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.

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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.

Evening Poetry, March 15

For Equilibrium

by John O’ Donohue

Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore, 
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul. 

As the wind loves to call things to dance, 
May your gravity by lightened by grace. 

Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth, 
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect. 

As water takes whatever shape it is in, 
So free may you be about who you become. 

As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said, 
May your sense of irony bring perspective. 

As time remains free of all that it frames, 
May your mind stay clear of all it names. 

May your prayer of listening deepen enough 
to hear in the depths the laughter of God.

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

Evening Poetry, October 15

The Angel of the Bog

For Lelia

by John O’ Donohue

The angel of the bog mourns in the wind

That loiters all over these black meadows.

Remember how it chose branches to strum

From the orchestra of trees that stood here;

How at twilight a chorus of birds came

To silence in nests of darkening air.

Raindrops filter through leaves, silver the air,

Wash off the film of dust to release nets

Of fragrance on which the wind can sweeten

Before expiring among the debris

That brightens each year with fallen colour

Before the weight of winter seals the ground.

The dark eyes of the angel of the bog

Never open now when dawn comes to dress

The famished grass with splendid veils of red,

Amber, white, as if its soul were urgent

And young with possibility and dreams

That a vanished life might become visible.

You can find this poem in Conamara Blues.

Evening Poetry, September 25

Before The Beginning

by John O’ Donohue

Unknown to us, there are moments

When crevices we cannot see open

For time to come alive with beginning.

As in autumn a field of corn knows

When enough green has been inhaled

From the clay and under the skill

Of an artist breeze becomes gold in a day,

When the ocean still as a mirror

Of a sudden takes a sinister curve

To rise in a mountain of wave

That would swallow a village.

How to a flock of starlings

Scattered, at work on grass,

From somewhere, a signal comes

And suddenly as one, they describe

A geometric shape in the air.

When the audience becomes still

And the soprano lets the silence deepen,

In that slowed holding, the whole aria

Hovers nearer, then alights

On the wings of breath

Poised to soar into song.

These inklings were first prescribed

The morning we met in Westport

And I was left with such sweet time

Wondering if between us something

Was deciding to begin or not.

You can find this poem in Conamara Blues.

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 12

Adam’s Curse

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,   
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,   
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.   
Better go down upon your marrow-bones   
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones   
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;   
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet   
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen   
The martyrs call the world.’


                                          And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake   
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache   
On finding that her voice is sweet and low   
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing   
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be   
So much compounded of high courtesy   
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks   
Precedents out of beautiful old books;   
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;   
We saw the last embers of daylight die,   
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky   
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell   
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell   
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:   
That you were beautiful, and that I strove   
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown   
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

You can find this poem in The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats.

Evening Poetry, September 4

Since it’s our birthday week (my husband’s and mine), here is a birthday poem.

For Your Birthday

by John O’ Donohue

Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day

The blueprint of your life

Would begin to glow on earth,

Illuminating all the faces and voices

That would arrive to invite

Your soul to growth.

Praised be your father and mother,

Who loved you before you were,

And trusted to call you here

With no idea who you would be.

Blessed be those who have loved you

Into becoming who you were meant to be,

Blessed be those who have crossed your life

With dark gifts of hurt and loss

That have helped to school your mind

In the art of disappointment.

When desolation surrounded you,

Blessed be those who looked for you

And found you, their kind hands

Urgent to open a blue window

In the gray wall formed around you.

Blessed be the gifts you never notice,

Your health, eyes to behold the world,

Thoughts to countenance the unknown,

Memory to harvest vanished days,

Your heart to feel the world’s waves,

Your breath to breathe the nourishment

Of distance made intimate by earth.

On this echoing-day of your birth,

May you open the gift of solitude

In order to receive your soul;

Enter the generosity of silence

To hear your hidden heart;

Know the serenity of stillness

To be enfolded anew

By the miracle of your being.

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

Evening Poetry, August 20

For Longing

by John O’ Donohue

Blessed be the longing that brought you here

And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of

desire

That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into

your own unease

To discover the new direction your longing wants

you to take.

May the forms of your belonging–in love, creativity,

and friendship–

Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your own soul.

May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of

your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and

nurture you’re feeling.

May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness

with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost-

structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine

urgency.

May you know the urgency with which God longs

for you.

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