“Something Worth Our Full Attention”

 

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Croquet Ball

by Ted Kooser

It has rolled to a stop along one wall
of the dim garage, rolled in through the wicket
of the overhead door, the last sharp clack
of a mallet so far behind it now that only
the imagination can hear it, clacking in over
the clipped, imagined grass. Its pale green stripe—
the green of the handles on old kitchen spoons—
is even paler now, under a whisper of dust,
and the wood has cracked along the grain
so that the cracks go round and round it
like rings on a planet. And perhaps it is
a planet, and not even one of the lesser ones
but something worth our full attention,
and I, while passing through this life,
wheeling my lawnmower into the shadows,
have been the first to see it waiting there.

from At Home: Poems © Comstock Review Press, 2017.
Reprinted with permission.

Without fail, a Ted Kooser poem always reminds me to slow down and brings me back into my body so that I can breathe a little more easily after reading it. His poems show me, over and over, how to give the plants and animals, the people and objects of our world the full attention they all deserve. Kooser has written masterfully of seemingly plain, ordinary objects before—a broken lantern, a sun dial, the simple zinc lid of a jar—but “Croquet Ball” stands out to me for the way he celebrates his sudden moment of discovery. He is certainly not the first person to see a croquet ball, but he may be the first to see one as closely as he does here, with “its pale green stripe—/the green of the handles on old kitchen spoons” and the cracked wood nearly hidden underneath “a whisper of dust.” Very slowly, once he has brought this object completely alive for himself and for us, he begins to transform it. Soon, it becomes “a planet, and not even one of the lesser ones,” he says, implying that when we step out of the busyness and leave the tasks of our lives behind for just a few instants, we can enter a separate world with different rules, where time moves more naturally. In the second-to-last line of the poem, when the speaker  is “wheeling my lawnmower into the shadows,” we understand he is about to step back into the gravity of daily life. Yet he lingers for one line more, wanting to hold onto this small victory that brought him more deeply into the present and into himself.

—James Crews