by Mary Oliver
Section 8 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
The poem is not the world.
It isn't even the first page of the world.
- This sounds familiar. Yep, we're back to what this poem isn't. But didn't we already cover this in the first section?
- Back there, the speaker kindly informed us that her poem wasn't a bunch of stuff from nature. Here, though, she kindly informs us that the poem is not the world.
- Of course it isn't. So what's she getting at here?
But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.
- Somehow the poem is aware of its own desire to flower. Does that have anything to do with the fact that the poem is not the world, as she so bluntly put it in the first line of this section?
- Well, we think "wants to flower, like a flower" might be saying something about the way poems imitate the world.
- From what the speaker has told us before, we know that the poem can't be a flower (or a sunrise or a beetle). But maybe it can be like those things in its language.
- But what does she mean by "It knows that much"?
- Aside from being a classic case of personification, lending the poem the ability to know or want something seems like another way of giving it a spark of life—as if a poem is not completely under the poet's control, but has an agenda of its own. It knows things, it wants things. Creepy…
It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.
- The poem wants to let us in and refresh us, to make us feel one with the universe. It's an ambitious little bugger.
- We can't help noticing that this door-opening image is a lot like the flower image. Flowers open up and are small, too, like the temple.
- The point here is that the poem is opening up opportunities for the reader to see the world a little differently. Remember that the speaker is talking to us here.
- It's like we're being given thinly veiled advice.
- Captain Obvious here to tell you that temple has a religious or spiritual connotation, which reminds us a little of the mystical feel of the barn from section 2.
- The effect of the temple here is to refresh us, just like she hopes the poem will comfort us in section 1. Comforting and refreshing. Sounds pretty good, right?
- And what about that last line? What does it mean to be less ourselves and more a part of everything?
- Well, we think maybe this fits into that main theme our speaker keeps circling around. You know, the one that says "all right, pay your respects to what's been lost, but then stop dragging your life around like a heavy weight; move on; pay attention to the living world around you"?
- So maybe when we pay attention to the world around us—the moth, the ant, and the flower—we become less ourselves (less caught up in our past and our sorrow) and more a part of the living, natural world. Which sounds like a good trade off to Shmoop.