Evening Poetry, September 18

The Journey

by David Whyte

Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again

Painting their
black silhouettes
on an open sky.

Sometimes everything
has to be
inscribed across
the heavens

so you can find
the one line
already written
inside you.

Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that

first, bright
and indescribable
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.

Sometimes with
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out

someone has written
something new
in the ashes of your life.

You are not leaving,
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.

You can find this poem in The House of Belonging.

Evening Poetry, September 17

Why I Need The Birds

by Lisel Mueller

When I hear them call
in the morning, before
I am quite awake,
my bed is already traveling
the daily rainbow,
the arc toward evening;
and the birds, leading
their own discreet lives
of hunger and watchfulness,
are with me all the way,
always a little ahead of me
in the long-practiced manner
of unobtrusive guides.

By the time I arrive at evening,
they have just settled down to rest;
already invisible, they are turning
into the dreamwork of trees;
and all of us together —
myself and the purple finches,
the rusty blackbirds,
the ruby cardinals,
and the white-throated sparrows
with their liquid voices —
ride the dark curve of the earth
toward daylight, which they announce
from their high lookouts
before dawn has quite broken for me.

You can find this poem in Alive Together: New and Selected Poems.

Evening Poetry, September 16

The Laughter of Women

by Lisel Mueller

The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness

It rattles the Chambers of Congress
and forces the windows wide open
so the fatuous speeches can fly out

The laughter of women wipes the mist
from the spectacles of the old;
it infects them with a happy flu
and they laugh as if they were young again

Prisoners held in underground cells
imagine that they see daylight
when they remember the laughter of women

It runs across water that divides,
and reconciles two unfriendly shores
like flares that signal the news to each other

What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.
Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.

You can find this poem in Alive Together: New and Selected Poems.

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Evening Poetry, September 15

Opening Up

by Peter Davison

Weekend: a country custom, a century old,
English in origin, secular, elite,
depended on railway schedules for its ritual:
breakfast in silver warmers, tweeds till tea,
tennis or crocquet when there was no hunting,
dress for dinner, billiards after port,
later, adultery in upstairs bedrooms.

Now as the car turns willingly off asphalt
and gravel stings its tires, we try our hand,
Arriving’s, all the same, though all has changed.
The buds have swollen: or the leaves have turned;
the house is still surprisingly intact.
An unlocked door will let the world back in groceries,
canvas satchels, lists of chores.

Stop. Watch the maples bending in the wind
tossing their boughs in summer agitation.
Quick, before sunset, swim the salt creek
that creeps up from the coast a mile away
to hiss beneath the bridges, trickle through
the swaying stalks of marsh grass, burdened with
more nourishment than twenty tons of humus.
Here one is happiest when not too clean.

Come on, walk barefoot over new-cut stalks
of green lawn grass, pausing to wipe off
the sticky blades that squeeze between your toes.
Along the granite of the garden wall
a hundred varied blossoms flash their hues
of gold and scarlet, peach and ivory.

One skyscraper stands up among the lilies,
brandishing blossoms like archangels’ trumpets—
All while the thirsty grasses dream the day.
Bend toward them. I can hear the tide of green
engorge and stiffen, music in the blood,
lifting sensation past the reach of time,
mingling with the future. Come, let’s turn,
let’s walk indoors and open up the house.

You can find this in The Poems of Peter Davison.

Evening Poetry, September 14

Windfalls

by Jane Kenyon

The storm is moving on, and as the wind
rises, the oaks and pines let go
of all the snow on their branches,
an abrupt change of heart,
and the air turns utterly white.

Woooh, says the wind, and I stop
where I am, put out my arms
and look upward, allowing
myself to disappear. It is good
to be here, and not here....

I see fresh cloven prints
under the apple tree, where deer come
nosing for windfalls. They must be
near me now, and having stopped
when I stopped, begin to move again.

You can find this in Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, September 13

Praying

by Mary Oliver

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

You can find this in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, September 12

I Don’t Want to Lose

by Mary Oliver

I don't want to lose a single thread
from the intricate brocade of this happiness.
I want to remember everything.
Which is why I'm lying awake, sleepy
but not sleepy enough to give it up.
Just now, a moment from years ago:
the early morning light, the deft, sweet
gesture of your hand
  reaching for me.

You can find this in Felicity by Mary Oliver.

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Evening Poetry, September 11

signals

by Frank Watson

carved wood--
   love letters written
     before the dawn of time

we speak
  in smoke signals
around in circles 
  vanishing
to the touch

the rope 
  entwines us
and binds us
  hands and feet
as we set sail
  on silver seas

we shape time
      with a chisel
following the lines
   of an afternoon
eclipse

    she
is a sculpture
     formed
from the lines
     of infinity
laid out to rest
     on the bed
of salvation

You can find this poem in In the Dark, Soft Earth: Poetry of Love, Nature, Spirituality, and Dreams.

Evening Poetry, September 10

Seven White Butterflies

by Mary Oliver

Seven white butterflies
delicate in a hurry look
how they bang the pages
   of their wings as they fly

to the fields of mustard yellow
and orange and plain
gold all eternity
   is in the moment this is what

Blake said Whitman said such
wisdom in the agitated
motions of the mind seven
    dancers floating

even as worms toward
paradise see how they banter
and riot and rise
    to the trees flutter

lob their white bodies into
the invisible wind weightless
lacy willing
    to deliver themselves unto

the universe now each settles 
down on a yellow thumb on a 
brassy stem now
    all seven are rapidly sipping

from the golden tower who
would have thought it could be so easy?

You can find this in West Wind: Poems and Prose Poems.

Evening Poetry, September 9

You Learn By Living

by J. Patrick Lewis

for Eleanor Roosevelt

Who showed the world the world itself
     Was awkward, shy and plain.
A high-born leader in a long,
     Low decade full of pain.

Poor farmers, blacks, homeless, the least
     Advantaged hoped to see,
Magnificently unarrayed,
     Pure human dignity.

A lady first, the great first lady
     Looked fear in the face,
And said, There is no room for fear
     When courage take its place.

You can find this poem in Vherses: A Celebration of Outstanding Women.