Evening Poetry, November 20

From The Essential Rumi

by Rumi

In your light I learn how to love.

In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,

where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do,

and that sight becomes this art.

You can find this poem in The Essential Rumi.

Evening Poetry, November 19

Long Afternoon at the Edge of Little Sister Pond

by Mary Oliver

As for life,

I’m humbled,

I’m without words

sufficient to say

how it has been hard as flint,

and soft as a spring pond,

both of these

and over and over,

and long pale afternoons besides,

and so many mysteries

beautiful as eggs in a nest,

still unhatched

though warm and watched over

by something I have never seen–

a tree angel, perhaps,

or a ghost of holiness.

Every day I walk out into the world

to be dazzled, then to be reflective.

It suffices, it is all comfort–

along with human love,

dog love, water love, little-serpent love,

sunburst love, or love for that smallest of birds

flying among the scarlet flowers.

There is hardly time to think about

stopping, and lying down at last

to the long afterlife, to the tenderness

yet to come, when

time will brim over the singular pond, and become forever,

and we will pretend to melt away into the leaves.

As for death,

I can’t wait to be the hummingbird,

can you?

You can find this poem in Owls and Other Fantasies.

Evening Poetry, November 18

Here is a poem that I haven’t edited yet. I’m putting it out there because I’ve been having wonderful twilight meanderings the past week or so and wanted to document it in some way.


by Kim Pollack

I startled the owl as I went through the line

of evergreen trees behind the house.

I haven’t heard him since late one September

evening when I stood upstairs in the dark,

with my phone pressed against the bathroom screen,

and recorded his hoots to send to my son.

The air is still and clear, and the cold curls

itself under my coat and against my skin.

I stand facing the westering sun

with its yellow and pink whiskers and wonder

what my kids are having for dinner.

I drink in the quiet, and as I turn,

there is the owl, with his white wings wide,

swooping silently over the orchard and disappearing

high into a Scotch pine. When I reach the orchard,

I visit with the old apple and pear trees.

Placing my palm on a slim gray trunk,

I drink in the rooted reassurance and

let my troubles slide away. I breathe in.

“All is well,” they always say. I thank the trees

for being there and wish them goodnight,

and head toward the love-light of home.

Copyright 2019 by Kim Pollack

Evening Poetry, November 17

The Slip

by Rachel Hadas

Empty and trembling, haloed by absences,

whooshings, invisible leave-takings, finishes,

images, closure: departures so gracefully

practice their gestures that when they do happen,

dazzled with sunlight, distracted by darkness,

mercifully often we miss the event.

So many hours, days, weeks, years, and decades,

spent–no, slathered and lavished and squandered

ardently, avidly gazing at nothing,

pacing the pavement or peering round corners,

setting the table and sniffing the twilight,

sitting and gazing at edges, horizons,

preparing occasions that leave us exhausted,

recovering, staggering back to a climax.

Dramas of use, inanition, repletion!

And there all along, except not there forever,

was the beloved. The foreground? The background?

Thoughtful, impatient, affectionate, angry,

tired, distracted, preoccupied, human,

part of our lives past quotidian limits,

there all the while and yet not there forever.

You can find this poem in Halfway Down the Hall.

Evening Poetry, November 16

Smoke in Our Hair

By Ofelia Zepeda

The scent of burning wood holds
the strongest memory.
Mesquite, cedar, piñon, juniper,
all are distinct.
Mesquite is dry desert air and mild winter.
Cedar and piñon are colder places.
Winter air in our hair is pulled away,
and scent of smoke settles in its place.
We walk around the rest of the day
with the aroma resting on our shoulders.
The sweet smell holds the strongest memory.
We stand around the fire.
The sound of the crackle of wood and spark
is ephemeral.
Smoke, like memories, permeates our hair,
our clothing, our layers of skin.
The smoke travels deep
to the seat of memory.
We walk away from the fire;
no matter how far we walk,
we carry this scent with us.
New York City, France, Germany—
we catch the scent of burning wood;
we are brought home.

You can find this poem in Where Clouds Are Formed.

Evening Poetry, November 15

America, I Sing Back

by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

for Phil Young, my father, Robert Hedge Coke, Whitman, and Hughes

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.
Sing back the moment you cherished breath.
Sing you home into yourself and back to reason.

Oh, before America began to sing, I sung her to sleep,
held her cradleboard, wept her into day.
My song gave her creation, prepared her delivery,
held her severed cord beautifully beaded.

My song helped her stand, held her hand for first steps,

nourished her very being, fed her, placed her three sisters strong.
My song comforted her as she battled my reason

broke my long held footing sure, as any child might do.

Lo, as she pushed herself away, forced me to remove myself,
as I cried this country, my song grew roses in each tear’s fall.

My blood veined rivers, painted pipestone quarries
circled canyons, while she made herself maiden fine.

Oh, but here I am, here I am, here, I remain high on each and every peak,
carefully rumbling her great underbelly, prepared to pour forth singing—

and sing again I will, as I have always done.

Never silenced unless in the company of strangers, singing

the stoic face, polite repose, polite, while dancing deep inside, polite
Mother of her world. Sister of myself.

When my song sings aloud again. When I call her back to cradle.
Call her to peer into waters, to behold herself in dark and light,

day and night, call her to sing along, call her to mature, to envision—

Then, she will make herself over. My song will make it so

When she grows far past her self-considered purpose,
I will sing her back, sing her back. I will sing. Oh, I will—I do.

America, I sing back. Sing back what sung you in.

Copyright © 2014 by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke. Originally published in Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

You can find this poem in Streaming.

Evening Poetry, November 14

I know this is Mary Oliver’s most loved, widely quoted, and repeated poem, but these are words that live with me. Especially during dark days when depression or despair weigh so heavy my heart can hardly bear it. In my head, I hear her saying, “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting…” and it gives me courage to continue. To work through the painful things, to wonder at what cannot be explained, to remember that I have–as we all do– a “place in the family of things”.

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

You can find this poem in Owls and Other Fantasies.

Evening Poetry, November 13

In November

By Lisel Mueller

Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.

You can read this poem in Alive Together.

Evening Poetry, November 12

Man, Woman, Moon

by Freya Manfred

Drink in the alien eyes of this wild one

you don’t want to lose,

who doesn’t want to lose you.

Make sure he can find his way home in the dark,

when he forgets who he is, or you forget,

because even after thirty years

you don’t know what he’s thinking

when he stares out the window at the snow

falling in veils past the moon–

the same moon you’ve been watching

every month since you were born.

You can find this poem in Swimming With A Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle.

Evening Poetry, November 11

What Came To Me

by Jane Kenyon

I took the last

dusty piece of china

out of the barrel.

It was your gravy boat,

with a hard, brown

drop of gravy still

on the porcelain lip.

I grieved for you then

as I never had before.

You can find this poem in The Boat of Quiet Hours.