodles and people, are living creatures, essential partners in this precious blue biosphere we call Earth. In "A Blessing," plants are just as important as ponies, functioning both as realistic details and symbols.
- Line 5: Instead of referring to generic trees, the poet refers specifically to "willows." The image of ponies emerging from willow trees at twilight enhances the poem's dreamlike tone. The word "willows" also makes Shmoop think of "weeping willows," foreshadowing the poem's melancholy undercurrent of "loneliness." Since this poem is about Indian ponies, the idea of weeping even makes Shmoop think of the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of the Cherokee people (see "Shout Outs" section). What do you think—has Shmoop strayed too far from the actual words of the poem?
- Line 14: Back in line 2, "grass" appeared as a realistic detail of setting. But in line 14, instead of referring to "tufts of grass," the speaker refers to "tufts of spring." This poetic device is known as a metonym—the replacing of a word with a closely associated word. This one small change subtly influences our perception of the ponies: instead of viewing the ponies as animals in the real world, we perceive them more as mythological figures that graze on an entire season instead of just munching on blades of grass (see "Symbols: Ponies" for more discussion of the ponies).
- Lines 23-24: Up to this point in the poem, we've seen a progression from realistic description of plants (grass, willow trees) to more symbolic imagery ("tufts of spring"). The poem ends with the image "break / Into blossom." (For further discussion of this image, see the "Detailed Summary" section, as well as "Symbols: Spring.") One weird thing about this visual image is that it's not really visual. Shmoop can easily visualize a bush breaking into blossom, but no matter how hard we squinch up our eyes and try to imagine a bloomin' human, we just can't seem to picture it. If you have the same problem, we should probably classify this as an abstract image, designed to convey an experience that is spiritual rather than physical.