Evening Poetry, December 4

*This post contains affiliate links: If you click through and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small compensation. This helps with the costs of running an ad-free blog. Thank you!

4. Hymn

by Eavan Boland

Four a.m.
December.
A lamb would perish
out there.

The cutlery glitter
of that sky
has nothing in it
I want to follow.

Here is the star
of my nativity;
the nursery lamp
in that suburb window,

behind which
is boiled glass, a bottle,
and a baby all
hisses like a kettle.

The light goes out.
The blackbird
takes up his part.
I wake by habit.
I have it off by heart:

these candles,
and the altar
and the psaltery of dawn.

And in the dark
as we slept
the world
was made flesh.

You can find this poem in Outside History: Selected Poems 1980-1990.

Evening Poetry, November 25

*This post contains affiliate links: If you click through and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small compensation. This helps with the costs of running an ad-free blog. Thank you!

Woman in Kitchen

by Eavan Boland

Breakfast over, islanded by noise,

she watches the machines go fast and slow.

She stands among them as they shake the house.

They move. Their destination is specific.

She has nowhere definite to go:

she might be a pedestrian in traffic.

White surfaces retract. White

sideboards light the white of walls.

Cups wink white in their saucers.

The light of day bleaches as it falls

on cups and sideboards. She could use the room

to tap with if she lost her sight.

Machines jigsaw everything she knows.

And she is everywhere among their furor:

the tropic of the dryer tumbling clothes.

The round lunar window of the washer.

The kettle in the toaster is a kingfisher

swooping for trout above the river’s mirror.

The wash done, the kettle boiled, the sheets

spun and clean, the dryer stops dead.

The silence is a death. It starts to bury

the room in white spaces. She turns to spread

a cloth on the board and irons sheets

in a room white and quiet as a mortuary.

You can find this poem in Outside History: Selected Poems 1980-1990.

Evening Poetry, November 24

*This post contains affiliate links: If you click through and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small compensation. This helps with the costs of running an ad-free blog. Thank you!

For Presence

by John O’Donohue

Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.

Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.

Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.

Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to
follow its path.

Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.

May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of
soul.

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek
no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around the heart of wonder.

You can find this poem in To Bless the Space Between Us.

Evening Poetry, November 23

*This post contains affiliate links: If you click through and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small compensation. This helps with the costs of running an ad-free blog. Thank you!

Start Close In

by David Whyte

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To hear
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice

becomes an
intimate
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

You can find this in River Flow: New and Selected Poems.

Evening Poetry, November 20

*This post contains affiliate links: If you click through and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small compensation. This helps with the costs of running an ad-free blog. Thank you!

Domestic Interior

by Eavan Boland

for Kevin

The woman is as round
As the new ring
Ambering her finger.
The mirror weds her.
She has long since been bedded.

There is a glow
About it all.
A quiet search for attention
Like the unexpected shine
Of a despised utensil.

The old oils,
The varnishes,
The cracked light,
The worm of permanence –
All of them supplied by Van Eyck

By whose edict she will stay
Burnished, fertile,
On her wedding day,
Interred in her joy.
Love, turn:

The convex of your eye
That is so loving, bright
And constant yet shows
Only this woman in her varnishes
Who won’t improve in the light.

But there’s a way of life
That is its own witness:
Put the kettle on, shut the blind.
Home is a sleeping child,
An open mind

And our effects,
Shrugged and settled
In the sort of light
Jugs and kettles
Grow important by.

You can find this poem in Outside History: Selected Poems 1980-1990.

Evening Poetry, November 19

*This post contains affiliate links: If you click through and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small compensation. This helps with the costs of running an ad-free blog. Thank you!

Looking Out From Clare, for John O’Donohue

by David Whyte

There's a great spring in you
all bud and blossom
and March laughter
I've always loved.

Your face framed
against the bay
and the whisper
of some arriving joke
playing at the mouth,
your lightning raid
on the eternal
melting the serious line
to absurdity.

