Evening Poetry, September 24

Autumn

By Alice Cary

Shorter and shorter now the twilight clips 
   The days, as though the sunset gates they crowd, 
And Summer from her golden collar slips 
   And strays through stubble-fields, and moans aloud, 

Save when by fits the warmer air deceives, 
   And, stealing hopeful to some sheltered bower, 
She lies on pillows of the yellow leaves, 
   And tries the old tunes over for an hour. 

The wind, whose tender whisper in the May 
   Set all the young blooms listening through th’ grove, 
Sits rustling in the faded boughs to-day 
   And makes his cold and unsuccessful love. 

The rose has taken off her tire of red— 
   The mullein-stalk its yellow stars have lost, 
And the proud meadow-pink hangs down her head 
   Against earth’s chilly bosom, witched with frost. 

The robin, that was busy all the June, 
   Before the sun had kissed the topmost bough, 
Catching our hearts up in his golden tune, 
   Has given place to the brown cricket now. 

The very cock crows lonesomely at morn— 
   Each flag and fern the shrinking stream divides— 
Uneasy cattle low, and lambs forlorn 
   Creep to their strawy sheds with nettled sides. 

Shut up the door: who loves me must not look 
   Upon the withered world, but haste to bring 
His lighted candle, and his story-book, 
   And live with me the poetry of Spring.

You can find this poem in American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century.

Evening Poetry, September 23

The Fist

by Mary Oliver

There are days

when the sun goes down

like a fist,

though of course

if you see anything

in the heavens

in this way

you had better get

your eyes checked

or, better still,

your diminished spirit.

The heavens

have no fist,

or wouldn’t they have been

shaking it

for a thousand years now,

and even

longer than that,

at the dull, brutish

ways of mankind–

heaven’s own

creation?

Instead: such patience!

Such willingness

to let us continue!

To hear,

little by little,

the voices–

only, so far, in

pockets of the world–

suggesting

the possibilities

of peace?

Keep looking.

Behold, how the fist opens

with invitation.

You can find this poem in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, September 22

I, 62

by Rainer Maria Rilke

(from The Book of a Monastic Life)

Only as a child am I awake

and able to trust

that after every fear and every night

I will behold you again.

However often I get lost,

however far my thinking strays,

I know you will be here, right here,

time trembling around you.

To me it is as if I were at once

infant, boy, man, and more.

I feel that only as it circles

is abundance found.

I thank you, deep power

that works me ever more lightly

in ways I can’t make out.

The day’s labor grows simple now,

and like a holy face

held in my hands.

You can find this poem in Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God.

Evening Poetry, September 21

Fluent

by John O’ Donohue

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding.

You can find this poem in Conamara Blues.

Evening Poetry, September 20

Three Songs at the End of Summer

By Jane Kenyon

A second crop of hay lies cut   
and turned. Five gleaming crows   
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,   
and like midwives and undertakers   
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,   
parting before me like the Red Sea.   
The garden sprawls and spoils.

Across the lake the campers have learned   
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.   
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone   
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,   
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.   
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod   
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;   
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks   
over me. The days are bright   
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today   
for an hour, with my whole   
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,   
and a crow, hectoring from its nest   
high in the hemlock, a nest as big   
as a laundry basket …
                                    In my childhood   
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,   
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off   
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books—words, numbers,   
and operations with numbers I did not   
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled   
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien   
I stood at the side of the road.   
It was the only life I had.

You can find this in Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, September 19

September Midnight

By Sara Teasdale

Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer, 
Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing, 
Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects, 
Ceaseless, insistent.  

The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples, 
The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence 
Under a moon waning and worn, broken, 
Tired with summer.  

Let me remember you, voices of little insects, 
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters, 
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us, 
Snow-hushed and heavy.  

Over my soul murmur your mute benediction, 
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest, 
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to, 
Lest they forget them.

You can find this poem in The Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale.

Evening Poetry, September 18

My kids enjoyed Ogden Nash’s silly poetry when they were small. Here are two for the kids in your life or the kid in you.

The Lama

by Ogden Nash

The one-l lama,

He’s a priest.

The two-l llama,

He’s a beast.

And I will bet

A silk pajama

There isn’t any

Three-l lllama.

The Fly

The Lord in His wisdom made the fly

And then forgot to tell us why.

You can find these poems in Favorite Poems Old and New.