Evening Poetry, February 18

The Riders

by Mary Oliver

When the Pony Express needed

riders, it advertised

a preference for orphans–

that way, no one was likely

to ask questions when the carriers failed

to arrive, or the frightened ponies

stumbled in with their dead

from the flanks of the prairies.

This detail from our country’s past

has no particular significance–it is only

a footnote. There were plenty

of orphans and the point of course

was to get the mail through, so the theory

was sound. And besides,

think of those rough, lean boys–

how light and hard they would ride

fleeing the great loneliness.

You can find this in Swan: Poems and Prose Poems.

Evening Poetry, February 12

Aimless Love

by Billy Collins


This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

You can find this poem in Nine Horses.

Evening Poetry, February 5

Just Beyond Yourself

by David Whyte

Just beyond

yourself.

It’s where

you need

to be.

Half a step

into

self-forgetting

and the rest

restored

by what

you’ll meet.

There is a road

always beckoning.

When you see

the two sides

of it

closing together

at that far horizon

and deep in

the foundations

of your own

heart

at exactly

the same

time,

that’s how

you know

it’s the road

you

have

to follow.

That’s how

you know

it’s where

you

have

to go.

That’s how

you know

you have

to go.

That’s

how you know.

Just beyond

yourself,

it’s

where you

need to be.

You can find this poem in The Bell and The Blackbird.

Evening Poetry, February 4

II.

by Emily Dickinson

I have no life but this,

To lead it here;

Nor any death, but lest

Dispelled from there;

Nor tie to earths to come

Nor action new,

Except through this extent,

The realm of you.

You can find this in Hope is the Thing With Feathers.

Evening Poetry, January 31

It’s the last day of January and here is a happy little poem about love and joy in the midst of winter. (It is in the public domain.)

A Winter Blue Jay

by Sara Teasdale

Crisply the bright snow whispered,
Crunching beneath our feet;
Behind us as we walked along the parkway,
Our shadows danced,
Fantastic shapes in vivid blue.
Across the lake the skaters
Flew to and fro,
With sharp turns weaving
A frail invisible net.
In ecstasy the earth
Drank the silver sunlight;
In ecstasy the skaters
Drank the wine of speed;
In ecstasy we laughed
Drinking the wine of love.
Had not the music of our joy
Sounded its highest note?
But no,
For suddenly, with lifted eyes you said,
“Oh look!”
There, on the black bough of a snow flecked maple,
Fearless and gay as our love,
A bluejay cocked his crest!
Oh who can tell the range of joy
Or set the bounds of beauty?

Evening Poetry, January 27

The Bright Field

by R.S. Thomas

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

You can find this poem in Collected Poems 1945-1990.

Evening Poetry, January 25

Clearing

by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.

I heard this poem read aloud by Tara Brach during one of her Radical Compassion Challenge meditations this past week . I’m uncertain of the publication date of this poem, or if it’s in a book anywhere, but here is Martha’s book Addiction & Recovery: A Spiritual Pilgrimage that is on my TBR list.

Evening Poetry, January 15

The Snow Man 

by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

You can find this in The Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, January 8

Winter Walk

by John Clare

The holly bush, a sober lump of green,

Shines through the leafless shrubs all brown and grey,

And smiles at winter, be it e’er so keen,

With all the leafy luxury of May.

And oh, it is delicious, when the day

In winter’s loaded garment keenly blows

And turns her back on sudden falling snows,

To go where gravel pathways creep between

Arches of evergreen that scarce let through

A single feather of the driving storm;

And in the bitterest day that ever blew

The walk will find some places still and warm

Where dead leaves rustle sweet and give alarm

To little birds that flirt and start away.

You can find this poem in The Four Seasons.

Evening Poetry, January 7

On the Beach

by Mary Oliver

On the beach, at dawn:

four small stones clearly

hugging each other.

How many kinds of love

might there be in the world,

and how many formations might they make

and who am I ever

to imagine I could know

such a marvelous business?

When the sun broke

it poured willingly its light

over the stones

that did not move, not at all,

just as, to its always generous term,

it shed its light on me,

my own body that loves,

equally, to hug another body.

You can find this poem in Swan: Poems and Prose Poems.