I look round and see
the last days of winter
broken away
for all those
listening or watching,
all come to life now
with the first
pale sun on their face
for many a month,
remembering how to laugh.

But most of all I love
the heft and weight
and swing of that sea
behind it all, some other tide
racing toward the shore,
or receding to the calmness
where no light or laughter
lives for long.

The way you surface
from those atmospheres
again and again,
your emergence seems to make
you a lover of horizons
but your visitation
of darkness shows.

Then away from you
I can see you only alone
on the strand
walking to the sea
on the north shore of Clare
toward the end
of an unendurable winter
as if taking your first swim
of the year.

The March scald 
of cold ocean
even in May about to tighten
and bud you into spring.
You look across
the mountains in Connemara
framing, only for now,
your horizon.
You look and look, and look
beyond all looking.

You can find this in Everything is Waiting for You.

Evening Poetry, November 10

*Affiliate Links: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you, I will receive a small compensation.

For One Who Is Exhausted, A Blessing

by John O’Donohue

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

You can find this in To Bless The Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings.

Evening Poetry, October 13

Becoming Anne Bradstreet

by Eavan Boland

It happens again
As soon as I take down her book and open it.

I turn the page.
My skies rise higher and hang younger stars.

The ship’s rail freezes.
Mare Hibernicum leads to Anne Bradstreet’s coast.

A blackbird leaves her pine trees
And lands in my spruce trees.

I open my door on a Dublin street.
Her child/her words are staring up at me:

In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.

We say home truths
Because her words can be at home anywhere—

At the source, at the end and whenever
The book lies open and I am again

An Irish poet watching an English woman
Become an American poet.

You can find this poem in Shakespeare’s Sisters: Women Writers Bridge Five Centuries.

Affiliate Links: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will receive a small compensation at no extra cost to you.

Evening Poetry, September 28

The Well of Stars

by David Whyte

Blue lights on the runway like stars
on the surface of a well
into which I fall each night from the sky,
emerging through the tunnel door
of the jetway, and the black waters
of the night, in the cities of America.

In the lit rooms of glass and steel,
in the still and secret towers,
under the true stars hid by cloud
and the steam shrouded roofs
of the mansions of money and hope,
I come with my quiet voice and
my insistence, and my stories,
and out of that second and
deeper well I see again those other
blue stars and that other darkness
closer even than the night outside,
the one we refuse to mention,
the darkness we know so well
inside everyone.
I have a few griefs and joys
I can call my own
and through accident it seems,
a steadfast faith in each of them
and that's what I will say
matters when the story ends.

But it takes a little while to get there,
all the unburdening
and the laying down
and the willingness
to really tire of yourself,
and the step by step
the ways
the poets through time
generously gave themselves
to us,
walking like pilgrims
through doubt,
combining their fear
their fierceness and their faith.

and you now,
in front of the room
under the florescent light
by the reflected window
hiding all the stars
you have forgotten....

One more member of the prison population
whose eyes have caught
the open gate at last.
You are the one for whom the gift was made.

Keep that look in your eyes
and you'll gladly grow tired of your reflection.

There, for all to see,
the well of stars,
the great night from which you were born.

You can find this poem in The House of Belonging.

Evening Poetry, April 17

The Kitchen Maid

(after ‘Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus’ by Velázquez)

by Leanne O’Sullivan

All the ceremonies of the kitchen
come through – sunlight on the bread boards
and flour swept up from the bare floors;
so her footsteps vanish like pools of rain


on the road, her swiftness towards the fire
unproven where she heaps the deeper red
around the bastible, enough for mystery to keep
and the soft notes of bread

 to rise, companionable, from their dark centre.
The meal table set and laid, the vessels shining
with room for the guest portion,
a sign that means kind labour


without speaking or remembering itself,
but heard about afterwards, in her absence –
how a certain light breaking across the table
might set a whole world in motion.

You can find this poem in A Quarter of an Hour.